Tuesday 17 March 2015

Honour among thieves

A plague upon it when thieves cannot be true to one another. - Shakespeare, Henry IV

Some of my most painful moments in my illustrious academic career (ha) were trudging endlessly through some of William Shakespeare's most famous works.  I'm sure this blog's readers include more than its fair share of Shakespeare fans, but I found Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Othello, and others to be nothing more than literary torture.  I was just never able to decipher his ridiculously flowery garrulousness, I never found his comedies funny, and the tragedies were merely meh.  Ok, I'll grudgingly admit the plot of Romeo and Juliet may have been original in 1594, but his "star-crossed lovers" routine hath since been rather flung out liketh a dead horse o'er the ensuing 400 years.  

I think I need to rinse my mouth out after writing that.  Blech.

Anyway, despite the fact that ol' Willy wrote the quote at the top of the page (which of course translates to "There's no honour among thieves" in modern non-stupidly-flamboyant English), I confess that I like it and find it to be true.  It's commonly demonstrated on TV and in movies when bad guys stab each other in the back (literally and/or figuratively), but I've never really witnessed it in real life.

And then Henry and Richard (not their real names©) came along and gave me a Shakespearian lesson I shall ne'er soon forget.

Henry and Richard were old buddies, but Henry moved away from their home town some years back.  After many years apart, Henry drove back home to catch up with his friend over a long weekend, and the two of them decided that the best way to reminisce was to revisit their old haunts and re-enact the prior activities of their youth.

In other words, they decided to go to a pub and get blind drunk.

Unfortunately in Henry's and Richard's alcohol-saturated brains, designated drivers and taxis are what other people use to get home.  Speed limits?  Psh, that's for other people, not them.  Seat belts?  Ha!  They never wore them before, so why start now.  And trees?  They're perfect for running into and getting ejected from the car.


Richard was brought to me first, so drunk he could hardly keep his eyes open.  The medics reported that he was the passenger in the car, and they had found him outside the vehicle in the rain leaning against a concrete roadside barrier.  He managed to dribble out that his shoulder hurt, and he had lacerated one of his toes (apparently shoes were also optional during their little reunion soirée).  He also had scrapes and bruises everywhere but no other obvious life-threatening injuries.  I needed more information.

"Were you driving the car, Richard?"

"Noisrajg," he replied, which I believe is Drunkenese for "No, sir."  The medics shook their heads.

Seeing that Richard would be no useful fount of information and finding no major injuries, I went to examine Henry, who had arrived just a few minutes later in a separate ambulance.  Like his friend, he also smelled as if he had been freshly dipped in a vat of old liquor, stale beer, and cigarette butts.  "He was the passenger in a motor vehicle crash versus a tree, Doc," the medics reported.  "He was ejected out of the vehicle."

At this point you are probably thinking the same thing I was at the time - Wait wait wait, how could they both be passengers?  Were there more people in the car?  My Spidey Sense was tingling.

"Who was in the car with you, Henry?" I asked him.  Fortunately Henry was just slightly less drunk and slightly more coherent than Richard.  Slightly.

"Just me and my gooooooooooooood buddy Richard.  RICHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARD!!!  I'm just *burp* visiting from out of town and we went out to have some *urgh* fun."

Right.  Running your car into a tree and getting thrown from the vehicle sounds like a total blast.  Fucking whee.

"Were you driving the car, Henry?" I asked him.  He vehemently shook his head no and then vomited on the floor.

"Ok, so Richard was driving?" I pressed.


I waited.

As I stood there watching his face, I could almost see the hamster running in the wheel in his head, turning the gears in Henry's brain.  

After several seconds his glassy eyes lit up as he obviously thought he had come up with a brilliant, infallible response.  My anticipation was at its peak.  Henry opened his mouth:

"Uh, no comment."

I had to control myself, realising that he had really thought that would clear up everything.  I took a deep breath and tried again, this time a bit more slowly.  

"Was Richard driving, Henry?"

He audibly sighed, realising that his unassailable ruse had been assailed.  

"Uh . . . well, yeah.  I just don't want him to get into trouble.  But yeah.  Yeah he was."

