(Updated 15/08/16 – see end)
I got myself a nice wee shiner on Saturday night.
It was the result of an unexpected punch I took outside a Dublin city centre pub, an unpleasant end to an otherwise enjoyable night out with a friend.
Since then what started as a nasty localised gash has developed into a full-on, very obvious, stereotypical black eye.
If you’d spotted me in town over the past few days, however, you probably would have missed my badly bruised aperture as, Bono-like, everywhere I went, so too did my all-concealing sunglasses.
I occasionally felt almost rock star-like.
In truth I mostly felt like one of those nearly always too-cool-for-school twats I usually (occasionally wrongly, no doubt, as some may have them on for medical reasons) reserve the harshest of judgements for, for wearing shades when the sun’s not out – or worse, when indoors.
Getting whacked on a night out of course is no laughing matter.
Which is why, despite taking a bunch of selfies cataloguing the ever-darkening wound since Saturday, I’ve resisted the temptation to post them on social media til now.
Not because I figured people would laugh or take the piss – though some undoubtedly would, and I’d probably be the first to join in – but because I felt that Twitter or Facebook, outlets I’m normally quite a fan of, would only draw attention to something I wasn’t at the time overly keen on going public with.
I felt uncomfortable with the idea of posting pics of my poor periorbital hematoma on Saturday night and in the days since as I just thought such sharing activity could trivialise something very serious.
I didn’t particularly want either the sympathy or outcry of strangers.
Part of me also didn’t want the intrusion of any story-hungry journalists, an especial anomaly given the business I actually work in.
Not that I figured I’m such a high profile celeb I’d be inundated with calls from million different outlets, but I suspected there might be at least some interest in my little story.
And my suspicion was that any such interest would be used by our generally crime-crazed media to sensationalise and inflate as part of their (unconscious?) ongoing campaign of fear.
Of course it would be unfair to lump all my journo colleagues into this category, but from here it sure as hell looks like a general tendency.
Yeah, what happened to me was bad, but y’know, occasionally shit happens and it’s not the end of the world.
That drunken idiot who took a swing at me was, as he subsequently admitted to the Garda who arrested him, bang out of order, but I’m loathe to use his inebriated stupidity as even a hint of any kind of conclusive evidence that society as we know it is gone to the dogs.
I’ll leave that to the already dominant law-and-order brigade.
Back in 1986 I did my dissertation for my Communications Studies degree in the National Institute for Higher Education, Dublin (now DCU) on the reporting of crime in the media, with particular emphasis on the newspapers of the day.
Researching the dissertation I didn’t like what I found.
In 1984/’85 our tabloid cousins – followed all too enthusiastically by the purportedly more reasoned broadsheets – appeared to lead a moral crusade about an alleged joyridingspree that was supposed to be overrunning, if not the entire country, then at least the capital.
It was, of course, a pile of stinking, agenda-lead, bad-journalism, crap.
Apart altogether from the fact that crime statistics have always been notoriously unreliable anyway, it’s impossible in them to differentiate between the various purposes for which cars may be stolen, so there’s no way any such joyriding epidemic could have been based on empirical data.
Oh, and car thefts during the period in question?
Yup, they were actually decreasing.
You can understand so my reluctance now 30 years later to have my sorry tale used as a further whipping boy for any ill-thought-out, world-gone-mad, scaremongering.
Or maybe I’m just paranoid and no one would have actually given a hoot.
So why write about it at all?
I almost didn’t.
But bumping into various friends and colleagues every time I ventured out of the flat meant that I knew word of the shiner would get around sooner rather than later.
Also last week I’d agree to be interviewed this week by comedian Joe Rooney for his regular Pod-a-Rooney podcast and I didn’t want to let him down, despite knowing that the impossible-to-ignore black eye would have to come up at some stage for discussion.
It, of course, did and you can hear all about it when the podcast goes live here in early August.
I figured so I might as well get my take on the topic out there first.
So, back to Saturday night cos I know you’re all on the edge of your seats at this stage…
To cut a long story short, a young inebriated gentleman decided to relieve himself outside the pub just beside where we were seated enjoying our final beverage of the night.
After some remonstrating from yours truly as to the unsuitability of his chosen location for this natural but highly unpleasant activity he for some reason threatened to do me some physical damage.
After a flurry of vulgar verbals and some frankly discourteous pushing and shoving, during which the bar staff arrived on the scene to separate us both, I thought things had calmed down and went to sit down.
Turning my back on my junior adversary was a schoolboy error as he took this easy opportunity to take a swing, catching me cleanly from behind on the temple just beside my right eye.
I’m guessing he hadn’t thought his impressive, if somewhat cowardly, pugilistic move through.
A few minutes later he was under arrest and being whisked away in the back of a police car for an unwanted visit to a local station.
I, of course, didn’t fare too well either, though I was lucky enough to at least be able to go straight home after getting the all clear from the two kind paramedics who gave my battered mug a thorough once-over.
My unfortunate glasses, on the other hand, who on reflection must have taken the full force of the blow, may never help me see clearly again, a task they had been doing without complaint for over six years.
On Sunday I spoke to the Garda who had arrested my unfortunate, caught-short friend.
She said it had dawned on him pretty quickly how stupid he’d been and that he was subsequently quite obviously contrite.
That was enough for me.
Even on the night when she and I had originally spoken, I’d suggested that just getting arrested was all the fright he’d hopefully need and that I was unlikely to press charges.
I’m still unlikely to.
It wouldn’t do him, me or society any good.
And I’ve never thought revenge is justice.
All in all, this was but a very minor incident on one night in Dublin that undoubtedly pales into insignificance when compared to much that happens in any given 24 hours in cities the world over, and it will soon be forgotten about.
It’s called perspective.
Just because it happened to me doesn’t make it important.
Though you can bet it’s a story that I’ll roll out repeatedly over the coming weeks, months and years.
Perish the thought I might ever exaggerate any of it in the retelling.
I met the guy who gave me my black eye – shine-boy, as I recently called him – over the weekend.
Not by chance but deliberately.
Talking to the Garda who was looking after the incident again later that week she had told me that our mutual friend wanted to apologise to me in person and pay for my bust glasses.
She suggested that we hold any such meeting in her station and the other evening we did just that.
It was an odd assignation, to say the least.
All day I wondered if I’d even recognise him; in fact, on my way there I stopped off for a quick bite and spent ages wondering if the vaguely familiar bloke on his own also grabbing some nosh there was him.
It wasn’t, of course – what would the odds have been? – but it certainly added to the unsettling apprehensiveness I was feeling.
The meeting itself was surprisingly short.
He nervously – understandably – shook my hand, apologised and handed me over the agreed glasses’ cash.
I believed his apology was genuine.
And his explanation for his rash behaviour?
He had none; it was, he said, so out of character he couldn’t quite believe he did it himself.
We agreed excessive booze can do strange things to people.
And I didn’t push him on it; it didn’t feel like the right place or time to delve into such details.
Before he left he optimistically suggested that if he ever bumped into me in the street we should go for a pint.
I pointed out that given our history, a mineral water might be a better option.
When I posted this story originally I got a lot of comments here and on various social media about how I was too soft on this guy and should have pressed charges to properly teach him a lesson.
Someone even suggested I should have hit him.
But like I said in reply to one comment, I had talked to the Garda a day or two after it all and two things: our man had no criminal record – he’s never been on their radar at all; and he was, she said, hugely embarrassed and totally contrite when he realised what he’d done.
And y’know, that was enough for me then.
It still is.
I think he’s an alright guy who has learned a lesson.
So does the Garda.
If further down the line we’re proven wrong, on our heads be it.