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  1. I engage in conversation with any clerk, or at any checkout line. It's a habit actually, not really a decision I make.

  2. Whever I walk past a policeman in the street or a customs officer, I start feeling guilty. To cover the Midnight Express type of heart-pumping stress this causes me, I try to smile and be normal, but I end up acting all superior. It's horrible. And I've never had anything to feel guilty of! So, like I said, this stress makes me act so weird that I end up being unpleasant. For instance, I was once asked by a customs officer, while she was going through my bag, at the Eurostar terminal in Paris: "sir do you consume any drugs?". I replied "What do you mean?? That's none of your business!!". She started being offended: "it is my business". Me: "No, it's not. If you asked me 'are you carrying any drugs?' I would give you an answer, no that is, but do I consume any drugs? That's an invasion of my privacy!". She was by then very annoyed, still going through my things, and brought out a dozen or so VHS tapes I had in my bag. She called her superior: "look" (holding/showing tapes for him to see), "isn't this a problem?" (asking him). The superior, in a really bored-sounding voice: "no", and he went back to what he was doing. She then grudgingly told me that I was free to go. Conclusion: I guess I start looking guilty as soon as I start feeling guilty.

  3. Whenever I go biking in this forest outside of Toulouse, I say hello to everyone I meet (actually I even do this in some parts of town too, but that's another story). And although I generally try not to mind it when people don't answer back, I still find it incredible that someone you cross on a forest path, at a place where you know that there's no one around for a kilometer or two, will not say hello with a smile in return. I forgive the joggers, who are short on breath, but of the walkers and bikers I generally think "what an idiot". Now, when someone does answer with a smile, or says hello before I do, you're right Agnès, it just feels so good.
by Alex in Toulouse on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 10:05:59 AM EST
in the Eurostar terminal in Paris 2 last year.
I had been travelling to and back form Poland as a child throughout the eighties, and then to and from Eastern Europe (including FRY and Russia) in the late nineties for business purposes. The rudest and most invasive question though I did get on this Eurostar terminal. The customs officers asked me questions such as "what's your occupation in the UK ?" "your husband's ? "does he consume drugs ?". I had been taught not to respond aggressively, but inside I was shaking with offence. I thought afterwards that if I had responded and expressed my disagreement with the way I was being treated, I would not have felt so demeaned and bruised.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 11:47:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I did feel good, but if I had been a little bit more rational, I would have abstained from making any comments. Or would I tried humour maybe ("I don't think so, does chocolate count as a drug?"- with a big smile in order not to sound ironic/sarcastic). Because the comments I made are not the type of comments you'd want to try on a customs officer in some countries, which I won't name here. You'd end up with a body search at the very least ...

I understand you were shaken, I hate intrusions on my privacy (not that I consume drugs nowadays anyways, though back then I did have an occasional puff on a joint but didn't consider myself a "consumer").

by Alex in Toulouse on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 12:06:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You and me know that astress and being rational seldom belong together. I never tried humour on a customs officer, I doubt whether they are not just immune to it altogether.
One thing that shocked me is the difference in treating foreigners with a green card and those without, last time I was at JFK airport 6 months ago.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 12:18:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I never tried humour on a customs officer, I doubt whether they are not just immune to it altogether.

Excellent, hehe, I think you're right, they along with visa clerks in embassies, and this works with a few other similar professions, are probably recruited on the basis that they have no humour.

by Alex in Toulouse on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 12:27:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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