It was clearly my robust interrogation technique which had broken him, and I was instantly glad I had watched all those James Bond movies.  I was, however, surprised he had thrown his buddy (his supposedly gooooooooooood buddy) under the proverbial bus so easily.  

The police had some choice words and a veritable stack of citations for Richard (once he sobered up a bit), who seemed none too pleased, though obviously astounded, that his stupendous trickery had failed.

Fortunately between the two of them, all they suffered was a fractured scapula, various bumps, bruises, abrasions, and lacerations, a totaled car, and a ruined reunion weekend.

I guess Henry never read All's Well That Ends Well:

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

And now I need to rinse my mouth out twice.


  1. Ugh, I cannot stand Shakespeare! Everyone thinks I'm crazy for hating his works, especially since I am going to be an English teacher at a secondary school.

    Were Henry and Richard at least grateful when they sobered up? I also hope this serves as a wakeup call.

    1. I was the only English major in my graduating class who refused to take Shakespeare. Several professors tried to force me into it, telling me that it was required, but my graduating class was grandfathered in under the old rules, one of which was only English Ed. majors were required to take it.

      I quite enjoy watching Shakespeare and even worked tech for a performance of "The Merry Wives or Windsor", but I hate reading it.

    2. Shakespeare is not MEANT to be read except by the people who are going to be performing it.

  2. Rather than stating that there is no honour among thieves, I think the passage you quote says how terrible it is when there is none. It's a sort of "how bad things are when there is no honor among thieves".

    However, things are indeed pretty bad when a night out involves a smash with a tree, a trip to your trauma bay and dropping your "good buddy" in the sh*t for drunk-driving. That said, they could both have been dead easily enough.

  3. back in the dark ages when it was okay to be racist, there used to be the theory where I was that Mexico was experimenting with driverless cars.
    periodically a car would run off the road. when police got there, it would be full of mexicans. none of them spoke english, and none of them was driving.

    but the drunken driving story leaves me questioning - around here, there is almost nobody emergency services has "done business with" that has had more than "a couple of drinks"

    1. I have a relative that is a retired FF. They usually arrived at accident scenes first. The people you speak of could converse with them in English, but not to the guys in blue that arrived a few seconds later.

    2. our running joke was that when you got an interpreter, they couldn't speak spanish, either.

    3. Same anonymous as FF post above above......I worked in a hospital setting. You know the groups that accompany the patient because they don't speak English? Well, I liked to say things to lighten the mood and make patients laugh. Just because I was a nice person. hehehe

  4. It was never ok to be racist...

  5. I grew up in a state where drunk driving is like an olympic sport. You'd think if a person is under 25 and already has 5 DUI's there might be a problem. But the governor of said state is under the thumb of oligarchs and has bigger fish to fry. Ignition locks, breath analyzers to open doors with thumbprints....nah, we don't need no stinking interventions. We'll just let them drive till they get 10 and throw them in the county jail. After all, being a drunk driver isn't like being a murderer until they hit someone and kill them is it?

    1. we had a guy get out of jail for drunk driving, go to the bar, have a couple of drinks (it's always a couple of drinks) and then hit a sheriff almost head on. he left the scene of the accident, but people persuaded him that if he turned himself in, the judge would be less harsh with his next sentence.

  6. Ah, a hit, a very palpable hit!

    ...That's all I remember. Anyway, it seems fitting for this post.

  7. Both guys are at fault: One for driving drunk, and one for not stopping the other one. Of course only one of those is a fellony, but really, they both should be. They are lucky all they hit was a tree.

    1. It's definitely not a felony in every state.

  8. It’s a shame that Richard was so drunk that he could hardly keep his eyes open. Now they have to face the music. My brother works with a DUI lawyer and have told me that people rarely tell the complete story. He have also told me enough times importance of hiring an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer.

  9. Sounds like a rough night for those two. Love that hamster wheel picture and metaphor. I've recently been getting back into Shakespeare after avoiding it since high school. My husband and I went to our local theater's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was pretty good, and had a 1970's disco theme! We both read the tempest together too.

    Kim Hunter @ K Hunter Law


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