Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kick Him While He's Down

The idea of “Culture Shock” is one of my pet peeves. I’ll spare you the full rant, but I’ve always found the idea frustrating. Northeastern had a Study Abroad Orientation – that I had to go through TWICE – that focused on Culture Shock and coping with it (with very little about actually enjoying studying abroad!), but all I kept thinking was “But I KNOW I’m going to experience another culture. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t go. How is that in any way shocking?!” Of course the second time I was mostly thinking “Whose idea was to put this the morning after Halloween and WHY did I accept that last beer?!” But that’s neither here nor there. My point is, I want to experience different cultures when I travel, and the fact that they are different is not nearly enough to “shock” me.

Still the closest I’ve gotten to being culturally shocked was one of my first weekends in Scotland when I was there for the semester. I should note, for the sake of Scottish reputation, that this is probably not a reflection on the whole culture, and is most likely no different than in many, many other places. But anyway…

I was out with my two roommates, Aheli and Sarah, and we were just leaving a little pub to head back to the flat. Upon leaving, we noticed, across the street in an alley, a man face down in the gutter, groaning. So we went to investigate. He was clearly intoxicated and barely conscious, and most frighteningly, he was by himself. We scurried back to the bar to alert the bartender and see what could be done. The bartender grudgingly peeked out, handed us a glass of water to bring over, and said “Don’t worry, I’ll look out once in awhile to make sure he’s still alive.” Sarah, to whom I give credit for being WAY more responsible than I am, said this was not enough and so asked if she could call an ambulance. We went and stood near our passed out friend to make sure he didn’t die while waiting for help.

As we stood a group of intoxicated-but-still-conscious (barely) boys came by and asked why we were waiting. “We don’t want him to die?” “Well his friends left him so you shouldn’t be stuck with him. Come with us instead!” “No, we can’t leave him” “Maybe you should try kicking him…hey, yeah! KICK HIM!” We (Sarah) were appalled. “We can’t KICK him!” “…Flash him?” We returned a look of scorn. But hey, gotta give them credit for trying.

At least two more groups of boys ambled on by suggesting we kick him but, although that was getting more appealing by the minute, we did not. Finally a police woman came by and asked us what the problem was. We explained. She looked at him, bent slightly and looked a little closer…and then she kicked him. He stirred, and was soon sitting (relatively) upright. Our mouths dropped in (not so cultured) shock. Apparently the proper was response WAS to kick the drunks while they were down. Who knew?

I was thinking about this today having read a BBC article entitled “Mystery surrounds man's 15ft fall in Edinburgh”, full text here: and short enough to be copied below:

Mystery surrounds man's 15ft fall in Edinburgh

Police are probing how a man fell 15ft (4.5m) from steps onto an Edinburgh street below.

The 22-year-old called emergency services at 0415 GMT after he regained consciousness in a pool of blood at the bottom of Slater Steps in Holyrood.
Police officers are now making inquiries including checking CCTV footage in the area to discover if he was pushed or if he fell.

The man is being treated at Edinburgh Royal infirmary for a broken thigh.

The last thing the man can remember is being at a local nightclub.
A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: "There is no explanation as to how he came to be there."

I love this article, because to me, there is absolutely nothing mysterious about it (apologies in advance for my irreverence should this turn out to be legitimately serious). The place he fell is so near to the Cowgate, home of trashy clubs, student dorms, seedy hostels and the alley where we found the man passed out so many years ago. A tour guide once told us that Walter Scott was born off the Cowgate and grew up in squalor. Even today, squalor is actually one of the best ways to describe the area on a weekend night (and the morning after).

Anyway, I imagine the fall probably occurred after a night of drinking (Clue: “The last thing the man can remember is being at a local nightclub”) and he either tripped on the many cobblestones the city has to offer…or if he was “assisted” it was probably just that he started to pass out, and some helpful passerby kicked him…out of the goodness of his heart.

Maybe the most shocking thing, is that none of this shocks me.

Me with Aheli and Sarah in 07...

...and again in 09. Looking exactly the same.

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