I am with my dear friend Julie visiting the ruins of Angkor Wat to celebrate New Years Day, 199x. Today we’re visiting some of the further flung monuments with virtual no visitors, when suddenly an entire bus load of French tourists arrives. There are signs everywhere reminding people not touch the sculptures, the loose stone erodes easily. The French tour guide leads her troop to an out cropping of columns and statues and tells them all to be seated as she begins to lecture.
As a good anglo-saxon tourist, I become irate and march other there to inform the guide that she is jeopardizing the ancient site and her minions are destroying precious art, hoping to at least shame the others into getting off the rocks. No one budges.
“What are you, a cop?” she queries.
Although I was already fluent in French, I had not yet lived in Paris and had not yet been exposed to this insult. Not only do the French believe that the rules were created for the rest of the world, but they think that those who enforce the rules are beneath them. I was completely ineffectual in my 5 minute crusade to save Angkor Wat, having no better reply than, “yeah, that’s right, you fat cow.”
I have since been referred to as a cop by a 7 year old who was ramming his remote controlled car into a harmless infant, a spoiled brat teen who doused me with coke at the Luxembourg gardens and a Dad who I caught out trying to use his 10 year old to cut in front of me in line at the ski lifts. By then, I had a retort.
“No, but my husband is. Just a moment, I’ll introduce you.”
Mr French is neither a police officer, nor my husband, but my insulter never waited in line long enough to find that out.
Last Sunday, April in Paris arrived two weeks early, so Mr French and I packed up the teens for a picnic at a the glorious parc Montsouris. There were signs everywhere reminding law abiding citizens that the lawn was “resting” for another month. Nobody cared. So this time I did like the French, settling in, satisfied in the knowledge that rules are for everyone except moi.