Paris France, June 7, 2008
When the French want to get your attention regarding an possible impending emergency they say, “Faites attention” which translates as ‘make attention’ but what it really means is Watch out! or Be careful!
I don’t speak French. I know a few phrases and a few words. It is what I call Blanche duBois French. I depend a lot on the kindness of strangers to understand what it is that I am trying to say. About 87% of the time they immediately switch to English. I suspect that is 100% of those who speak English. There is this sort of face that they make as soon as I open my mouth, twisted in agony. The ones who don’t speak English seem a bit more twisted. I try to ‘make attention’ as to how I sound but I have a tin ear. Sometimes I must sound pretty good because then I receive a furious flurry of French spoken at the speed of their trains and then it is me with the twisted face. Thereafter for sometime, I make special attention to be certain that I elicit the twisted face response first.
Entering the metro in Paris a week ago or so I noticed a sign which read, Faites Attention – Pickpockets! I don’t give the appearance of a prime pickpocket person. I dress casually like many in Paris now do but of course any French person making attention can easily recognize me as an American because I have on comfortable shoes. Target: Americans. They are here ergo have money. Place pocket here.
As I was leaving my carriage in a crowd an interesting thing happened. A man pushed me slightly off balance with his right hand and moved his fingers around in a distracting small circle on my back. Almost as if he were gently scratching my back. It succeeded in making my attention. I thought this is odd. Then he brushed past me with the PAH – DON expression used and vanished into the crowd. Then it came to me – target! I moved aside with haste and immediately went through my pockets to see what, if anything, I was missing. Nothing was missing. I had previously made attention to a similar pickpocket sign.