I was reading an article today about a rather shocking recent incident where a policeman in Utah abused his powers to arrest a nurse who was doing her job. For some reason this reminded me of a situation I was in a few years ago where I was witness to a much more professionally handed policing incident. Time plays hell with memories so I thought to record what I still remember here for posterity.
It started on the top floor of a double decker bus. I was coming home from work and I sat near the middle as I usually do. This day there was a rather loud gentleman sitting several seats back from me who was clearly intoxicated on alcohol or something else. He was determined to engage in loud conversation with those around him as he expounded his opinions in rather colourful expletive laden language. This happens occasionally on public transport and while it is annoying you learn to ignore it or perhaps move seats. I did my best to ignore the loud gentleman although those sitting closer to him didn't have that luxury and a few of shuffled forwards, some even going downstairs.
There is this thing with some drunks where even when they are being outwardly friendly there is an ominous threat about them. There is a sense of violence is waiting just below the surface and that if you don't respond in the right way it could explode. It was only when the bus pulled over to make an unexpected stop that I put together the pieces in my mind and I realised that this gentleman was one of those drunks. I put together the half heard snippets of conversation and the fact that some had obviously reported him to the bus driver. I realised that the object he was loudly displaying to the other passengers was a knife and the semi joking rant he was making took on a much more sinister tone.
What to do? Those of us who were still on the top of the bus slowly realised what was going on. Should we continue to keep our heads down adopting ostrich armour or should we flee. The fact that the drunk had noticed and begun to comment on those who had already left made this decision harder.
We didn't have to wait for long because two police cars arrived and at least four Gardai (Irish policemen) boarded the downstairs of the bus. Happily the drunken gentleman didn't immediately notice their arrival but those of us who had remained on the top of the bus did and were concerned about the likely reaction of this knife wielding gentleman should four uniformed Gardai storm upstairs to arrest him.
Four uniformed Gardai did not storm upstairs. Instead one casually clad Garda officer came up and started to engage the drunk in conversation. I cannot recall the details of what he said but I do remember that he started to banter with him in language as expletive laden and colourful as the drunk's own. The policeman was non threatening and convivial. He talked the drunk down with tenderness and compassion. He even managed to convince him to hand over the knife and got the gentleman to come off the bus and into a waiting police car. There were no handcuffs involved and no obvious signs of arrest.
The whole incident was so low key it is hard to remember details of what was said and how exactly the policeman had managed this. Shortly thereafter the bus continued on its way. Thinking about it I realised I had just witnessed a master at work.