Wednesday, 25 March 2009

What do French cops do anyway?

An image from Jacques Tati's Jour de Fête, the story of a local mail carrier who decides to take his bike out on his rounds but brings chaos to the entire village.

When I was a student in Aix, we used to wonder what the police officers actually did. See, we never actually saw them leave their cars. they were always parked on the square - 4 of them cramped into a single car. We never saw them get out, warn anyone for anything. Were they even alive in there??? In my 2 years in Paris, I don't even think I ever actual saw a real cop. And in Lille, well...are there cops here? I mean, there are signs everywhere that you'll be arrested for parking on the sidewalk or you'll be fined 200€ for letting your dog poop on the sidewalk. Yet, I have never seen a car towed nor seen a cop reprimand someone for their dog's poop. I have seen them directing traffic on market day however....But times seem to be changing...

So the other day, I was basking in my middle finger's morning victory over an idiot in a large car who tried to turn right on me and my bike.

I took my normal route home that evening, respecting (most) red lights (except the one where the main street intersects a one way street). Since there were obviously no cars coming and there is no turn on red in France, I went (along with about a dozen pedestrians). I hear a bike bell franticly ringing and before it has time to register as a warning, a motor cycle pulls up along side me.

Madame, je peux vous poser une question? asks the moto-cop
I immediately panicked since Jerome had had a similar incident a couple weeks back. I looked down respectfully as he continued.
A votre avis, les feux rouges sont aussi bien pour les vélos que pour les voitures?
As I attempted to stifle a large grin and camouflage my accent as much as possible while remaining respectful and restraining myself from saying something like shouldn't you be fining people for peeing on sidewalks or something, I managed to maintain some composure.

He let me off with a warning but it could have been more. In Bordeaux just the other day, 10 cyclistes were arrested in a single night, incarcerated, strip searched...

So, as I mock the French police and the fact that I have never in my 12 years here seen them do anything, I have learned my lesson and thank Mr. MotoCop for not fining me or stripping me of my precious driving points.

But I still wonder what French cops do. Any idea?


Ksam said...

How come you tried to hide your accent? Normally it makes them go easier on you, especially if you're a woman!

Reb said...

Not sure actually. I think I regressed to my pre-Obama self...

L said...

I'm sure Crystal from Crystal Goes to Europe will say she's already talked about it enough, but she can sure explain what cops do! Toulouse has a new "policier de proximité" policy and there are more patrols. My walk to the university takes me past a street with metered parking, and just about every day there are tickets on the cars. No tickets for dog poop though, just for parking without paying.

Rachael said...

I totally understand hiding the accent. It's instinct when faced with officialdom in France, I think. I manage to hide my accent well enough to be mistaken for Belgian (to my shame).

I see les flics in groups of four around the stations all the time. One thing that cracks me up is all the guys hanging around, drinking and selling illegal stuff right in front of the police station at Euralille (across from the Mitterand statue).

In Paris I saw the cops up to all kinds of things, but I lived in a busy area. I'd totally forgotten about one night they'd lined up seven or eight black people across the street from us and were leading them down an alley. I got out my camera and started taking flash photos. They were really unimpressed with me.

French police seem well busy to me. But not in a good way.

Beth said...

My main three experiences with French cops were good, bad and worrying.

The good: I had a flat on the autoroute, had two toddlers with me and was preganant with twins. This was in the days before cell phones and I was wondering how the heck this was all going to work out. Luckily, two officers pulled over. They didn't change the tire for me, but get this: They pulled over some guy and made HIM help me!!

The bad: The next time I spoke to an officer was in a grocery store parking lot. He peered into my car and told me my son's carseat was in wrong. He was quite aggressive in attitude. Plus, the seat looked safely installed to me...It was very annoying, because although he said it was "wrong", he had no clue how to put it in "right". Idiot.

Worrying: My husband's only nephew is a flic. He's.... not the sharpest tool in the shed- certainly NOT someone that you want in a position of authority.

Beth said...

Hey Reb-
I just tagged you for a kind of big-deal meme I got asked to participate in. When you have a minute, please go over to my blog and read about the "8O clicks" project. Moms all over the world are participating and I'd love it if you would, too!

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