Have you ever watched one of those horror movies where someone has been locked away in a room somewhere working for hours and hours, avoiding all outside communication, and when they finally emerge they discover the world has been taken over by slobbering, stumbling, aggressive, psychotic zombies?
Have you ever thought “I wonder what that would be like”?
Well I can tell you exactly what it's like, because it happened to me last Saturday. And it's called Hindley St.
It was 2.30am, I'd just finished work and ordering a taxi on the phone was proving impossible. So I decided to walk to Hindley St. If only I'd waited.
Walking through Adelaide's deserted streets it was hard to imagine the gory battlezone that awaited me just two blocks away - although in hindsight, signs of the impending apocalypse were there. Like the bloke who had his girlfriend in a headlock on Leigh St while her friends shrieked and thwacked him with handbags, and police tried to separate them all. That wasn't usual.
Or the bloke vomiting just outside Topham Mall, still clutching a stubbie. That didn't normally happen.
If this had been a horror film, audiences would have been smacking their foreheads at about this point and yelling at me to turn around and go back to the office. But I persevered, albeit clutching my handbag a little bit tighter.
And suddenly there it was – the heaving, sweating, puking, neon-lit horrorshow that is Hindley St.
A mass of slurring, wide-eyed zombies stumbling along the footpath and spilling onto the road, falling in front of cars and shouting obscenities at anything that moved. Nine different soundtracks from nine different bars colliding in mid air like a miasma and smashing into drunk teenagers stuffing their faces with McDonald's. Chubby girls in cheap lycra dresses riding so high you could see their even cheaper undies, men with shirts undone and guts spilling over their jeans.
At least they still have their shoes on.
Nightmare on Hindley St.
Within 30 seconds of stepping onto the footpath, a fight broke out between three men just a few metres away from me.
“WHO ARE YOU CALLING A ****?” yelled one as the other two started muscling up.
Two cops strode over as I swiftly moved further down the street, still looking in vain for a taxi.
Then I noticed more police, and ambos, and about 20 onlookers had gathered around the nightclub across the way. A man lay on a stretcher, covered in bloody splotches that looked suspiciously like stab wounds. He was wheeled into the back of the ambulance as I ran to the first free cab I saw – only to have it snatched by a man with a bloody hole in his jeans knee.
I spent seven whole minutes on Hindley St last Saturday night, and it was seven minutes too long. I felt threatened, unsafe and yes, a little bit scared.
What the hell is going on here? What has HAPPENED to Adelaide's west?
Ten years ago, even five years ago, my friends and I used to go clubbing on Hindley St - but I can't remember it ever being as bad as this. I can't remember ever feeling unsafe just walking along the footpath. I can't remember ever being physically repulsed by a street before.
Sure, I accept that as a tired, sober office worker I was quite the anomaly on Adelaide's most notorious party spot in the wee hours of Saturday morning – clearly Hindley St is not designed for people like me. I get that.
But is that really a defence for the absolute cesspit the strip seems to have become?
Is it really good enough to have to accept that “if you don't like it, don't go there”?
Shouldn't we be able to expect more from what is touted as one of the major after-dark attractions of our city?
This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's Sunday liftout on Feburary 13, 2011.