The French are captivated by two things unique to America, Jerry Lewis and Marboro. I can’t understand the attraction to either. Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin were Hollywood’s 1950’s attempt to continue the comedic magic of the successful team of Bud Abbot and Lou Costello who themselves followed the immensely popular Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Considering their predecessors, Lewis and Martin were the least successful couple and, in my opinion, the least entertaining. Martin seemed to have had a better grasp on their comedic abilities. Lewis was getting most of the credit by playing comedy scenes for pathos and greed staging more of the action himself, having lost vision of what their comedy team-up was all about in the first place. The last straw came when Look Magazine gave Martin and Lewis a cover photo — but cropped Martin out of the picture! After completing the remaining contracts Martin bolted the partnership for a successful singing and TV variety host career. Departing Martin told Lewis that he was “nothing to me but a (expletive) dollar sign.” Lewis apparently believed the hype and made any number of bad slapstick movies without Martin, all of which the French adored. They think he is a comedic genius but they also think Hip-Hop is a superior form of unique American music over Blues and Jazz. Mon Dieu!
And then there is Marlboro. Cigarettes (especially American) are ubiquitous in France. Apparently loving the Marlboro Man and hating a certain Texas cowboy politician isn’t inconsistent – at least one of them is real. So faced with solid science about the health dangers of smoking (fumée in French) and increased tobacco costs, what do the French do? They shrug their shoulders and fumée a little bit less. Conceding, no doubt, that there must be at least a grain of truth in the science, the popularity of cigarettes today is down to 92.8% of 1997 numbers. Prices in the cigarette tobacco sector are expected to continue rise as the government in presses the economic issue. Government mandated health notices on cigarettes don’t just warn of the potential dangers of smoking, nope, they are somewhat more direct, clearly stating that “Smoking Kills”. Problem? Fumée, fumée.
So the French government knows that smoking is going cause significant future health problems and will thus become an unsupportable economic burden on an already overtaxed population. Remember the French have the best health care system in the world and for all practical purposes it’s free to all citizens fumée or no fumée. Science and economic measures have failed to significantly slow French fumée. What’s a fuming French government to do about its coming economic health care crisis? The French government isn’t completely stupid or easily intimidated, unlike most other democratically elected ones. The know and understand that smokers especially like to fumée after a meal or with a drink. How do they know? They fumée too! None of this smoking section stuff, or low smoking areas in attempt to appease. They outlaw fumée in restaurants and bars. No appeal, no fumée. Direct attack. When I heard this news, I said wonderful! Now I can go to a restaurant and enjoy a meal and leave the fumée to the paté. I don’t go to bars so I didn’t think I cared where fumée was or was not allowed in bars. Self satisfied and smug the government sat back and awaited the certain reduction of fumée. No respectable French person would leave a good meal before an hour or two of after dinner conversation and fumée. This plan is brilliant Inspector Clouseau! It cannot fail. Government 1 – Fumées 0
Fumées response is swift and typically French. Ignore any law which is considered an unjust invasion of privacy. Government retaliation is equally swift. Fine the owners of restaurants and bars. (G 2 – F 1) Fumées retort: People sitting inside restaurants and bars next to open windows with their lighted cigarette dangling outside or standing in the doorways crushed together with a toe touching the sidewalk. (G 2 – F 5) Checkmate.
Consequently for me, entering a restaurant or bar requires a gas mask or fumée. Good thing I grew up near a large lake and learned something about sailing! Like the ancient mariner heading into a strong wind, I tack from side to side of the streets to avoid the fumée clouds in front of bars. My how to visit a French restaurant suggestion: Hyperventilate on the opposite side of the street, take a deep breath, hold it, enter, and through a long exhale ask for a seat away from windows and doors. I prefer my fumée in the salmon.