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On Chivalry: the Drunken Girl

Cityscape designed by Ridley Scott

A party in a hotel. Not a hotel room, and not a normal notel. It was a large party space in the building that Goldman Sachs had recently moved into, where they had Hilton open some unimaginably plush seeming boutique hotel. This was not a finance party but the credentials informed the space.

You had people in the hotel industry, the world of magazines, advertising and marketing. Adults mostly, and their assistants, thank goodness, to keep it lively. I would say at its height there were maybe two hundred people in the room. Open Bar.

 

The very words would have once sent a shiver of pleasure and anticipation through me; now I am taking a break from alcohol. It’s been a decade but I like to call it a break.

When it wound down  a group of us went upstairs to the bar on the hotel’s roof. It was a strange and spectacular view. All around us were new high rises. Mostly residential, which was unusual–I could see people moving around their glass boxed. A man leaned on the window and a floor above a small child ran around.  Low white clouds in the sky reflecting light. The whole thing had a Blade Runner feel.

At some point a young woman came and sat down on the long patio banquet near me. For a while she stared at her phone, then she leaned back and held her phone up over her head. I glanced at her briefly and thought she looked out of it. Shortly thereafter someone nudged me and gestured towards her. I saw she had passed out.

A little while later, maybe fine minutes, a young man walked over, lifted his camera and snapped a picture of the passed out woman. He used a flash. “Poor Miranda,” he said with a smirk and walked away.

I didn’t  hear her name. It wasn’t Miranda. At any rate the guy, having offered his sympathies, which oddly enough seemed almost sincere, as though the picture would be used only for good natured fun the next day, walked back into the crowd near the bar. He was her age, about twenty five or so.

A few people I was with commented that that was uncool of him to have taken that picture.  I thought, fleetingly, of Facebook and all the photographs of people doing weird, stupid things that must be out there, hovering like some potential threat, and wondered if young people now are inured to living in public like this, or if they get tense about the prospect of some vulnerable moment captured for public view. Obviously they are a little tense. But I imagine they also see it as a fact of life. I spent about five seconds on this and then returned to the conversation.

Some time later – fifteen minutes, twenty minutes – the passed out girl sat up abruptly and vomited all over the place. On the spectrum between a burp and a paper thin mint. this was closer to the latter.  Everyone in the vicinity reacted as though a bomb had gone off, which is to say they jumped to their feet and, after a few exclamations and flapping of hands, began to move away. I was among them. I looked back at the woman. I felt a certain amount of annoyance welling up within me. She was leaning forward with her hands on her knees, a big stinking mess between her high heeled shoes.

I plunged into the crowd looking for the guy who took the picture. I knew I was in precarious moral ground–I was doing something to get help for the woman, but I wasn’t helping her myself. I was thinking something along the lines of, “if you take a picture of the drunk girl, you work with you have to deal with her.”  Not Plato’s Ethics, but that is where things stood at that particular moment.

I found him. White shirt, no jacket, goatee, backpack. It took me a few moments of hard shoulder tapping and talking to get his attention and explain. He looked a bit dazed. Drunk, I guess.

“You know her, right?”

“Yes,” he said.

“She needs some help.”

“What do you mean?”

This went on for about fifteen seconds and then I said, “Go to the woman now and make sure is all right.”

He walked over with a friend. About twenty steps on a crowded rooftop bar. I didn’t know at that moment that while I was doing this there was a second even more enormous heave. The guy with the back-pack recoiled when he saw it. His friend did, too. I enjoyed the mortification on their faces, but mostly I wanted to see what they would do. They didn’t do anything. They chattered nervously and cast glances in her direction.

As I said, I am not speaking from on top of any mountain. I wasn’t rushing over. Vomit is something which I try to steer clear of unless it has come out of a loved on. Even then, not a favorite. Still, amidst the glassy luxury of that place, it was strange to contemplate what procedure is in place for such an eventuality, what the protocol was. The hotel manager arrived in his suit and walkie talkie. My group had reconvened  by the elevator, where we consoled the woman whose leather bag had been splatted. She held it off of her body, her face scrunched up, as good humoured as possible. Down in the lobby, a vast expanse of purple lit marble and enormous airborne sculpture overhead, I was waiting for a friend to get her bag out of bag check, when I saw the passed out woman walk by.

It turns out the people who can deal with a young woman in need are other young women. They wore long flowing dresses. One on on either side of her. The drunken girl seemed erect, coherent, stable.  For all I know she was refreshed. The two women on either side held onto her, supported her by the arms. I watched them move across the cool marble floor towards the front door of the hotel and noticed they were all barefoot, like figures from an ancient Greek Myth.

It wasn’t until the following day that I started pondering that photograph the guy snapped of the drunken girl. I don’t know what his relationship is to her. I don’t know if she is aware that photo exists. She probably knows she made a scene. And if she knew that picture was there, on sone hard drive, waiting to be uploaded, what would that be like? Who would she be most worried would see it? Her boss? Her parents?

As for the guy who took the photo and then anxiously wrung his hands doing nothing when called on to help, consider this piece a portrait of you, for posterity.

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