21 Jan

Tonight I witnessed my first ‘glassing’ incident.

I was at a younger friend’s birthday celebration with my sister. We pulled up to a fancy looking venue which was cleverly designed to be a mostly outdoor space. It was lovely and seemed very posh to us. It’s located out of the CBD so it’s easy to get to and park near. The night started well. We looked around impressed and considered functions we could have there in the future. Our friend had an area to herself and the DJ was playing great music. Dinner was delicious and we were starting to have fun.

It all started to go a awry when we noticed we were having trouble breathing. Apparently the clever outdoor design allows it to be one of the rare venues left where smoking is permitted everywhere. The busier it became the more clogged the air became. Then we noticed how short the girls dresses were. I turned 36 today and I know I’m older than the average patron but really…the dresses were tops to me. It looked like they had forgotten to put pants on. Not all the girls, but many of them. And the guys were so young. My sister kept commenting that she was old enough to be the mother of many of them. We’d certainly wandered into the wrong venue or ten years too late!

My sister and I were having trouble figuring out what to do. We didn’t know too many people at the party we were at, we’d eaten, my sister had a couple of drinks and one game of the pokies. We joked about going to the toilets and taking our pants off in an attempt to fit in (using our tops as dresses) but decided to start dancing instead, pants and all. The DJ who was playing great music had an annoying habit of changing songs after the first chorus. By this stage it was too loud to yell at him to play the entire song or at least most of it so we shrugged it off and kept dancing. That’s when I noticed a smaller guy walking quickly away from a menacing looking man who was in hot pursuit. They weren’t running but their fast path cut across the dance floor and got our attention. We kept on dancing and then we saw a commotion. The menacing man was gaining on the other guy and before my eyes the pursuer threw his glass with force towards the pursuee. Glass shattered everywhere. It was on.

Before I could yell for security several security and staff members came running and grabbed the glasser quickly. But he wasn’t going down without a fight. It took several security personnel and a couple of bar staff to drag him out of the venue. Unfortunately his forced exit was being made just behind where my sister and I stood gapping. I dragged her out of the way and they ejected him and fought to keep him under control until the police arrived a few minutes later. The music had been turned off as soon as the glass was thrown. Obviously there was a zero-tolerance policy to drunken violence. The DJ put on a loud song as soon as he had been dragged out and we started dancing again, half-heartedly, when I noticed the two girls my sister and I had just been dancing with sitting down next to the dance floor. One seemed to be having trouble breathing. I went over to them and the girl having trouble breathing seemed to be having a panic attack. Her friend who had obviously helped her through one before was trying to calm her down. I asked if I should get a drink and her friend asked me to bring some water. I ran and grabbed it from the bar and the girl in distress gulped some of it down. My sister made her laugh by doing some silly dancing and she was able to stand up and walk back to her table.

In the meantime a crowd had formed and was watching the police deal with the drunk-and-disorderly glasser. Lleyton Hewitt was trying to advance in the Australian Open at the time but his struggle was now being ignored, despite the giant screens located all over the venue. Several police marched in and were directed to witnesses by bar staff. They stayed for at least an hour. They had blocked off the street and while we tried to dance and move on with our night staff were on edge and everyone seemed a little shocked.

Lleyton Hewitt ended up winning his marathon match against Milos Raonic but by then we were in my car heading home. I felt unsafe. There were so many glasses everywhere. There were piles and piles of potential projectiles everywhere I turned. They should switch to plastic. They should have a non-smoking area. They should re-think their open plan design. There were some antsy looking patrons whom I suspected were friends of the now arrested glasser. The DJ kept changing the song. I didn’t recognise some of the songs. Someone breathed smoked directly into my face, making me cough. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

This is one venue I won’t be patronising again. I love going out and dancing and having a couple of drinks but it’s hard to find a venue in which I feel safe and comfortable. I use tops and tops, not dresses, I don’t drink (my sister just has a couple) and we just want to be able to dance and breathe at the same time. The only time we ever really have fun is when it’s our own private function or if it is a dinner-dance organised by our children’s school. Everywhere else is just so unsafe, especially venues that still use glassware and masquerade as stylish when they are in fact just havens for smokers. I’m not anti-smoker, I just want an area for non-smokers too.

Gosh, I sound so old don’t I? We were really freaked out by the violence and everything else just gave me a headache. It was just a little too much.

Now I am back home, safe in front of my computer. I have no desire to go out at night again any time soon. It’s a crazy world out there and one I no longer feel safe in. It just seems like there is so much violence and over what? I keep trying to think of what could have offended this man so much that he resorted to violence. It wasn’t even targetted violence. He managed to get glass on several people in the surrounding area. He actually spilled half his drink down my sister’s back when he pushed past us. Did the man he was chasing look at his girlfriend? Did he blurt out a racial slur? What could have gone wrong so quickly? When did glassing replace giving someone the finger or telling them to bugger off?

It’s a mystery I will leave for others to solve. My contribution will be staying as far away from similar situations as possible and begging my younger friends to stay safe when they go out. You do need to choose your venue carefully, you need to go out with people you trust and you need to leave as soon as you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. It just looked so nice when we arrived. Appearances can be deceiving, or perhaps this is a normal night for a busy venue with one freakishly strong drunk man who was greatly offended by God only knows what. I’ve never been so happy to see flashing blue and red lights. It was probably a typical Saturday night for them too. Not so  much for me.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

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