When you’re in a foreign country - and short-sighted - you tend to offer banknotes because you can’t be bothered counting small change. This means that you accumulate a lot of change. I was leaving Nice yesterday with a serious list to the right, rattling a Las Vegas slot.
Coming through what’s laughingly known as security at Nice airport I had so much cash that I had to put it into a little plastic basket. The DG sails through; I stand by the X-ray machine waiting for my cash to emerge – which it doesn’t. When I complain to the ‘security’ guard, she pulls aside a curtain, revealing the missing basket. She casually leans over and flicks the tray with the antenna of her mobile phone - causing it to tip its contents into the machine. Unwilling to leave my cash for this lout, I scratch around (unaided) trying to recover my coins.
When I get to Phase 2 – The Search – the DG is waiting (I had the tickets) and asking what I’ve been doing. ‘That stupid woman', I say, 'tipped my money all over the floor’. The Search officer hears me complaining, recognises the word ‘stupid’ (French: stupide) and – as petty officials do - decides to show solidarity and give me the works. He searches my flight bag as slowly as he can - taking things apart to try to make me lose my temper, or my flight. He finally pounces on a tiny, almost empty tube of ointment no bigger than my little finger. ‘I am confiscating this’, he says. ‘It’s not explosive’, I say, squeezing out the last drop of cream and spreading on my nose. ‘See’ I say, ‘my nose did not explode’. ‘I am confiscating this’, he says again. ‘Oh no you are not’, say I, ‘I am presenting it to you as a câdeau de Noël’, and I hand him the empty tube.
We caught our flight – but only just.
There is no officialdom more petty than French officialdom, because they can’t be disciplined or fired, or the unions will close the airport in a flash. I’ll tell you sometime about the airport Post Office that closes for a long lunch break.
A little pad on the Riviera, some might think, is all cakes and ale or gâteaux et vin. But there are associated problems that many people don’t appreciate. Socks, for instance. A single-homed person finding an odd sock in a drawer will eventually get tired of looking for its twin and throw it out. But the dual-residenced person, especially the mean ones, will say ‘ the mate of this sock must be in residence B’. So they take it with them on their next trip.
But not only do you not find the missing sock there – you discover another single sock - or even two – and assume that their partners are in residence A. So you carry them there - together with the first sock because you think its other half must be in A after all.
Eventually you finish up with this sad bunch of much-travelled but lonely socks – peripatetic hosiery on an endless quest for a partner. You have to feel especially sorry for the likes of Roger Moore or Elton, who, with homes in four or five countries, must spend their whole lives re-uniting socks.
But the DG, who can be pretty ruthless at times, has now come up with an effective if Draconian solution. She has made me swallow the pill and bite the bullet (not easy to do simultaneously) and step up to the plate. We have a new edict: socks still single after ONE trip are to be put down.
It’s a cruel world.