By Tim Hayes
With a name like Timothy Patrick Hayes, you can bet I’m Irish. Half, at least. So it may sound antithetical, hypocritical, even counterintuitive to hear that I detest St. Patrick’s Day. Yet it’s true. I do.
I think it’s become an incredibly insulting and degrading slap to the Irish people and their culture. Getting sloppy drunk by 8 a.m. and making an asinine – not to mention hazardous – fool of yourself once a year makes no sense, and does not represent the Emerald Isle honorably or accurately.
In the U.S., St. Patrick’s Day has been entrenched as an early spring rationalization for inebriation. Just like New Year’s Eve, another stupid holiday.
And please don’t give me the knee-jerk response that it’s all in fun, nobody gets hurt, lighten up, blah, blah. Because I’ve been on the front lines, Seamus. I’ve been on the front lines.
Years ago, one of our daughters participated in Irish dance, like those Riverdance pledge drive concerts you see on PBS every now and then. Her dance troupe participated in Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade each year, and I usually marched along with the kids as a parental chaperone.
Our local parade has long been recognized as among the top three largest St. Patrick’s Day events in the nation, along with New York’s and Boston’s, so the crowds lining the parade route stood six or seven deep on either side of the streets. As one of typically three fathers walking beside the young dancers, I felt like a Secret Service agent, scanning the crowds for potential troublemakers.
And each year, unfortunately, I was never disappointed.
At some point along the parade route, at least one – and occasionally a team – of rowdy revelers would run from the sidewalk and try to get beside our kids to “dance” along with them. Now, these usually comprised college students, almost always exclusively guys, mostly big and either athletically built or just plain fat, and all undoubtedly blind drunk.
My daughter and her fellow dancers, on the other hand, were in their early teens, small, thin, and understandably afraid of these hulking “Hibernians” trying to push their way into the troupe – with only me and a couple of other dads as the lone line of defense.
I’d rush up to the guy, firmly put my arm around his shoulder, and steer him away, saying something like, “Hey, Buddy, I think you’d look better dancing back here on the sidewalk.” Most times, he’d listen. Or at least by then our group would be far enough down the street that he was free to bother the next victim behind us.
Other times, however, a drunken dancer would not be denied so easily. That’s when it took a couple of dads to clear the interloper away, and hope he wouldn’t get violent, hurt us or one of the girls, or throw up on all of us. Not a great way to spend a Saturday morning, usually while freezing our butts off at the same time.
We’ll watch the news this weekend and see the mess made, the cars wrecked, and the drunks arrested. I haven’t been Downtown or anywhere near that parade in years, and haven’t missed it. It’s just not my idea of a good time. Sorry.
Yeah, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. I’m going to mark it the same way as my ancestral people in Ireland. By doing absolutely nothing.
Copyright 2014 Tim Hayes Consulting and Transverse Park Productions LLC