Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
  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

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