Well, we thought it would take longer, but we can already mark two items off of our RTW scavenger hunt: Public Urination and Govt Shakedown. We were told to keep a watchful eye out for both, but we honestly thought it would happen later in the trip. As they happened so soon, I feel like I have to jump in here and post something while the details are still fresh in my mind.
The first “score” was in the most unexpected setting. We were walking along the Seine: couples snuggling along the river’s edge, families picnicking, boats cruising past. We were waiting for the moment that the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris would come into view. What happened instead was – dude at ten o’clock with the telephoto lens and the red shirt!… I think he’s pizzin’ on the wall!…Get a picture quick!
I have to admit, that was a pretty satisfying moment (probably for both of us). But from that high, I was brought down way too quickly by what I can only call organized crime. We bought a weekly Metro pass each that can be recharged. We had read about the need for a photo on these, so brought passport pics and scissors when we bought them. The ticket agent (employee of RATP, the government-owned company that runs the Metro) told us in French and English that the photo was not necessary, so we dropped the cards in our packs and took to Paris. Today (about 2 weeks later) there was a road-block as we tried to make a transfer at one of the stations. 6 RATP employees in suits were checking tickets. We handed one of them our cards.
- Him (in French): A photo goes here, it’s required.
- Me (in French): That’s not what we were told.
- Him (in French): There is a fine for no photo. You can pay it now. Do you have a credit card?
- Me (in French): What fine? How much?
- Him (in French): 33 Euros each, so 132 Euros.
- Me (all French tossed out the window): RATP sold me the tickets! Your employee at the information booth said no photo was necessary. Was that so you could fine me later!?
- Him (in Frenglish): It says you must have a photo.
- Me (to Karen in plain English): It’s a shakedown.
- Him (in French, after speaking to his boss): I understand what you are saying, but you must have a photo. My boss is here. I cannot let you go without a fine. I will charge 33 Euros for you only.
- Me (in French): Do you have identification? A card that says that you work for RATP?
- Him (shocked): Why?
- Me: For my written complaint.
- Him (back to French, and clearly starting to become less understanding): Proof of RATP will be on your fine ticket.
- Me (in a defeated sigh): Voilà ma carte de crédit.
Et, comme il m’a dit: Voilà mon billet RATP…mon evidence d’injustice…J’accuse…!
– ALaff – 9/17/15