After having some time to reflect on our journey to Dublin, there is one specific event that stands out from the rest. This one story was really the only frightening part of our perfectly executed adventure between Oxford and Dublin (sorry mom).
For the first time in my life, I got to ride on a ferry. It was essentially a massive cruise ship going from Holyhead, Wales to Dublin, Ireland. The boat ride was a measly three-hour parse through the ocean and the ship was so spacious and fancy no one in our group was worried about a thing. We had brought a deck of cards, and we had been playing several card games for about two-thirds of our trip in an effort to pass the time. The ferry was supposed to port around midnight Irish time, and the only part of the journey left was traveling the six miles from the port to our apartment located just south of Trinity College in Dublin City Centre. At about 11:15, as the Dublin skyline was in the distance, two gentlemen strolled over to our seating area. Our group of six had commandeered two small tables and pushed them together to create an adequate playing surface for cards. About five feet off to our left there was a small booth and another table. These gentlemen initially just sat down side by side at this booth and table and said nothing. Two minutes pass by and one of the gentlemen starkly shouts, “Hey!” in the general direction of our group. The unquestionably Welsh gentleman was probably five-foot ten-inches, bald by choice, and in his mid forties. He proceeded to ask for our help. He had three phone numbers written down, and wanted one of us to call them all and see if any of them were in service. Instantly our group is getting some negative vibes from this menacing looking pair, but the braver of us six stepped up and called each number from our seat.
Attempting to be aware of our surroundings, my head is up out of my phone as our group was briefly taking a break from the cards. The second gentleman begins talking to his accomplice who is still rattling off foreign numbers to my friend when he notices me looking in the direction of his voice. In a bone-chilling and menacing whisper he looks at me and asks, “What are you staring at?” This man was significantly younger than the first, but more intimidating. He had a crazy look in his eye and exuded the persona of a loose cannon. He was also bald by choice, but was closer to six feet. In a vain attempt to hide my nervousness and discomfort with the whole situation, I not-so-confidently, but sarcastically replied, “I thought you were talking to me. I like to look at people when they talk.” Although I pictured this as a confident and appropriate response, the sarcasm may have been too strong and was not received as well as I had hoped. Instead of responding, the man stared at me with piercing eyes for a solid 15 seconds. Then, without breaking eye contact, uttered something to his “mate” that sounded completely foreign. He stood up, and walked to our table, and grabbed the deck of cards from off our table. “Do you want to see a magic trick?” he quietly and slyly asked to our group. We could tell whether we answered yes or no, we were going to see a card trick so we answered, “Sure.” After our fearful response, I was anticipating to have a card shoved into my eye socket, but instead he put the deck of cards in his pocket and said, “poof, they’re gone.”
In this instance, I thought he was going to walk away and keep them, which I was perfectly fine with because the deck was using a sharpie written Joker as the eight-of-hearts; however, his older friend stopped him and told him to give us the cards back. The younger man offered a counter point and said, “No, we’re actually going to play cards now.” So he went back to his booth-seat and said you guys come over here. I didn’t like the look of this, and I was still petrified of being assaulted on a ferry, so I didn’t move. Three of my friends, however, stood up and made their way to his table with their chairs. The man was fiddling with the deck, found the Joker acting as the eight-of-hearts, crumpled it up, and threw it on the ground. I thought I was in the clear, but instead, the young man shouts, “Hey Glasses!” This took me a second to process and when I realized “Glasses” was the endearing nickname I had been given, I looked up at him. He continued, “come over here and play.” After being called glasses, I felt as if I was teleported back into a bad 1980s sitcom about high school. So, naturally I took on the stereotypical nerd-role of “Glasses-kid,” and replied, “No thanks, I have some homework to work on.” I didn’t receive a response again, but I figured I was in the clear.
I had lied and didn’t have any homework, so I opened up a blank word document and stared at it like I was thinking really hard. Meanwhile, three of my friends are playing this card game called, “Life.” He elects not to explain the rules to them and instead decides to just penalize them every time a card is played incorrectly. About three-fourths of the way through this game, he casually announces to the group in his strong accent, “If I win this game, each of you owe me 15 Euro.” Each of my three friends rejected that because, first, they don’t understand the game or why they’re losing, and second, I’m not sure if they had 15 Euro between the three of them. After the game was “over,” and by “over” I mean he stated: “I won,” he requested five Euros from everyone. Each of my friends rejected his collection request and obviously upset he said, “Fine! I’ll just take these cards.” For the second time, he shoves the deck of 51 cards into his pocket. One of my braver friends says, “Actually, we were still playing with those.” The young man’s response is simply to wave him off like a king waves off a peasant and aggressively say, “Move please.” My friend does not move, partially because he’s standing his ground, but also because we’re on a boat, where is he going to go? The young man stands up with a fire in his eyes and a staring contest happens for what feels like the longest five seconds in history. The older of the two men interjects and tells the younger man to leave the cards. He doesn’t shift his gaze away from my friend and states, “Okay, but you guys can play 52 card pickup.” In my head I think, “Nope, it’s only 51, you crumpled up the eight-of-hearts,” but I decide not to say that after remembering how well the first sarcasm was taken. The young man takes the deck in his hand, bows the cards facing away, begins to attempt to send the cards flying into the air, but as he flicks, only three cards separate from the deck and all the others fall to the floor in a clean pile. Like a supervillain who failed to make a fear-inducing exit, he scrambles to pick up all the cards, and tries again. He takes the cards in his hand, bows them away, begins to flick and gets about six cards out of his hands before the stack again falls in a clean pile on the floor. After two failed attempts, I’m trying to hold in laughter, and he is obviously upset and embarrassed, so he picks the cards up, fans them out like a Chinese antique fan, and simply flings them in the air. Although he walks away laughing, it was definitely a failure and my friends and I were left in a weird emotional soup featuring: fear, confusion, and a desire to crack up laughing.
Although this story may have ended well for us, it still was one of the more intimidating moments I’ve encountered. This was by far the scariest part of our adventure but because it ended with our saboteur completely falling on his face, it ended up being far less emotionally scarring than it should’ve been.