Dangerous? Paris streets? Naahhhhhhh! Well actually, yeeaahhhhh!
I know a lot of cities which vie for the accolade of 'World's Biggest Death Trap' in terms of their highways and byways, and Paris is certainly up there.
Chauffard, as opposed to chauffeur (driver) is the official word meaning 'road hog', 'hit and run driver' or basically any dickhead behind a wheel. The suffix 'ard' denotes 'someone related to this characteristic', such as banlieusard, some who lives in the suburbs (banlieue), or connard, someone who is stupid (con). Chauffer means to heat, so maybe chauffard means 'to heat things up', and temperatures and tempers certainly rise often enough on these mean streets.
There was an incident recently, I can't remember exactly, where a couple of kids I think it was, out joy-riding, lost control and smashed into a bus stop somewhere. Problem was, there was a mother and her kids waiting for the bus...
It really sunk in for me how French I'd become one time I went back to the UK. I arrived at a pedestrian crossing, the sort without little red and green men, and I waited. A car approaced and started to slow down. I waited for him to pass. And then for some reasons he stopped just before the black and white lines. I thought he must have an engine problem or be checking a map or something, so I waited. And he waited. Eventually he started waving at me to cross and it struck me with a shock that he had actually slowed down and stopped for me... Rarely in France, mate, where flashing of head lights doesn't mean 'ok, over you go love, I'll let you pass...', it means 'get out of the *$%@!!&? way'! The 'bras d'honneur' is a particularly visceral and heart-felt version of the Brits' V-sign or the Americans' middle finger, involving full two-arm participation to really let the guy who just cut you up know what you think of him. Two hands on the wheel? Mon dieu! Are you crazy? How am I supposed to hold my cell phone, then..?
And I hope this guy or gal was ok, when their lean, mean, pavement-kissing machine bit grim reality, on both sides by the look of it. The rainbow's are still shining for the moment though.
© Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free 2005
Section Updated: Rainbows