My companion and I were walking back to out B&B in Galway along a street lined with bars and restaurants. We'd spent the evening watching Eurocup football in a bar, being mistaken for French because we rooted for the team. That resulted in a man kissing my companion on the cheek at the bar, and she returned to our table with two Bulmers and a bemused expression. Later we were chatted up by two older gentlemen with incomprehensible accents. Excellent fun.
But the dark
side of drink showed itself on our walk back. Two men came out of a bar
arguing loudly. Then it became physical, with punches thrown. One man
fell to the ground, and the other kicked him in the ribs.
were on the other side of the street, fairly far away, but then stopped
across the street. Several people were standing, watching, including
the attacker's friends, who stood back.. No one cheered. No one egged
things on. Everyone seemed to want it to stop, but no one knew how to
make that happen without becoming the target of drunken aggression.
Then a taxi driver parked at the kerb honked his horn.
man looked up, then stepped back onto the foot that was extended to
deliver another kick. His friends immediately surrounded him, and they
walked him away. The man on the ground lay still, and time stopped
moving, until he raised his head. Three people who looked like they knew
what they were doing rushed over, including a well-dressed woman in
heels who'd been standing next to us. Within seconds the man was sitting
up, his white T-shirt torn and ringed with blood, being talked to by
those who'd gone over.
I looked for the Gardai as we
walked on, a police officer, who could get help, if it was needed. Then I
realized that the people on the scene probably had cellphones and could
call for help.
I don't know if we could have done
anything differently. Interfering would not have stopped the fight, only
provided a new target.
But I do know this: We can
always wake up. No matter how fast our train of thought is speeding down
the track, something can stop us in our tracks, allow us to choose
whether to continue or change directions. In this case, the taxi's honk
interrupted the blind, drunken, aggression that had taken over that
man's mind and body.
And if that can happen, I believe, our train of thought can always be brought to a screeching halt.