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The International Writers Magazine
: En Route in France

Disenchanted Moments in France
Clive Branson

The French...
The French along the Côte d’Azur are an uncanny lot. They eat well, dress well, speak well, but the moment le soleil pokes its head out, the French develop a brain aneurysm. They dash to the beach, strip down to their thongs (no matter the age or shape), and remain narcotically immobile, baking for hours under high microwave temperatures. Few actually venture out for a swim. Most, however, only retreat from the cooker when they are hungry or smell something on their body burning. The objective, I gather, is to look like a worn leather bag. Otherwise, the only other movement is for the inevitable smoke. They smoke at least a pack of cigarettes an hour. They smoke between smokes. The Eternal Flame under the Arc de Triumphe in Paris should be a lit Galoise.
Ever since man first put pedal to metal, the French were probably the first to have an accident. They don’t drive, they simply aim. They drive like they talk - flat out. Zebra crossings merely help vehicles get a better shot at pedestrians, like some urban pinball machine. And they park like they were taught by Mr. Magoo - in any direction, angled and several feet from the curb. Sometimes double and triple parked. The only time they get concerned is when another Frenchman is trying to park between two parked cars. Hardly surprising, accidents are abundant. Motorists flailing their arms like chimpanzees trying to fly, pointing accusingly, fingers in every direction and basically looking like kettles about to boil.

I was passing through Paris on my way to Nice. I had a three hour stop-over at Orly Airport due to my delayed flight. I thought the plane which I was waiting for looked suspiciously like it was parked right in front of us. The ticket clerk was defiant not to get into a Gallic frap and put on her best Catherine Deneuve soyez calme. The crowd of passengers mulled about in herd-like motion, anxiety and resentment building with volcano-erupting speed. When the plane finally arrived, we were cattle-prodded down an escalator to a lobby for a connecting bus.

The lobby, however; was ingeniously designed to sustain two people at a time and only if they inhaled deeply. To make matters worse, the exit doors swung inwards towards the down escalator. The result was an impending disaster. Within seconds, a bottle-neck occurred and panic set in as descending passengers couldn’t stop, lunged themselves like suicidal lemmings or tumbled forward, piling on top of those beneath them like a deck of cards badly shuffled. Women were screaming. Men were screaming. Everyone was gesticulating with murderous intent. Luggage flew in the air like it was handled by irate Iraqi baggage-handlers and everyone cursed vehemently never to fly Air France again. To compound things, it poured buckets. Bienvenue á Paris.

© Clive Branson 24.08 2004

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