IF you were surprised when you heard about that Northside-Southside wallet caper last night, I am insulted. As a Northsider I am insulted.
TV3 did a clever little jape. They stuffed 10 wallets with credit cards, money and family pictures and dropped them in five Southside and five Northside locations.
They found that Northsiders were more likely than Southsiders to return the wallet to its owner. Admittedly, one of the Northsiders who virtuously returned the wallet did nick the cash from it first, but let's gloss over that. They probably had a weak moment. There are days when the high moral ground is a bit beyond everybody's reach.
NORTHSIDERS ARE HONEST? I COULD HAVE TOLD YOU THAT WITHOUT DROPPING A WALLET IN CLONTARF, WHERE I COME FROM. IF THEY'D ABANDONED ONE OF THE WALLETS THERE, I BET YOU IT WOULD HAVE BEEN HANDED BACK WITHIN SECONDS, MAYBE WITH A COUPLE OF LOTTERY TICKETS TUCKED INSIDE TO MAKE THE WALLET-LOSER FEEL BETTER.
This evil canard about Northsiders being dishonest has been around so long it's not funny any more. You've heard the jokes. What do you call a Northsider in a suit? The defendant. Why did the Southside girl date the Northside boy? To get her handbag back. What do you call a Lexus on the Northside? Burned out.
A more relevant question, in my view, would be: How would the Southside be doing if the Northside didn't exist? To which the answer is: Probably speaking a Nordic language. Remember, it was us, a thousand years ago this year, who ran the Vikings out of Ireland.
It was us Northsiders who stood along the beach at Clontarf, yelling: "You know what you can do with your murder, rape and pillage and those idiotic horned helmets."
It would have suited us better to keep a watch on our King Brian Boru instead of letting him get done in by a departing Viking, but we weren't so good at the multi-tasking back then.
When we were ruled by Britain, the Northside was the posh place to live. The gorgeous old houses verging on palaces on the Northside testify to that. The person who single-handedly pushed us downmarket was the Duke of Leinster. He it was who, in building Leinster House, made the south side of the river more fashionable than the north side.
Money and posh people flowed south and sneers and urban legends flowed north. Northsiders were gurriers who were always on the make. They'd take the eye out of your head if they weren't already occupied hot-wiring your car or liberating your television.
Dey said dis, dat, dese and dose long before that became acceptable text-speak. They were more or less born in hoodies, wore white socks with the formal suits they stole or with the tracksuits they wore, were brought up on welfare and went through adolescence joyriding their way to prison.
The Southside was peppered with those plaques outside buildings that tell you a famous writer was born there, whereas what writer could the Northside boast of having spawned? The man who created Dracula – a bloodthirsty killer.
Where the Southside feels entitled, the Northside feels embattled. It's not Southside kids who, applying for jobs, give their aunty's address rather than alert a potential employer to them living in a bad area. That's a system learned early by Northsiders who know they have to work twice as hard to overcome unjustified assumptions.
I never realised how much it gets in on you, the assumptions about Northsiders, until I heard about the TV3 experiment. I'm ashamed to say I immediately assumed the Southside would be shown as more honest than the Northside.
Don't tell me that if the experiment had involved a wider sample the results might have been different. Us Northsiders are the good guys. The guys in the white hats. Okay, maybe the white socks too.