Stealing A Holiday In The City Of Light
We celebrate yet another holiday today in France — “Pentecôte,” or Pentecost.
It’s a religious holiday for both the Christians and Jews — the festival that marks the birth of the Christian church by the power of the Holy Spirit and also of the Jewish harvest festival, Shavuot. Shavuot also commemorates the anniversary of the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and is celebrated fifty days after Easter, and although it’s religious and not national, it’s celebrated nationally, nonetheless…another good excuse for taking a long weekend, sharing a day with the family or just doing what the French do so well…living rather than working.
At this hour in the morning, the streets are unusually quiet. The workers who daily have been chipping away at the stone on the building opposite me to prepare it for replastering are taking a “grasse matinée (sleeping in). There is the sound of an occasional car engine and the birds are chirping loudly. The sun is pouring in after a rainy and dreary Sunday — which was a perfect day to catch up on past-due bookkeeping, open the stack of mail awaiting me after my trip to New York and do the laundry…until I got a phone call from my housekeeper (of all ten years I’ve lived in Paris!): “Madame, the police are here at Monsieur Jack’s. Can you come help?”
On Sundays, she goes from my apartment to my friend, Jack’s, a renovated beautiful Hôtel Particulier not far away in the Marais. Jack is due to arrive in Paris today and until now, a young student has been renting his apartment. She was in the midst of packing to move to another Marais apartment, with the housekeeper assisting, when two would-be thieves entered an open window on the first floor (second floor American).
The burglars heard noise in the apartment and left quickly, but meanwhile, two “flics” (policeman) “en civile” (plain clothes) actually saw the incident and arrested the perpetrators before anyone in the apartment even knew! The two cops were good looking, polite, friendly and downright proud of themselves, except for their lack of good English — the reason I was there as translator.
A third policeperson (a woman) came to dust for fingerprints on the window, then we all walked over to the police station on rue aux Ours to make a statement. Being Sunday, the station was relatively quiet, but two additional police were there to take the statement. One small personal item owned by the student was found on the possession of one of the thieves — all they needed as proof to charge them. This seemed to make their day.
I was fascinated by the experience and quickly learned that professional thieves have no problem entering windows several floors up — so all these years I’ve left my third floor windows open have now come to an end. Naively, I’ve thought that third floor, on the street, no elevator, made my apartment less of a target. Wrong.
NationMaster.com reports that France ranks 5th of 55 countries with 370,993 burglaries in the year 2000, a per capita rate of 6.16, ranking 18th of 54 countries. It also notes that crime statistics are often better indicators of prevalence of law enforcement and willingness to report crime, than actual prevalence.
Guess which country ranked highest in burglaries per capita? Australia with 22.13 per capita! Even the U.K. ranks as high as 7th with 13.91 per capita and the U.S. barely beats France ranking 16th with 7.23 per capita.
So, life in the French capital contains many of the same ills as any others — thankfully a bit less than many — and the efficiency of the police was very impressive. Do I feel safe even after this incident?
Yes! Even more so!
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]
P.S. We are still looking for one individual willing to work with us one to two weeks before the June Working and Living in France Conference and all during the conference (June 18 – 20) with no remuneration (except for reimbursement of minor expenses), in exchange for the value of attending the conference. Computer skills, the energy to run errands, ability to deal with suppliers and resources in French are all a plus, and the willingness to learn all there is to learn about how to move to France is a must. If you’re this person, please email me at [email protected]