Suppose you were in your local pub last night and a young man, clearly very drunk, walked in. Suppose he asked for drink and, when he was refused, started to rant, knocked a glass off the bar counter, made a grab at one of the barman and finally grabbed one of the high bar-stools and swung it back over his left shoulder, intent on, I don’t know, hitting the barman with it, or breaking it over the counter, or just hurling at all the bottles in the optics against the wall.
Suppose all that. When he swung the stool back, would you grab it by two of its legs, yank it out of his hands, then set it down gently on the ground?
Because that’s what I did.
The sheer look of astonishment on his face when he swung around to find he had been de-stooled by a small, middle-aged man still sitting calmly on his own stool was one that I will remember (and treasure) forever.
And, having turned away from the bar, he was then grabbed by all the barmen and, as they say, escorted off the premises. Then all attention turned to me. Reaction ranged from finding that my next drink had been paid for (by one of the barman) to being asked what the fuck I’d been thinking (by one of my mates).
The truth is, I didn’t think at all, it just happened.
And I’m not terribly sure why I’m now writing about it. Partly it’s because, even as I was assuring people last night ”oh, it was no big deal, he was never actually going to hit anyone”, I was secretly bloody proud of myself and still am. And partly because it’s nice to be able to tell a story in which for once I come across as a bit of a hero rather than a bit of a gobshite.
But mostly it’s a post about derealisation, this wearying, draining, soul-destroying condition in which everything is happening in a bit of a dream. I have written before about how at the beginning I was afraid of it, that if everything felt a bit unreal then what was to stop me telling the boss he’s a moron, or groping one of the girls at work, or writing to Di Stewart on Sky Sports and telling her I’m in love with her. I realised over time, though, that none of those things were going to happen (sorry, Di), that the condition wasn’t going to make me act out of character. It wasn’t going to make me do anything that I wouldn’t normally do, it would just stop me fully experiencing the things that I normally would.
And I think that”s why now, the morning after, I keep thinking back to last night. There’s a scene in Die Hard 4 (what, you thought I watch foreign arty films with sub-titles?) where John McClane says “you know what you get for being a hero? You get shot at, your wife leaves you, you get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me kid, nobody wants to be that guy.” Then the young bloke says “then why are you doing this?” and McClane says “because there’s no-one else to do it right now”, and the young bloke says “ah, that’s what makes you that guy”.
All us men would love to be John McClane, though perhaps a bit less bald. We’d love to believe that we’d stop a man swinging a stool at a barman for no other reason than that the barman was doing his job.
I wonder if I’d have done what I did if I was fully well. Perhaps I would have, or perhaps I’d have sat, horrified and furious but afraid, watching the whole scene unfold. But because of derealisation I instinctively did the right thing, and for one second of one day of my life I became that guy.
It’s the first good thing that’s ever come out of it.