Friday, March 24, 2006

Paris reflections

Guili, guili! (tickle, tickle!)

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but the French love children. They don't know your kid, but they're offering treats, stroking his/her cheek, patting his/her head, chatting with him/her in an adoring way. It can be alarming to American parents, but I'm getting used to it now (after 2 years) and am finding it quite nice actually. I've heard that the French love kids so much that they won't mind criticizing the parents on their parenting. For example, one of my friends took her boys outside and ran into an older woman who chastized her for not putting scarves on them in the cold.

Little old ladies own Paris

There are some older ladies, of the old bourgeouis set, in their heavy make-up and fancy shoes, who think they have more rights than anyone else, especially at the grocery store. These particular women, who are quite able-bodied, will cut in front of you in line without a word -- the nicer ones will ask first. Last year, one was shopping at a discount grocery store and found the one available check-out line so long that she decided to form another line at another counter, with a proud air, even though the cash register there wasn't staffed. She just stood there assuming someone was going to come help her. The rest of us in the store, waiting obediently in the real line, watched her in amusement. Now, along comes another cashier. Ah, relief! Another line is formed, but it's not at the older lady's counter. She is completely oblivious to the whole thing as some of us begin to file into the new line. I can't remember what happened afterwards, but I think everyone left the woman alone to let her figure it out herself.

The nation's finest, rolling around

A couple days ago, I saw a fine sight in the eighth arrondissement. Three police officers rolling towards me -- on rollerblades! Cool!

Tourists may not notice this, but the police travel in groups of three or more. Maybe because French men are so petite? Joking aside, the French police are always young men, they are always Caucasian, and they are always very fit. The same goes for the firefighters. It's evident that there's some sexual, racial, and age discrimination going on.

Last year, I saw a motorcyclist chased and finally pulled over by about three police cars. It was pretty frightening when all these policemen jumped out of their cars so quickly and brought their suspect to the ground. This would not have been achieved at this speed if they were the stereotypical doughnut-munching, out-of-shape American officers we're familiar with on TV.

Nudity in my mailbox

I think when we first moved here, I was pretty surprised to see so many billboards with completely or partially naked women advertising items like perfume, clothing, liquor, and soap. It always made me feel cold to see a woman in skimpy lingerie on a poster in the middle of winter. Now, I'm nearly desensitized. But when ads for cosmetic surgery show up in my mailbox with actually tasteful photos of amazing nude bodies, it's a little more shocking. It's more in my face than even those big billboards attached to the sides of buildings. I know I wouldn't get these unsolicited advertisements in the more litigious and puritanistic United States.

Shoe scrapers

I don't know what else to call them. On Boulevard Pereire, walking home from Place Pereire, I've seen these simple pieces of thin metal jutting out of some buildings right next to their private entrances. They're in the form of a semi-circle or a semi-rectangle. It's obvious what they're for considering all the dog doodoo on the street. It's amusing, but at the same time, darn useful! Why isn't there one in front of our apartment building?

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