Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Another Story about My Life in Paris

A Disclaimer: I was in France thirty six years ago. Thus, my stories and my impressions are very old and probably bear little if any relationship to modern times. Further, in my brief time there, I made little effort to become a part of the local life. I was in effect a long-term tourist and I saw things from that viewpoint. More, I lived in a section that the American Military had just recently moved their headquarters away from. Abandoned, the locals said. This left the economy of the area in tough straits and Americans were not popular there –with good reason from their perspective.

With that introduction I will now recite a story about Americans (in France). The streets of the old suburbs of Paris are narrow – one explanation of the small cars most popular among the commuters I traveled with morning and night. There were traffic jams there daily that out jammed anything LA or NYC has ever experienced. But the French are resourceful, when they tired of blowing their horns, they bump over the curb and try to out-run the stoppage by cruising down the sidewalk. The popularity of this maneuver makes it self defeating and the sidewalk traffic moves only slightly faster than the legitimate traffic. I was in such a grid lock (in my proper lane) when in my mirror I could see an enormous vehicle inching up on me from the sidewalk. It was a big shiny, black limo with a small American flag attached to the fender and with diplomatic plates. The chauffer was trying to cut in front of me to get back on the road. I more or less “lost” it. I yelled, “I don’t give a G--- d----- tinker’s dam about your G-- d----- diplomatic plate! I want to get home and have supper as much as you do!

The fellow driving glared at me. But in the back seat a guy with a Homburg hat doffed it with a big smile, said a few words to the driver who, grudgingly it seemed, slowed down to let me pass. But he did push his way in behind me.

After I got home and had a drink with pate and crackers, it dawned on me that diplomats in official limos were probably driven by the CIA. I was glad the car I was driving wasn’t registered to me.

But several weeks later, a big monkey-monk of the embassy staff invited my wife and I to dinner at his home, ostensibly because our ten year old son was a friend of his son at the American School. I got a trifle paranoid when I imagined that he was quizzing me about details of our life before Paris and his wife was in another room quizzing my wife about the same things. I got over it after drink or two and decided he was just a nice guy. At worst, he was just trying to make sure his kid was associating with an OK kid.


No comments: