Yesterday I could see it happening, but it didn’t. A young girl, 12 or so, stepped onto the pedestrian crossing. The driver of a white VW in front of me didn’t notice – I braked in expectation. Suddenly the girl leapt back, startled – she was millimetres away from the front bumper of the VW. The white VW stopped momentarily, too late, then seeing nothing had happened drove on. The girl shook herself down, then crossed in front of me, giving me a fright of a smile.
Yesterday’s encounter reminded me of a similar event many, many years ago one damp autumn night in Paris, near Censier. It was about 1 am, four of us, students, had been out drinking. We left the club and sauntered across a long crossing. The big posh car coming towards us was clearly not going to stop – French drivers never stopped for pedestrians in those days; as a pedestrian you were a sitting target. The car whisked past us ever so close, and as it did so, Sandrine kicked it. The impact made her crash to the ground on her knee, damaging her jeans. The car skidded to a halt, the driver leapt out, furious, shrieking at us for damaging his car. The posh car had a nice neat dent in the rear door.
The man was no older than us, and seemed more intent on impressing his girlfriend passenger. She stepped out, all legs, skirt up to her hips, and stood watching the scene with bored amusement. The man continued to shout and jump up and down pointing at his damaged car and then at Sandrine* who was still lying on the road. “You pay for this! I’m calling the police,” he screamed, although with plenty of swearwords. Posh driver’s brains were all in his testicles. Jean-Marie and I stood between him and Sandrine, who shouted back “You hit me! Espèce de merde! On a crossing! Look at my knee! You call the police!”, with equal profanities.
The man and leggy disappeared into a nearby cafe, still open. We waited with Sandrine. We were going nowhere. This could be interesting.
Eventually a police Citroen van arrived with light flashing. Three flics got out and asked us briefly what happened. Sandrine was still lying in the road. The posh car driver was still furious and shouted his story. He was taken into the van by two of the flics and questioned. Then Sandrine was helped in and similarly questioned. Finally the rest of us, including leggy, had our turns.
The flics were smiling. Clearly they knew what had happened and believed posh driver, but they gave him a procès-verbal (summons for a fine) for not stopping at a crossing and hitting a pedestrian. Later at the court the man got fined and lost his licence for three months, despite his lawyer. The judge smiled knowingly at the still limping Sandrine. An unusual case of justice siding with the students.
*Not real name, but if you read this and recognize yourself, get in touch.