Paris, two weeks after the attacks

Eyelash curlers in action. They were notoriously subject to confiscation by the newly-formed TSA after 9/11. Picture source:

Out of the plane, to the right, to passport control, pass through with a cursory bon jour from the border control officer…Nothing different there.  The taxi driver grunts as he lifts my suitcase into the trunk–47 pounds (21.32 kilos) of books that I can’t live without for the next month–nothing different there.  I catch bits and pieces of the talk show that he’s listening to on the radio:  …Latest unemployment numbers…school drop-outs…the “excluded”…  Same as usual.  Motards (motorcycle police) zip between the traffic and wave drivers to the side to let the occasional Mercedes through–sometimes a stretch limo, sometimes a van with darkened windows.  Nothing big there–just minor functionaries attached to the COP21 climate change conference, I imagine.

Finally, after 45 minutes of driving, we’re almost to my apartment, and I hear it.  It’s the first full sentence that I’ve understood on the radio today: The extension of the state of emergency is interfering with our right to demonstrate…  Oh, the “fouille de bagage,” the security guards try to pick me up, it’s terrible… I ask the driver: “fouille de bagage,” is that when they search your…um…  Him: Yes, the police, they [unintelligible]

I love it.  My fatherland (America) gets one big terrorist attack, and the whole country is down with nationwide phone surveillance, taking their shoes off in airports, confiscating eyebrow curlers.  My motherland (France) has been experiencing terrorist attacks literally since before I was born; even after one so horrible that the entire world is flying the French flag, the French are their usual lovable, fractious selves, complaining about being deprived of engaging in the national sport of standing up for themselves en masse.

I get out of the cab with my suitcases and backpack.  A guy who I don’t know from Adam, but who looks vaguely familiar, is walking up the street towards me.  Ah, you’re back!  Did you have a good trip?  The waiter in the cafe on the ground floor catches sight of me and waves.  I think that France is going to be OK.  Me, too.

  • la fouille: excavation, digging.
  • la fouille de données: data mining.  This is the way that we use the word fouille at work.
  • la fouille de bagage: bag search.

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