I have lived in Shepparton for more than two years.
When I came to the Goulburn Valley I heard the usual country town noise regarding concerns around drug and alcohol violence — a familiar chorus having come from a regional area myself.
But Shepparton’s dark side certainly had not reared its head for me until last Friday night.
Three work colleagues, myself and my fiancée were leaving one local establishment not long after 10pm and heading to another — a short walk of no more than 200m.
As we passed the car park where I had left my vehicle for the night, two men paused in front of my car before one of them hurled a fast food burger directly on to the windscreen.
It was a scene so random that all our group could do was stand there and gape as they walked off, shouting a question after them when we eventually regained our wits, but it was one which fell on deaf ears.
After a closer inspection to confirm that it was indeed a burger splattered over my windscreen we laughed the incident off and continued on our way.
Here came what was — in hindsight — our first mistake.
We departed in the same direction as the men had, rather than circling to our destination the other way.
Not 10 seconds after we had resumed walking the men appeared again, glass stubbies in hand and returning towards our location.
The next mistake was mine and mine alone.
With urgent whispers from my fiancée falling on deaf ears, I shouted out to the men as they came near, misguided adrenaline and a false sense of bravado spurring me on.
Immediately they flew off the handle, screaming profanities and vitriol at us and threatening numerous grim conclusions to our night.
Realising my idiotic mistake of engaging these men, we attempted to move on quickly.
It was a feat we managed, but not before both glass bottles came flying at us — striking one of our group on his heel but luckily doing no damage other than giving his shoes a sparkling makeover.
The incident certainly shook me up and took some gloss off the evening, but the lesson from it is a clear one.
To paraphrase one of my favourite sayings, arguing with intoxicated men in a dark street on a Friday night is like playing chess against a pigeon — no matter what your strategy is you have no hope of a positive result.
All confronting them got me was a scare — and a ruined pair of shoes — for my group and provided them with a reason to vandalise my car further, which manifested itself into a kicked-in plastic headlight cover.
It would have been far smarter to avoid aggravating the clearly substance-affected duo — and that is certainly what I will be doing next time.
Any self-satisfaction which may have been gained from voicing my displeasure at the special sauce dripping down my car would have swiftly paled in comparison to my horror and guilt if something more serious had occurred due to my stupidity.
Tyler Maher is The News senior sports journalist.