It was nearly ten o’clock at night when she approached me on a badly-lit street near Dublin’s North Circular Road. I had paused my bicycle to send a text on my mobile and I saw her coming towards me. I had the impression that, just before she made for me, she had been looking around as though to determine where she was – perhaps I had seen her doing that in my peripheral vision.
She had a handbag and was dragging one of those suitcases with an extending handle and trundling on little wheels. As she reached me, I asked her could I help her with directions, which actually interrupted her asking me for help. But that was ok, it worked against her being totally dependent, the asker – after all, I had asked too. She had a USA accent.
Yes, of course I would help if I could.
Did I know the whereabouts of a certain hotel? Well, the area in the hotel’s name I do know but I didn’t recall the hotel itself. And sometimes they give themselvess the name of somewhere known or popular even though their hotel is not near the place at all.
Did she have the street name? No.
The phone number? Somewhere in her bag (she meant her case).
I explained that I don’t have Internet on my mobile phone but she could look it up on Google map? She doesn’t have Internet access on her phone either.
Can she afford a taxi? Yes, of course.
Well, why not hail one? She has done that but they tell her the hotel is just down the road.
Well, why not ask them to take her there? She has, but they tell her it’s just down the road.
Hmmmm – a sliver of doubt entered my brain. Taxi drivers refusing a short drive fare on a weekday night? To an address with which they are familiar? And leaving a woman, clearly a tourist, on her own in that area on foot ….. Something is wrong with this story.
Still … what to do?
OK, so I’ll ride around on the bike and find the place (even if I have to stop a taxi and ask the driver, I was thinking). Then I’ll come back and tell her (and accompany her there too, I think to myself).
She is very grateful but I think it is not safe for her to wait for me here. Perhaps the courtyard of a pub a little further back? A well-lit one.
I walk the bike, she trundles the case. Talks about her plans for her two-week stay, which appear to be to arrive in Dublin and then figure out where to go from there. Relates having been booked into a Dublin hostel which another passenger on a bus told her was in a bad district so she didn’t go there. Something seems wrong about this story too.
We reach the pub – it is still in business hours and the courtyard, though deserted, is brightly lit. There are tables and chairs and and I ask her to wait there for me and I’ll be back in a few minutes. She agrees.
Three minutes later I have found the hotel and in four, five at the most, I am back at the pub.
But the courtyard is empty.
Oh, no! She just got up and went?!
Wait. Maybe she asked someone where it was and set off there on her own. But then I would have passed her on the way back – I couldn’t have missed her.
Maybe …. oh God! Maybe whoever she asked volunteered to take her there. And she went with them. Got into a car ….
Ah, Jayzus! What now? Call the cops?
But now I see her ….. coming out of the pub, pulling the case, carrying her bag, all of it awkward as she manages the door….. Maybe she didn’t feel safe out there on her own and went inside …. but no, she has a pint of lager in her hand.
I remind her that I asked her to wait and that I’d be back in a few minutes. I have found the place and was ready to accompany her there but now she has bought a pint. (I am hoping she will leave the pint but no chance).
She is so grateful and would like to buy me a drink.
It’s an offer I might well have accepted when I had got her to her hotel and she had checked in. Now, though? I show her where her hotel is, a straight walk down the road I point out to her, wish her well and ride off.
Asking for it – bloody asking for it! It’s a phrase that doesn’t usually mean someone wants something bad to happen, rather that their conduct makes that a likely outcome. Unfortunately it is used too often with regard to the victims of rape, when wanting it to happen is occasionally precisely what is insinuated – smearing the victim and exonerating the attacker. But usually, conduct with predictable bad results is what is indicated; for example, leaving your bag or laptop inside your car, visible to passers-by, is asking to have your car broken into. Leaving your bike unlocked in the open out of your sight is asking to have it stolen.
Surely it is not a healthy situation for a person to be walking around in a badly-lit part of a strange city at ten at night? And looking like a tourist, whom a predator might therefore assume to have some money and perhaps a camera, Ipad, etc? And a woman alone, considered a defenceless potential victim?
Surely one would want to get into one’s hotel as soon as possible? OK, I understand the appeal of the pint, particularly if one has been stressed out by travel and then wandering around looking for one’s hotel. But hotels have bars, where the worst that will happen to one (or the best, depending on one’s point of view) is that it will lead to sharing one of the hotel beds with a stranger. OK, if you want local colour with your pint, find a “typical” local pub after you’ve checked in. And be sure you know your way back.
But there she had been, wandering around a badly-lit street at night looking for a hotel (and walking further away from it when I met her). And someone goes to find her hotel and asks her to wait and in less than five minutes she’s bought a pint, which means she won’t be able to go to the hotel when the guy returns. And she blithely offers to buy him a drink.
Conduct over all? Asking for it.