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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Vive la Politesse

After my three- hour exam-of-doom I decided that the only thing that was going to make me feel better was having a coffee out in the sunshine. I installed myself at a corner café in an open, busy square. Like any café on a mild spring day, the owners had obviously mobilized every possible chair and table in order to invade and annex as much of the square surrounding their café as possible. Regiments of tables and chairs stretched away from the café like metal filings clustered haphazardly around a magnet. As is my habit, I sat down at one of the farther-flung annexes.

I was sipping my café crème and occasionally glancing at my book when a loud ::CRACK:: rang out across the square. Startled, passersby and the few patrons lingering at the café, looked up. A man, several yards away, just at the fringes of this café’s territory, was struggling to his feet from the ground, encumbered by one of the small, round tables from the café. When he stood up, we could all see he was culpably gripping the table, which had not weathered the encounter well; one of its three legs had been snapped off. Floundering and bewildered, and possibly drunk, he was still limply holding the savagely amputated casualty when the café owner and a waiter bolted outside.

I was trying desperately to be polite (American style…) ignore the annoyed shouting and not stare, eyes on page. A whole lot of masculine-sounding yelling got my attention and this time when I looked up, there was an outsider, clearly neither from the café nor drunk, engaged in some sort of loud shoving match with the table-killer. It escalated pretty quickly, but before blows could be swung, several pairs of cops rushing from all directions descended upon the pair, and got a hold of the drunk guy. As is always the case, this particular scene of disruption quickly dissolved into just a lot of milling around for a bit, and there were angry gesticulations toward broken tables, or further provocations shouted at the guilty party. The cops, having never let go of him, were in the process of handcuffing the table-maimer’s hands behind his back. One cop had gotten the drunk guy’s arms in position and handcuffs were about to be applied, when a young man amiably making his way through the square walked directly up to the group. I watched eagerly now, wondering if this new man was a friend. Or possibly also had a recently-abused café table to complain about.

But instead of yelling or quietly reasoning with the police, after walking directly up to the group, without hesitation or embarrassment, he proffered his hand to greet the restrained man with a friendly handshake, then wandered off.

As soon as this gesture was terminated the table-maimer was then hand-cuffed.

Police altercation, handcuffs, sure, but the real crime would have been not greeting your pal with a hello handshake.

1 comment :

deep. said...

Wini, you're hilarious. I love the stuff you write about. Please become a writer, you're just so good! Had to shake his hand...awesome!

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