Not Quite the City of Love
This is the second time in the past six months that I’ve cursed quietly about what a blasted city of no-love this City of Love is. Paris. It’s not always the City of Love — because it does have its very dark side: Petty Crimes. In the past six months, my 16-year-old daughter has been mugged two times. Doesn’t that just blow you away?
The first time, she was with 2 other boy friends in a Bus Stop, sitting, and waiting to catch the bus — in one of the most posh arrondissements at that. Five teenage boys (about 15-17 years old) surrounded them and demanded for their money, cellphones, and watches — with a long sharp knife and a huge-spray-of- something as their weapons. That’s at 5:45PM, Winter Time (as in bright skies!), along huge and busy Avenue du President Wilson. For a measly EU30 snatched from the three of them, these punks have tarnished the beautiful picture of charming Paris. My daughter and her friends managed to make it to the Police to report the incident — but only after my daughter had gotten over an anxiety attack, utter shock, and painful panic.
The Police were very impressive though — and the kids spent a good 4-5 hours at the station, making their statements and describing the assailants. They were even shown videos of the Metro (where the muggers ran to after the incident) and books and books of photos. But at the end of the day — how does one sift through millions of young boys in when they almost all look identical in their hoodies, sneakers, and shoulder bags?
Again, last night, on her way home from a cinema at about 11PM, along with 4 other girl friends, they were once again molested IN the metro by 4 other young boys. Stroking their hair, dirty-talking, grabbing private parts. The thing that bothers me even more is: How can everyone else around simply watch what is going on, and not make a move to help (especially if they are locals)?
A friend of mine saw an old lady thumped, then her hand bag pulled away from her — again in the metro. She was (or at least looked) French. People were passing by … and didn’t do one thing. They just let it all happen, and walked away — like they didn’t see a thing. Indifference? Fear?
What is it about all these petty crimes in Paris? Are there not enough policemen around — especially fielded in Metro Stations and Bus Stops where most of these sort of crimes happen? If these young boys are not apprehended for these cheap-thrills of theirs … what’s to stop them from moving onto bigger and bloodier tricks as they get older?
And tell me: What can a mother tell her 16-year old daughter?
She loves Paris because she has learned independence here. She is able to move around easily — but when there is this constant fear of being attacked … then where’s the fun in that? I realize that the same things could happen in London or New York, or any other big city for that matter — but. If you’re making Paris your home for a few years… there’s always that wishful-thinking side of you that makes you crave for just slightly safer environments. Especially for a city that claims to be one of the world’s most visited.
If you are on the same boat, here are some pointers that I hammer into my daughter’s head, hoping she will not be a magnet for any more of this B*llsh*t.
1. Dress decently. A 16-year old need not dress like a grandma — but if you are flaunting your legs (no matter how tightly-clad they are in leggings or tights), or your chest — you are looking for trouble.
2. Be extremely sensitive to what is going on around you. Teenagers have a tendency to be totally oblivious to the world around them. They put on their ipod earplugs/sound-cancellation ear muffs… and goodbye world. THAT, to me, is scary. They are transported to another world with their music, and all hell could break lose two feet away from them and they would still be nodding their head to the beat. Scary, right?
3. Don’t be loud. And if you are, go easy on the English. I read that most of these petty crimes are targeted towards tourists. So, if you’re looking a bit lost, or if you are being boisterous in a foreign language — these are obvious signals that you are NOT French… and you become an instant target. (Which is why I never look at metro maps in public. I write out my route on a piece of paper, which is less obvious than a glaring Metro map.)
4. Look confident, look strong, and look people in the eye. If you look like an innocent pussy cat who walks slow on a busy street — believe me, you will stick out like a sore thumb. Blend with the crowd, look local, heck — walk like a man!
And my last and forever advise to my daughter is — to always remember to pray. At bedtime, before she walks outside the door, when she feels scared, when she sees a suspicious looking person … whenever! God always listens to prayers — especially when they are made by children — and I know that He will listen.
Since the first time she got mugged, my constant prayer has always been to keep my children safe from harm. And from all the evils that surface in this supposed City of Love.