Did I ever tell you about that time we got arrested in Paris?
Well, not EXACTLY arrested. But detained by the National Police?
It was early on a Sunday morning. I can see you already nodding off, I know – who gets busted on a SUNDAY MORNING?
We were on our way to Charles De Gualle. We were packed into a minivan with a lovely, chatty driver that we met once before. We were catching up on all the things we had done since we last met and he was regaling us with stories of the various destinations and all the places we missed along the way. He was chatting so much and so animatedly he apparently did not notice that he was driving in a restricted bus lane.
As we rounded the corner around Madeleine Church, we heard the unique sound of the French siren. A constant drone here in Paris so not at all unusual. In fact this time however, the siren was coming from the police vehicle behind us.
After 2 attempts at stopping and restarting as the driver could not believe that in fact the siren was intended for him, he finally pulled over 3 blocks later. The police van pulling in behind us, clearly the siren was in fact intended for us.
Now, if you’ve been to Paris or even have seen it on TV, you may recall that the streets are narrow. Very narrow. We are now pulled over in a van, with a police van behind us on one of these very narrow streets. Monsieur and I are tucked in the very back row of the van with the kids ahead of us. The driver gets out of the van and meets with the not one, not two but five officers from the National Police force. A conversation begins and there is much gesticulating and arm waving and shrugging of shoulders.
If you recall, we are at this moment headed to Charles de Gaulle to catch a plane. So the anxiety is compounding as the tall (and very handsome) officer walks towards the side door of our van. Monsieur L’Officer (there is no way that is proper French but its my blog and I can do whatever I want) opens the van, looks at us blankly. My monsieur and I look at each other. We’re now a little worried that we’ll be implicated in the crime. Aiding and abetting driving in the bus lane is surely a criminal offence here in France. In a state of panic, my Monsieur blurts out ”English”. I’m trying to decide that if we run fast enough, could we make it to the doors of Madeleine and claim amnesty? A recovering Catholic, a Jew and two hybrid kids walk into a church…
Monsieur L’Officer looked somewhat panic-stricken by my Monsieur’s statement. ”Un moment” he said as he backed out of the van pulling out his cellphone. My brain went into overdrive rapidly translating “We didn’t do anything wrong. We just want to go to the airport.” But all I can thing about is that I’m trapped in the back row of this van and there isn’t a hope in hell that I can climb over the seat and make a break for it. I’m not going down with the driver!
Finally, Monsieur L’Officer returned and carefully began to read from his phone. ”You are all under arrest.” I mean he didn’t say that but that’s what I was imagining as he cleared his throat and started to speak. Why didn’t this blasted driver pull over in front of the Church when the police first started their pursuit? At least then we’d have had a fighting chance of escape! ”This vehicle has been immobilized. You must now continue your journey on foot.” said L’Officer.
Well, it wasn’t quite the arrest we were anticipating but since we were headed to the airport to catch a flight, the anxiety level was still on DefCon 1. ”Charles de Gaulle!” I blurted. I couldn’t remember how to say ”But we need to go to” in French. He looked at me blankly and said ”Metro?” And I stared back blankly and thought ”Dude, do we look like we can take the Metro with two kids and all these bags all the way to Charles de Gaulle?” but instead I started to really sweat and my French language skills opted for fight instead of flight at this point, THANK BILL GATES. However, please remember that I am Canadian and even though we were clearly not implicated in this crime of passion – it was a crime of passion because the driver was talking so passionately he didn’t even notice all the traffic infractions he was committing – we couldn’t just say “Merci” and move it along and decide our own transport options. Instead I needed to reconfirm with the Officer, “Nous pouvons appeler un Uber, monsieur? Si possible?” He looked at me like I was completely off my rocker, non Monsieur seulement Canadienne. He shrugged and turned back to the on-going conversation and negotiation that was taking place with our driver with the 4 other officers required for this take down.
Coming to our senses, we unloaded the bags onto the sidewalk and called an Uber. My monsieur is watching the app carefully following the progress of our new driver. Now if you recall from earlier in my tale, we are on a very narrow street with two vans now impeding the progress of everyone trying to pass by. Just as our Uber is beginning his final approach, a garbage truck pulls around the corner and begins his pick-up at every address along the rue. Well shit. Now my Monsieur is starting to fray. The police van needs to be moved, as does our immobilized vehicle and its clear that our Uber will not make it to us anytime soon if the garbage truck moves any closer. For an early Sunday morning, there is a hell of a lot of action on this tiny street. So out onto the road goes my Monsieur, conducting traffic until our Uber safely makes it through the obstacle course to us. We pile in with luggage and all. Happily we make our getaway at last. Not before I make a vow to always ensure easy escape from a vehicle and make note of the location of the Canadian Embassy… just in case.