The Christmas lights on the Champs Elysees.
After an uneventful but food-filled flight (oh, the joys of business class! If I were richer than God, I would pay for it, but for now, I am in that big seat only when the frequent flier miles permit), we arrived in Paris. SH and I walked really fast to get to the head of the passport line because we had places to go, food to eat.
We got there. Third or fourth in line.
SH and I ate lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. A big bowl of pho, which was perfect for the cold, wet weather. It is a damp cold in Paris. I had forgotten. I planned to be fashionable but now all I care about is being warm, which means wearing evrything I brought all at once.
In the meantime, the border agents, in the dark-blue uniforms, pants stuffed into black Doc Martens, the word "Police" plastered across their backs in reflective white, sat in the booths looking at their fingernails, playing games on their smart phones, and glancing up meaningfully at the "Ferme" sign any time one of us natives got restless.
Occasionally, more police would arrive and sit in empty seats, raising hopes in the heart of every person waiting to get into the darn country.
Then they would leave again, dashing the hopes of everyone in line.
After 15 minutes, a woman of a certain age in a miniskirt, black tights, a big orange scarf and high-heeled ankle boots walked out of the back. "You all know what is happening here, yes?" she asked.
"No," I, speaking for the crowd, said. "I do not understand." The subtext was I do not understand why there are threes of agents sitting at their posts, staring above our heads with a "I do not see you!" look while we, who have just crossed an ocean to visit, are left waiting on the doorstep, cooling our heels. Is the hostess still bathing? Did we arrive too early? Why are we being punished thusly?
"There is a security alert!" she said. "An unattended luggage situation! We are following the procedures!"
"Are they going to blow up the suitcase?" I asked.
"No! No bomb! No bomb!" she chirped as she went back to her comfortable place where there were chairs and food and toilets.*
Mais pas ouvert!
We, in the meantime, waited.
I was on a trip to Paris years ago. Before the Gomez disaster, I think. There was an unattended baggage situation in the airport with a suitcase that was 50 feet from me. The police very politely and quickly evacuated everyone from right around the suitcase. The storefronts all closed. We heard a boom. Ten minutes later, we were carrying on as usual.
It does not take long to blow up a suitcase. It does not take 45 minutes, which was how long we waited.
It is my belief and should be the belief of all right-thinking people that if you have been warned not to leave your luggage unattended and that if you leave your luggage unattended, it will be exploded, that when there is unattended luggage, it should be blown up immediately so as not to inconvenience the rest of us. Walk away from the bag at your peril, mister, should be the message that everyone gets.
* SH does not understand why the toilets here do not have seats. "Am I supposed to sit right on the toilet?" he exclaimed in horror.