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Friday, June 29, 2012

You Can Always Wake Up

My companion and I were walking back to our B&B in Galway through a pedestrian mall area 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.

We 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.

The 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.

May we be open to those auspicious interruptions.