laugardagur, október 07, 2006

how to stay out of a friday-night fight

Last night I had the unfortunate luck to have to defuse the second "request for fight" downtown in my recent memory. The part they don't tell you in the hot-springs-clean-air-healthy-food travel brochures is that there is quite a seamy underside to the downtown weekend scene in Reykjavík and part of that is the occasional band-o'-punks looking for some action. A guy walking along by himself, even on crowded Laugavegur, is sometimes provocation enough.

Last night as I passed four guys, late teens, one of them yelled in Icelandic, "Hey, you in the grey sweater." And I felt a small stone or bottle cap hit me in the back, so I turned around to face them.

So, here's how to do the defusing:

1. Don't let yourself get provoked. Stay cool.
2. Make no indication that you have any knowledge whatsoever of Icelandic. Stick to English. (Sometimes this alone is enough for the defuse.)
3. Stay out of the personal space of the wanna-be fighters and keep them out of your personal space.
4. Try some quick friendly chatter, see if that calms the situation.
5. Say clearly, "I'm not going to fight you. We are not going to fight."
6. When things are reasonably calm, walk away.

That's what works for me, folks. Now here's hoping (7-9-13) that you (or I) don't have much reason to use these skills in the future.

9 Comments:

Blogger Professor Batty said...

...I ran into a similar scenario in 2004. It isn't quite to the stage of Alex and his Droogy mates (A Clockwork Orange) but it seems to have a similar dynamic.

7.10.06  
Blogger JB said...

Prof B: No need to explain the reference! Here is the quote, with a bit of tweaking to fit the situation:

There was me, that is Tommi, and my three droogs, that is Bjölli, Villi, and Atli, and we sat in the Mokka Milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Mokka Milkbar sold milk-plus, that is milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or mýsa, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence.

7.10.06  
Blogger Farbror Willy said...

Cool, never had a droog namesake before.

The question remains whether those idiots did manage to provoke someone (or just went along and beat someone up without bothering with the provocation). Especially after reading this. A man in his thirties was hospitalized after an attack on friday night . It says that the attack was "brutal and without motive" (the attackers kicked him in the head while he was lying on the ground). Iceland has it's share of violent idiots (probably got the most violent idiots in the world per capital, but that doesn't get mentioned in the press much).

8.10.06  
Blogger gk said...

I am sorry to say this sort of thing happens all too often. I was once attacked while minding my own business while walking up laugarvegur. Didn't even see the guy coming, he just came out of nowhere and kicked me in the leg so I fell to the ground, luckily I was with a friend who's a fairly big guy and managed to get the guy off of me. I ended up having to go to the emergency room, seeing as my leg was twice its usual size. I was limping for a week or two.

8.10.06  
Blogger JB said...

Villi, GK: Ooof, I didn't realize just how common actual attacks were. This is making me rethink walking around there by myself, which I often do on the way home.

I wonder why there isn't more call for foot cops walking a beat up and down Laugavegur on the weekend nights. Just a couple of cops roaming around down there from 1-6 on weekend nights would do wonders. The only time I've ever really noticed cops out at night was this year's Menningarnótt.

8.10.06  
Blogger Little Miss Loopy said...

Do you people wear signs with "attack me please" written on it? I do realize I'm a girl and people don't really pick fights with girls but I've never even witnessed a scene like you are descibing and have I done my fair share of walking on my own down town at night. The only time I've witnessed anything like it was when some guy punched a friend of mine (a girl) to the ground and kicked her in the back but he was not Icelandic. I want to point out that no one came to her rescue and there were plenty of people that witnessed that, foreign and Icelandic.

9.10.06  
Blogger Brian said...

I had a similar thing happen in front of the McDonald's just past Kebab Husid.

My friend ended up getting punched in the nose which split it.

The guy was drunk and luckily there was cellphone and a police officer nearby who collared the gentleman in the nearby square.

Oddly enough this was in the early evening.

9.10.06  
Blogger Jade said...

I'm curious, why is it helpful to talk in English rather than Icelandic?

10.10.06  
Blogger JB said...

LML: I think you're exempt from these violent displays of machismo by virtue of the fact that you're female.

Brian: Sorry to hear your story. And sort of amazed that there was in fact a cop nearby.

Jade: Maybe it's misguided but I think the English helps me for two reasons:

1. It makes me seem like an outsider and Icelanders often want to impress outsiders. In this situation, as soon as I started in with the English, one of the droogs in the back said jokingly (and relatively good-naturedly) "How do you like Iceland?"

2. By forcing them to speak in a second language, I put myself at a bit of an advantage. Nobody feels as comfortable getting into the business in a tongue they don't use very often.

3. Me babbling in Kindergarten Icelandic, on the other hand, seems likely to provoke them more.

10.10.06  

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