Incredulous is the Word that Comes to Mind

I always try to put a positive spin on whatever I post here, but today’s post is a test of that intention. If you read to the end I think you’ll agree that I was successful, but it was not easy.


This is a picture of the 5 Euro citation that Marilynn got from a hard-ass bus cop today –despite the fact that she has a Navigo monthly bus and Metro pass and had tried to swipe it on the machine that records and validates a passenger’s “ticket.”

And here is the mug shot of the criminal herself as recorded on her Navigo pass. The ink is barely dry on both the pass and the citation. Just imagine how proud this cop must be to have nailed that most threatening of criminals, an American Senior Citizen Metro Violator who, despite her possession of the right documentation, was deemed so dangerous that he threatened her with jail if she didn’t cough up the 5 Euros. Justice was clearly served. N’est pas?

After trying unsuccessfully to explain the mitigating circumstances, which was pointless with our French and his lack of English, two women passengers jumped to Marilynn’s defense and tried to aid in the explanation. Apparently, the bus pass failed to register and validate the transaction. This bus pass protocol is relatively new to us and M didn’t notice that the machine hadn’t beeped its acknowledgment of the swipe.

But the cop – jeans and T-shirt – flashed his cop credentials and asked for our tickets. I gave him mine and he gave it back but immediately asked Marilynn for hers and without an explanation ordered her to pay a 5 Euro fine. We know that he boarded the bus at the same stop we did and that he obviously saw the attempted validation; so he knew she had a pass. The two women passengers tried to help by getting him to drop the fine and issue a warning and/or explanation but he was determined to press on and we felt we had no alternative but to cough up the 5 Euros. Talk about frustration. This is where you wish you could calmly and quietly ream him out in his own language – but we couldn’t and it left our blood pressure climbing into the volcanic range.

I wasn’t thinking clearly but what I should have done is pull out my iPhone, take his picture and video him issuing the ticket while ignoring our explanation. That’s what most young people in America do to keep the police honest and civil. I screwed up and I’m truly sorry I didn’t have the presence of mind to do it today. If I had recorded the transaction I could have sent it to the Metro police, caused some kind of ruckus, and at least had the satisfaction of a good old-fashioned rant.

This experience is so unlike any other we’ve had with the French people on this trip or any other. The whole messy, irritating thing reminded me of Officer Obie and the littering violation in Alice’s Restaurant. Officer Obie in the pursuit of justice arrests Arlo and his friends and takes them to jail for littering. Is anyone still alive who remembers Alice’s Restaurant? It’s a classic and YouTube is right there to refresh your memory.

And… If you don’t know the song you’ll have to wait ‘till it comes around again on the ghee-tar, like this:

I was, we were, incredulous at today’s main event but listening to Arlo sing about Alice, the restaurant, and Officer Obie makes us feel A-OK. I hope you feel the same.


  1. That’s a really cute criminal. Who could imagine that she was so dangerous? I guess you just can’t tell a babe by her cover.

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