Column: My disastrous sober night out in Dublin makes me question Irish drinking culture
To mark Alcohol Awareness Week, non-drinker Claire Roche discusses her experience of going for a night out in Dublin.
Having recovered recently from pneumonia I felt it only right to go out and enjoy myself. Being a non drinker for many years I was seeking a night of quality entertainment. I got more than I bargained for.
The early stage of the night was a contemporary music event which was well attended. It struck me at this point that men in this country rarely make an effort to dress for an occasion. Submerged in a sea of parka jackets, jeans and dirty trainers I longed for a by gone era of style that only exists in James Stewart movies. A time before my time.
The group moved towards a charmless pub, with chaos at the bar and a lack of seating for the ladies. The whiff of Guinness arse blended nicely with the ripped seating.
We managed to position ourselves close to ‘the regular’. An old man dressed in a dirty jacket thrown miraculously together with a pair of grey tracksuit bottoms and Worzel Gummidge hair.
Realising that he was muttering pure filth under his breath I offered the following advice to those sitting near me – “Do not engage, do not engage, avoid”. It was too late, my words were scuppered by eye contact with Worzel. He then proceeded to point at his centre region and grabbed one of my friends by the arm.
I gave the barman a wink and he simply shouted “Paedar, would ya ever drink your drink and leave them alone”. Obviously ‘the regular’ drinker is more appreciated than the masses or distressed customers.
I broke away from this group to meet others at a nearby club. €12 was the door damage and €2 for a bag drop. It was a classy venue with an excellent DJ, a mannerly cloakroom attendant and eager bar staff. I joined another swarm of acquaintances who were all proceeding to achieve what I call the “El Kabong” moment – when I can see the very second people get drunk. It is the same moment that we witnessed in the cartoon El Kabong when he hits his enemy over the head with a guitar, the result being spinning eyes and twisted words.
I took the brave step to move away from the table and hit the dance floor. Aware that it was wild out there, I was cautious in every move. Sober dancing with drunk people is an art form, and being only 5 foot 3 inches already places you at a disadvantage. There was glass on the floor along with beer spillage. Entering as a contestant on the TV show Wipe Out may have been an easier choice.
Securing a location near the edge of the mayhem I proceeded to dance. On and on the music rolled.
For a split second I closed my eyes to suddenly realise I was wedged sideways between the floor and a table. A gang of what I can only call ‘lads’ had skidded across the floor and fallen into two girls who then proceeded to fall on top of me. After being helped up and feeling slightly shocked I moved back to my seat. There was no sign of security or any managers observing what was happening. How anyone could have missed this was beyond my understanding. Any rugby fan would have observed the scrum closely.
Sitting back down I watched all around me and rubbed my wounds. To my left a young man had passed out and was sliding like a tectonic plate under the couch. To my right a blonde girl was asleep sitting upright. Her friends could hardly wake her. Passing out is the new going out.
Image: Claire Roche
Time to leave, no one knew or cared whether I was there or not. I walked past a glamorous hotel, thinking about how nice it would be like to stay there, when I passed a couple in an usual stance. The girlfriend was blocking the boyfriend as he urinated all over the gates of St Stephens Green. He then merrily shouted at me: “Sorry”.
My response “Too late for sorry, I have already sized you up darling”.
Driving home is one of the benefits of being a non drinker on a Saturday night. Lying on the couch at home I tallied up the nights events: Arm sore, hip bruised, eagerness to go out again at ground zero.
Could I have complained? The answer is yes but why would I do that? The manager and promoter are not responsible for the actions of the masses. They have no control over how obliterated people get. How could I, the 5 foot 3 inches sober dancer try to change anything?
It is simply a game of chance to try and make it home physically unscathed after a night out in certain parts of Dublin City. I can’t imagine how the drinking community manage it.
A few drinkers on the night said to me. “If you were drunk you would not have fallen so hard”. Somehow, the drink was to be my guardian angel.