"That driver tried to run us over because we're English!" our visitor claimed with wide-eyed indignation. "How did he know you are English?" I asked. "Well, he must have, and he nearly got us!"
"That driver tried to run us over because we're English!" our visitor claimed with wide-eyed indignation.
"How did he know you are English?" I asked.
"Well, he must have, and he nearly got us!"
"Oh no," I soothed him, "it has got nothing to do with you being English. It has everything to do with you being between him and his lunch!"
The most dangerous time, I believe, on the French road system is between 11:50 and 12:15 on a Monday morning This is when pedestrians are most at risk.
It is "nothing personal". It is simply that you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This is because, in a French home, dinner on a Sunday evening is a light meal to compensate for the midday lunch, which is a meal that can last for hours. Breakfast on Monday morning is a misnomer, because no 'fast' is 'broken'. A cup of black coffee and a leftover croissant do not provide sufficient nourishment for anyone, let alone a person who has to wrestle his way through early morning traffic to work.
By the time noon approaches on a Monday, the average French person is really really hungry!
To a hypoglycaemic Frenchman, small things like pedestrian "zebra-crossings" are mere decoration on the surface of a road.
I have found that French people are among the most polite in the world. They greet each other, ask about each other's health, and if driving a car in a village will think nothing of stopping to have a conversation with a friend on the sidewalk. I have not yet heard anyone blow his horn from a car behind one of these meetings, which temporarily block the road.
But once a French car is in motion, everything changes. It is as though they have put on a suit of armour and are ready to do battle as though on a charger. If you doubt what I say, try to find a car in Paris that does not have a dent!
A couple of years ago the French were shamed by European statistics concerning the accident and death rate on the roads of France. They instituted a system of mobile radar speed traps and it seemed that the desired principle was to catch every motorist at least once.
It has changed driving dramatically.
No longer is one tailgated as a matter of course. Having an oncoming car overtaking another one coming towards you, over the brow of a hill, is becoming fairly rare. Seeing Saturday night cars upside down in fields, as though they are some sort of exotic pumpkin crop grown by Alsatian farmers, is not nearly as common as it used to be. It is now possible to drive in a crocodile of cars, all obeying the speed limit without somebody trying to pass the lot by crossing a solid white line.
This is a great improvement over the situation a few years ago when several youngsters in one village nearby were killed in four fatal crashes in one twelve month period.
However, be warned, that pedestrians are still 'fair game'. There is no racialism, tribalism or ethnicity involved here. Everyone is at risk. However, there has been an improvement recently. There has been a blitz on drivers at 'zebra-crossings' but as a French Policeman when he is "off duty" is "off duty", and when he is "on duty" he is only "on duty" for 35 hours per week, the blitz has only been partially effective.
You will notice, as you drive through France, that the older pedestrians do not trust you when you stop for them. You will actually have to make a gesture to them to cross, before they will step off from the pavement, or the sidewalk.
I had an occasion when I stopped at the exit of a 'roundabout' for an elderly patient from the Hospice at Seurre, who was crossing the pedestrian crossing using his crutches. He was a plucky fellow and doing his best, but he was slow. An impatient young man in a car behind me hooted. Then he tried to pass me, which would have put the pedestrian at risk. I advanced slightly to block him.
He made a rude sign to us.
This was a big mistake, for two reasons.
The first one was because I had a trailer behind my car, which was filled with a ton of horse manure. The second reason was that my wife, Marlene, was with me.
We both jumped out and I grabbed a handful of manure to decorate his car. The driver saw Marlene coming, and she was definitely scarier of the two of us. He raced away around the roundabout and disappeared off in the direction of Dole.
By this time a gathering had formed and the old fellow had made it to the side of the road. We climbed back into the car with Marlene gesticulating vociferously to the crowd, which proves that we really are integrating.
When you come to France and decide to cross the road, it is unlikely that you will have a driver with a trailer of horse manure and a Marlene to protect you, so please take care.
I used to think that the fastest terrestrial animal was a four-legged Ethiopian chicken.
You know the one… that nobody has ever caught, so that nobody knows if it tastes any good and what sort of wine accompanies it the best?
Well, that was before I saw how a French pedestrian crosses the road at a pedestrian crossing.
It is a triumph of agility and anticipation.