I ordered a rifle. It's a historical replica lever gun, from a small factory in New Jersey; scratch built from start to finish in the USA. This particular cowboy-era model is much in demand, and it was fully six months from the time I ordered it, before one became available. I put down a deposit in a small, black-powder gun shop, a rustic log cabin shop which deals mostly in primitive plunder, like flintlock muskets and handmade bows and arrows. Two older gentlemen, much like myself, run the place: the owner Sheldon, and his man behind the counter, Vern.
When I was ordering the gun, I asked if they could knock 100 bucks off the list price. No, says Vern, we can't do that; too much uncertainty in this business these days. Well, I say, how about $50 off, then? That would be a sweet deal, huh? Probably for you anyway, said Vern, and we will need one-half down, to put in the order. Sheldon, the owner, is sitting in the back, glowering at us. OK, I say, taking out my credit card. Vern says, we don't like credit here, we deal in cash. I tell him I'm not carrying that kind of cash with me; can he just take the credit card for the deposit, and I'll bring the balance in cash when the gun comes in? OK, he says. OK, I say. And in the meantime, I might as well buy a box of ammo; do you have any .357? Vern tells me, "We just got in a case of it, but we haven't put it on the shelf, or even priced it yet."
I say, "Well, why not just give me a couple of boxes at cost, you know, for a courtesy." I am grinning at him, very personably.
"No," says Vern, "We can't do that. You really are persistent, aren't you?"
Sheldon is glowering at us, from the back.
"Well," I reply, "it's not working very well, is it?"
After I put down the deposit, I would call Vern every month or so, and get a discouraged, "We almost had one; I've got a line on another one, maybe next week." Meanwhile, I was also monitoring several online dealers, to see if I could find one myself. Finally one of these prized lever guns became available; I pounced on it, and paid full price plus delivery charges. Now I had to call Vern and arrange to have it delivered there, so I could go pick it up, and hopefully get most of my deposit back. (When ordering a firearm online, it has to be delivered to an authorized dealer. The online place has to see a copy of the gun shop's Federal Firearms Dealer license, before they can ship the weapon.)
So I ordered it, and I call up Vern right away, and tell him that I got one; I am having it shipped there, and that the company needs to see your Federal Firearms Dealer license. Can you email it to them?
"No," he says; "We don't do email." Can you fax it? "No, our fax machine is broken. But," says Vern, "I can mail them a copy."
OK, then. I tell him the name of the company, and I tell him, you can find them online, and the mailing address is right there. Vern says, "You're going to make me go online and get the address?" He sounds worried. OK, no. I tell him I'll get the address and call back in 10 minutes.
I get the address, write it down, and call Vern back. Busy signal; busy again; busy for the next hour. Meanwhile I get several email messages from the online company, saying, they haven't heard anything, they need the FFL; they can only hold the order for a few days if they don't see the license. I send them another email reiterating my first one: I carefully explain to them that my gun shop has no email, no fax; they will be mailing a copy of their dealer's license by snail mail; please hold my order. I hear no response at all back from the company; I have no idea what they're thinking. But they do have my money.
I try the gun shop again; still busy: bzz bzz bzz.. I start to hear the twilight zone theme playing in my head. I didn't even know that busy signals were still a thing. After about two hours, I finally get a ring at the gun shop. A strange voice says, "Hello."
"Hello?" I say; slight pause... "Is this Hunter's Rendezvous"?
"Mumble yes mumble, something..." Long pause... I ask, "Is Vern there?"
I hear the phone being put down; then,
"Hello this is Vern speaking." He has been talking the matter over with Sheldon. "Listen, are you good with cell phones? You could come here, photograph the dealer's license with your cell phone, and email it to them."
I tell Vern, "I don't have a cell phone."
Vern says, "Neither do I, and neither does Sheldon." Somehow, this does not surprise me.
But the snail mail did finally get there. After a week of having absolutely no idea what was going on, I got a cheerful phone call from the online company, saying that all was well, and they had just shipped out the order. Now, the rest of the story has plenty of long and tedious detail, and much filling out of forms. One question on a form included whether I identify my gender as non-binary. I couldn't figure out how that would be relevant here, but maybe that's just me. But If you would like to get an idea of what's involved in buying a gun in Massachusetts, go ahead and try it sometime. They will probe every aspect of your life history, including how you treated your dogs.
One of the questions was, "Are you currently a fugitive from justice?" Cleverly, I checked the box for, "No."
But I did finally get the gun.