I consider myself a good driver and a law-abiding citizen. My record thus far in France seems to suggest otherwise. Take, for example, the mail box incident (the bill, for which, I just received. There goes half a month’s salary). For a while, I was really on top of things; even wore glasses when I drove (I don’t even usually wear glasses, but for caution’s sake…). Well, friends, February was a doozy of a month.
About three weeks ago, I was having a quick chat driving up to my friend’s flat, and bingo bamo! Two gentlemen coppers stopped writing their tickets or whatnot and starting waving me down. For some reason, the fact that they were on foot, and that I assumed I was doing no wrong, I stepped on it. I go, “Hey Claire, these cops just starting flailing their arms at me…” and glance to see them standing, baffled, in the middle of the street. “Suckers.” That was the day I learned that in France, the penalty for talking on the phone while driving is one thousand euros, approximately 1300 United States Dollars. Got out of that one.
The next morning, I found a sweet spot under Claire’s apartment, and snatched it. “Samedi 7:00-12:00” with a big red circle, clearly meant no parking Sunday mornings from 7-12, so I thought I was fine. Luckily, “Samedi” means “Saturday,” and I was fucked. I came back three hours later to find not only a hefty little ticket stuck to my rain-dampened window, but that my car was surrounded by vendor booths. Surprise! Saturday morning farmer’s market! Those Frenchies gave a real piss when I tried to maneuver my CRV backwards through booths and pedestrians, who appeared both annoyed and somewhat impressed.
At this point, I was late for my baby sitting gig a few towns over, and decided to led-foot it all the way there. Ten minutes into my drive, bing! The Swiss and Radar are like two peas in a pod; my photo was snapped in a series of bright flashes, and I immediately dreaded the ticket I’d receive in the mail. Assuming I couldn’t get more than two tickets in a day, I continued to their house, as I was twenty minutes late at this point.
Well, several hours after baby sitting (a darling girl, I must say), I zoomed into Claire’s “parking spot” between her flat and the neighbors. I knew when I saw my park job that I’d probably block anyone else from getting out, but then screwed it and decided I’d be back out in five minutes. Well, five or twenty minutes later, we come out to find an angry-as-hell little woman, sitting in her car behind mine, phone in hand. She started shouting what I assumed were obscenities, told me that she was late for work, and that this was my problem, not hers, because she had called the police. Superb. I offered her cash money (in several different currencies, for her convenience), which she refused, so I did what I thought was right: jumped in my car and zipped off, hopefully before she could jot down my license plate number. As I haven’t heard from her or the Gex police lately, I’m assuming I got out of that one as well.
Several days after my exciting run-ins with the law, I was stopped on my way to pick up the children from school by a policeman on foot. Though I was already stopped, since he was standing (for unknown reasons) in the middle of the road, he put out his hand in a firm “Halt” position and approached my window. Some words were exchanged, though I’m not quite sure what they were. He asked me a question: I replied “Pardon?” and he re-posed the question, perhaps in a different form. This went back and forth once more, and he finally just gave me the “one moment finger.” Just as I was thinking I’d need to reach for my papers, he stepped to the front of my vehicle, to straighten my license plate. Apparently it was crooked. After it looked to be in a satisfactory position, he curtly smiled and waved me along. Amused, but alarmed, I straightened my collar and went on my way.
My latest run in was last week, when Claire and I were passing through the Swiss-French border. Prince was blaring from my speakers, as he is wont to do, and we decided that Swissmen probably dig Prince, and turned it up. Not that I have any room to make mistakes over here, but I went ahead and gave them a peace sign as I went through the customs patrol. I decided that after all I’d been through with the police lately, I’d better show ‘em what’s up.