The most random night of my life
The boring beginning
It all started like any other night. It wasn't a special occasion and we didn't need a reason. We were just attempting to become functioning alcoholics.
I was out with a few close friends and a larger group of their friends who I didn't know. We went to a standard Belfast nightclub, left at closing time and thats where the fun began....
I ended up split from my closest friends in the taxis home and shared it with some of the guys who I didn't know so well. I lived a mile or 2 away from the rest of these guys so we got dropped off fairly centrally to where we all lived at which point I was planning on saying goodnight and heading off home on my own by foot.
However, as soon as we got dropped off there were two dodgy as can be individuals standing at the corner of the street. Not only did they look dodgy, they were grown men (Late 30s - early 40s) who were standing at a street corner in an area solely occupied by students. And as we got closer we saw they were drinking vodka from a litre bottle of Kulov. Nothing wrong with that on its own but when you group it with the fact they were using a public litter bin as a table and generally looked like they'd enough drugs on them to supply a wall street party, they looked pretty shifty. Forever more, these two individuals will be referred to "The Shafties" - Shify Belfast people.
One of the boys I was with engaged the shafties in conversation and as it turns out they were quite civil individuals. I could hear my primary school teacher echoing in my mind saying "don't judge a book by its cover" so i started talking and having the craic with these men. Besides even if they did turn out to be as chancy as they seemed, we outnumbered them four to two so all was good.
All was going well (just talking shite drunk talk as you do) when one of the boys (We shall call him E) accidentally tripped over the bottle of vodka and smashed it to pieces when there was still quite a lot of vodka left in it. Needless to say the Shafties weren't particularly impressed. After all this was about 3 am at this stage...no chance of getting it replaced. A lot of apologies ensued but the Shafties came up with a solution. They said they had been planning on finishing the vodka and then heading down to the docks to a pub that they knew stayed open all night (unofficially of course). Unlikely as this sounded they were pretty convincing and at this stage we felt like we owed them so we played along. After all, none of us had ever been in the docks so this pub could well be known for staying open later than most.
E felt guilty about the vodka so he was pushing us to go and the rest of us were only going to go to bed anyway so we thought why not. Well I claim that there was thinking involved but realistically our drunk minds just heard the possibility for more alcohol and were all for it.
So we ordered taxis down to the docks to the rough location where this pub was supposed to be. We dandered around and found a building that was supposedly the pub. I don't doubt the legitimacy of the Shafties' claims that they'd gotten drink in this place before (well actually, I do), but it didn't look like any pub I've ever seen. Regardless, if there were people drinking inside, they were not for letting newcomers in at 4am. Now all of a sudden the dodginess of the shafties came flooding back to all of us. After all, they had just brought the 4 of us to an empty part of Belfast which none of us knew with what seemed to be a bull story about a pub.
We managed to get the subject back on to taxis and said we'd get some back home. Of course, the Shafties then mentioned house parties in one of our houses (how generous of them) on the basis that we were students and that we have to have drink in our houses. To get them to stop pushing the idea we told them we would get taxis to the Lisburn road where one of us lived (all lies of course). When the taxis arrived we made sure to order two taxi cars instead of a taxi bus so that the four of us could get into one and force them to get into the other.
As you'd expect, we told our driver to drop us in a different area (back where we started no less) so that we could ditch these Shafties. It worked a treat. We got dropped off, said our goodbyes to each other and walked our different directions. My house was a bit further away than the rest but the idea of the walk didn't bother me. Well at least it didn't until i realised my grave error. I had to walk across the Lisburn road to get home!
So there I was stumbling home on my own when I got to Queens University and I see two very familiar Shafties standing on the footpath. Luckily I see them from a good distance and I'm able to stay in the shadows like a creeper watching them. I was considering walking a different route to avoid but saying as I didn't know what their plans were, I thought it was wisest to continue watching them, After all, as long as I could see them then there was no danger of me randomly running into them when i turned a corner. I didn't fancy facing them on my own after we had all ditched them. I had a feeling that would prove my original reservations about them.
After what seemed like an eternity, they start to move off up the street. I walk about to get a better view to make sure they were definitely gone before i risked walking home. I'm not going to lie this part felt awesome. In my drunken mind I was a ninja who had just successfully avoided detection. As i was getting lost in my daydream, the most curious sight came into view...
