In 2010, I wrote a post about my encounter with one of the con men who were trying to make money out of rings... This was happening in Paris but it was still very occasional.

Three years later, you can’t walk in Paris in a tourist spot without hearing a ring jingling right by you and then a whining woman’s voice trying to call your attention to this godsend.

I wonder how many tourists believe that this ring is real gold but the  swindlers do work a lot. I’d say that within less than one half mile, I was stopped four times by four different women.

I am not really benevolent nor easy-going with them. And I know very well that if I were to stop, I’d better watch for my purse because men are lurking about. Actually they represent the most dangerous side of the problem if you stop and listen to the women long enough because they are very talented pickpockets.

Last February, the Seine was in spate.

Usually, the river goes peacefully through Paris. And it is wonderful to take a walk along its banks.

For a couple of weeks, it was quite impossible to take a walk on the banks so one day, I decided to sort of zigzag along the Seine from one bridge to another one.

Musée d’Orsay was to be the start of my stroll because I wanted to cross the Seine over the Passerelle L. S. Senghor.

I was walking through the esplanade of the museum when the women started pestering me.

I shooed them away not very gracefully. (I have to admit that once you rebuff them, they leave you alone.) And I kept walking leisurely.

I got to the Passerelle and I spent several minutes taking pictures with my back to the Grand Palais, facing Notre Dame instead. I was more or less alone except for two very young American students who were admiring the many padlocks lovers fasten to the guardrail in token of ‘Love Eternal’.


Then I turned around and I caught sight of a group of men and women standing right in the middle of the Passerelle. There they were. I recognized at once the three women who had been trying to con me with their ring. They were not paying any attention to me. They were having a heated discussion with the men.

I don’t know why I did it but I did something terribly stupid. I had to take a picture of the group even though I knew they probably would be on the look-out for danger.

I started taking a couple of pictures that would not attract their attention  or so I thought. And then I moved my lens towards them and took a picture as fast as I could.

But they really were on the look-out. They had obviously noticed me before I even saw them. The oldest man who probably had been warned by one of the girls came up to me. He said aggressively: “No picture.” For a fleeting moment,  I thought that he was going to grab my camera. He kept on yelling at me: “Me work. No picture. Me work.”

I had to stand my ground at least for a few minutes to show him I was not afraid. I can’t remember what I said to him but I did try to sound threatening. It obviously worked since he walked back to his friends while shaking his fist at me.

I had no other choice than to walk away to the other side which meant that I was turning my back on them.

And fear swept through. The students were gone. I was alone on the bridge. The problem being that I was not really alone. I could feel their eyes on my back.

I kept walking because I knew that once I’d cross the Seine, I’d be safe by Les Tuileries with many people around.

Brilliant! What a brilliant idea indeed!

Have I mentioned that the Seine was in spate? Yep, I have.

Well, the way I chose to go ended up this way...

I felt trapped. Taking a picture of those people was very dumb but walking into such a snare was even dumber.

I was very much alone on the last step. Not a friendly face around at all and I was getting very scared.
You see, I was expecting the men to walk down the stairs. They’d come up to me. They’d grab my camera and my purse. And then they’d push me into the Seine. Or my foot would slip because I’d be fighting. End of the story at any rate. “News in  brief.”

I tried to stay calm. As calm as I could be. Just imagine!

So I kept taking pictures while I was desperately waiting for someone to walk down those stairs, someone I would tell my story to, someone friendly enough who would get me across the Passerelle safely back to the Musée d’Orsay.

The Seine was rumbling at my feet. 

I wanted so much to hear footsteps which would mean safety and at the same time, I was in dread of hearing footsteps which could well mean danger.

So there I was. It was cold, very cold. I was very angry. Mad at myself for being such an idiot. And above all, I was furious because those people were ruining my life just by being there while conning innocent tourists.

Time went by. I remained alone for quite a long time. No footsteps. No noise other than raging waters and roaring cars on the other side... on the safe side.

And then I heard voices. A couple was getting closer. They were laughing. They did not even bother to walk downstairs. They turned around and I hurtled up the stairs four at a time to catch up with them.

When I emerged on the Passerelle, there was no one in sight other than this sweet couple who was so very much in love that they didn’t even notice me.

The group of men and women had disappeared from the bridge and its vicinity. They had vanished into thin air.

 And it hit me very hard.

Those people are crooks indeed. They steal and rob without scruples. But it was fear that made them look worse. My own uncontrollable fear because they were so different from me and my friends. Being different, they were dangerous. No other way.
They even had to be dangerous to the point where they would try to get back at me for taking their picture. My fear. While they had probably run away from me because they had felt threatened by me. Their fear.

This experience really shook me up. I remembered writing a post about violence and fear. And when I got home, I was terribly shocked to read what I had written two years ago.

“...please, when very unpleasant things happen to us, let us not pass judgment on people as a whole. Let us refrain from passing judgment on foreigners, strangers, people who are so different from us. We have to resist temptation. No social exclusion. No cultural exclusion. No racial exclusion either.”

What a sanctimonious hypocrite one can be (me, of course)!

The worst thing being that at that time, I was  so totally positive about my stand.

Why do I feel like telling you this story where I am not showing myself in flattering light?

Because last night, our roofer came to Les Tertres to finalize his estimate. He told me that his workshop had been burglarized a couple of weeks ago. When the police arrested the culprits, he was horrified because... they were young people from his neighbourhood. “From the village,” he said quite shattered. It would have been so much easier to reason out the whole thing if they had been strangers and/or undocumented foreigners...

It is not for me to pass judgment. Not anymore.  

*Good Luck, and Good Night*

1 comment:

Myrna said...

Very interesting and sobering. I am glad that you got safely away. But left me with something profound to think about...