by Ted Welch
"Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman): 'I'm walking here! I'm walking here!' " Midnight Cowboy
So often Ratso's shout seems to be the French attitude - talk about individualism ! We Brits, like Americans tend to avoid touching, so on the tram in Nice I'm often moving around while the French happily rub against each other.
When walking and we're on a collision course with others we take evasive action, the French just keep going. Today I witnessed a classic example,a middle-aged French couple stepped into the road against a red light, a car stopped about a metre from them and beeped them. The woman scurried across, but the guy, far from apologising for nearly causing an accident, faced the car, spread his arms and yelled: "Oh ! Oh !" - how dare the driver beep him: "I'm walking here !" I had my camera ready but was so stunned by his arrogance that I didn't take a photo.
Of course not all the French are like this, and in this case a young French guy, who was waiting for the light to change on the other side, politely pointed out to the guy that the light was red. I couldn't hear what the guy said, but the body language suggested: "So what? The driver could see me."
As I turned back from watching them and continued on my way, I had to accelerate to avoid being run down by a baby-buggy (not for the first time) pushed by a young woman who also seemed to have the Ratso attitude.
Last night on the M6 TV channel there was a report on various problems on French roads; one was what seems to be an increasing practice, an after-wedding convoy which stops, blocking main roads. This is not just selfish but dangerous, some other drivers taking risks to get round the blockage - "I'm driving here!". Some of the police turned this against the stoppers by getting ahead of them and then, while they were stopped, taking photos of them and their licence plates.
There was also a more extreme individual, who knocked over a motorcyclist who was stopped at motorway payment area, then attacked a member of staff and, when the police arrived, reversed out, smashing a barrier. But it was all recorded on video and the member of staff had recorded the sound of the incident. The police later arrested the culprit, who tried to deny it, but the evidence was too strong and he got a deserved four months in prison (not his first time inside).
Meanwhile, when in France, don't do as the French do - nor as I do, as I find myself increasingly putting my head down, ignoring those on a collision course with me. Watch out for those baby-buggies, with little kids getting an education in the Ratso attitude - "I'm being walked here !".