Ten years ago, in a feat of bravado designed to impress a girl, I vandalised a restaurant where I'd worked. Was this act inspired by animus against the restaurant, or something else?by William Skidelsky / December 22, 2007 / Leave a comment
I have never thought of myself as a violent or aggressive person. So it was a shock to discover, several years ago, that I am capable of behaving like a yob. The occasion of this discovery was a night out in London with university friends, which ended with some of us going back to my parents’ (unoccupied) house with a bottle of vodka. Several hours later I suggested, with the ebullience of severe drunkenness, that a girl I quite liked step out with me for an early morning stroll. Dawn was breaking, and the streets were miraculously empty. We wandered around for a while, and soon came to a restaurant where, the summer before starting university, I’d worked as a waiter. This combination of circumstances—the bright early morning sunshine, the deserted streets, the presence of a woman to show off to—must have triggered something within me, for I decided that a spot of vandalism was in order. “I hated this place. They were bastards to work for,” I declared. “I’m going to smash it up.”
When my companion showed no sign of objecting, I set about laying into the restaurant’s pair of glass-fronted menu display cases. These were located a few metres in front of its entrance, on a sort of raised patio, and were mounted on gleaming metallic stands. (It was quite a smart restaurant.) Demolishing them was no easy task; several running kicks were required. Nonetheless, within a few minutes, the metallic stands had been uprooted, and the display cases lay on the ground, their glass smashed. My companion celebrated with a high-spirited giggle. Our morning’s work completed, we made our way back home.
What do I make of this episode now, roughly a decade later? As vandalism goes, it was fairly petty stuff: at most I caused a few hundred pounds’ worth of damage. But what I did was criminal and, if not totally mindless (I had a motive of sorts), then certainly stupid. If I had been caught, I might well have been prosecuted. My parents and tutors would not have been impressed. In my defence, all I can point to is the fact that I was, at the time, on anti-depressants. These made me feel happy, but also unleashed something manic inside me. When combined with alcohol, the effect was especially pronounced. My assault on the restaurant was only the worst of a string…