This is not a racial stereotype. But at 6am on a sunday morning there were Chinese people doing what I can only assume was Tai Chi. Of course in my young drunken and relatively sheltered mind, I had no idea what the hell was going on. So I slowly walked closer, like a curious animal who is unsure whether it should be afraid or not.
They noticed me but didn't say anything. I guessed that Tai Chi took a lot of concentration. So I stood there and swayed and watched in amazement. Obviously, the drink had really came back in full flow at this stage. This mixed with a rural Ireland upbringing no doubt made me seem like the simplest person these people had ever seen. But I was oblivious. After perhaps 10 minutes (It could have been much longer but who really knows?..), the male of the group came over to me as if he was going to speak to me. Instead he took out a map and pointed at it. At this point i realised there was not a word of English known between them. And I of course do not speak Mandarin. Somehow, my drunken mind comprehended that they were staying at the Holiday Inn hotel on University street, This wasn't particularly far away but it seemed perhaps all of their Tai Chi had messed with their sense of direction and I took it upon myself to bring them back to the hotel safely. After all, what else would I be doing at 6am on a sunday morning?
So i signaled to them the direction to go and when they were reluctant to go, I signaled for them to follow me instead. They seemed happy enough with that so off we strolled, myself and 3 Chinese people. It didn't take long before we reached the hotel and there I had intended to take my leave and finally make it home. However, the man was having none of it and he dragged me inside. The local man on reception looked up with a quizzical look and I nodded to him and said "morning" as if this was a completely normal situation to be involved in.
I then looked over to the dining area and if there was one Chinese person there were 50 of them sitting there eating their breakfast. The trio i came in with brought me over to an aged gentleman who I can only describe as the groups "elder". Out of a group this size, he was the only one with a word of English which amazed me. As it turned out his English was quite good and he was able to thank me for showing his countrymen back to the hotel. And the best bit, he told me to get myself some breakfast. I didn't have to be told twice and I wolfed down a fry. Nothing better than free food!
Throughout the meal, I was talking to the "elder" and he was relaying to the other Chinese people. There was nothing particularly out of the ordinary with their group. They were from a particular city in China (the city escaped my memory pretty soon afterwards as there were far more important things to remember after this night) and they were traveling around Europe for a couple of months. They were quite fascinated with me for some reason. I often wonder did they realize I was drunk or just think I was very simple. We had pleasant small talk for about half an hour after which people started to disappear to their rooms. The elder told me they were going back to their room now too, but before he did he had something to give me.
He took out a post-it note and he wrote a number on it. He told me the home phone number was for the gentleman that I had originally met doing Tai Chi. He gestured across the table to him and he just smiled back at me. I said my goodbyes and left the hotel all the while wondering "why the hell would i ring him!". He would be a Chinese man in China who doesn't speak English and I would be a teen in Ireland who doesn't speak Mandarin or any even remotely similar language. To this day I wonder what was going through that elder's mind!
So at this stage I was getting very sleepy. I had been out for about 12 hours and hadn't slept in about 24 hours. The drink was beginning to wear off and the free fry had topped it all off. I started to walk home and I can not overstate how weary my legs started to feel. As I was walking passed Botanic Gardens I thought to myself "Yeh why not". This is a a public park in Belfast that is only open during daylight hours. But of course, it was beyond 7am at this stage so the gates were well and truly open. I stumbled in and looked at the main park and thought " thats the bed for me! Luckily the sun was shining and i fell asleep immediately, despite the grass being soaking with dew. After about 10 minutes I woke up to 2 guys lying beside me and both laughing. When they seen i was awake they said something along the lines of "we are jealous, we wanted to be the first to sleep in here this morning". We proceeded to have craic for about 5 minutes after which we decided we'd just go to sleep.
So there I was sleeping beside two random guys in Botanic gardens on a Sunday morning thinking "this is exactly where i pictured my life to be at 18 years old". At some point it must have got too weird for the two guys because they disappeared but I slept there happy as Larry for about 2 hours. At this point did I get up and finally make it home? Hell no, it was now an acceptable time to land back to my friends house and tell them all about what happened. And I'm pretty sure more drink was consumed pretty early that day....