Wednesday, 26 January 2011

HOW TO BE FRENCH NO.1 - RED LIGHT TO A FROG

You need to know how to cross a road here if you're not to look like a wimpy tourist. (Can I have a slice of cheese and extra onions?  Thanks.) Wimpy tourists (just regular fries, please) think they're going to stay safe by loitering (not littering, the bins are over there. That's right, leave your tray on top) at the edge of the pavement, waiting for the homme vert to light up.  Hahahahaha! Little do they realize they've got more chance of staying alive by walking down the middle of the highway during rush hour. (Where did you say the ketchup was?)


For here in Nice, pavements are the domain of motorbikes.  And the riders get very cross indeed if their passage is blocked by a hapless perambulating pedestrian.


Visitors might think there are no rules when out walking on the streets, but oh yes there are.  


LIST OF RULES FOR VISITORS WHEN OUT WALKING ON THE STREETS (Told you there were rules).


1.  Disregard red lights.  Especially the ones that tell you not to cross the road.  Just leap off the sidewalk (look at the name, it's for when you walk on the side, the road is for when you walk in the middle) any time you like. The cars won't run you over. Not unless you're walking on the sidewalk, at which point you are obviously fair game.


2.  Don't affect to be startled when approached from behind and the front (and the side, if you're on the sidewalk - what do you think the letters SIDE are doing in that word???) by motorcycles of all varieties and CCs. Whatever CCs are. Presumably they're bigger than BBs.  But not as much of a handful as DDs. Whatever that means). Remember that motorbikes have right of way at all times.  Even when you don't know what the time is.  


I was once passed by a bike on the pavement of the very street where I live. The rider roared along  so close to my body, he skillfully parted me from the top layer of my skin (but then, I hadn't exfoliated for a while, saved me the job), and manoeuvered his machine towards the double doors of an apartment block, at which point he leaned forwards and unlocked them, before driving into the building's foyer. And so I'm never surprised when looking in the bathroom mirror whilst cleaning my teeth to see a motorcyclist drive along the hallway behind me, giving me a jaunty wave. (At least, I think that's what it was.) So what that I live several stories up?  What's that got to do with anything?


3.  Embrace the spirit of the regulation which allows motorists to turn right when their light is red, and yours is green.  Laugh at the way in which the turning car millimetres its way forwards (we're in France, they can't inch, can they?) trying to intimidate you into pleading for your life, you snivelling little person getting around on mere legs. Chill out when the driver three cars back honks his horn for twenty seconds, gently encouraging the car currently millimetering forwards to get on with it and run you over.  Resist the temptation to approach said honking driver, tear off his windscreen wipers one by one and stuff them firmly into his big end. It wastes five hours at a police station. 


4.  Educate yourself in Nicois Physics. Indigenous pedestrians here are magnetic, they are powerfully drawn towards your body and it is up to you to avoid them.  They will never naturally step out of the way when you are on a collision course; Mexican stand-off tactics are the only thing they understand. And in a city with a population of 340,000 - plus tourists - they are always, always surprised to encounter another person on the sidewalk.  


5.  Practise saying Pardon.  This is Very Important.  It gives you carte blanche (see? You DO speak French) to bump into people as rudely as you like, nudge them into the path of an oncoming tram, knee them in the groin and jump up and down on their heads; you said pardon, what's the matter with them???


6.  Dress badly.


No tourist book will give you the above information.  (Can't imagine why not.  Hmm.)  Don't say it's not an education reading my blog. (Told you not to say it!!!)  




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(Excuse me, it's been ten minutes now and I'm still waiting for my milkshake.)



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Please be nice, but not funnier than me. Thanks.