Having rented a car for the month, it was a bonus to enjoy private parking at my residence. Not having to search for a parking space certainly makes life that much more enjoyable. Of course, just as in Paris, walking is the norm in Versailles. My day to day life consists of leisurely strolls accompanied by introspection, intermixed with walks of more purposeful stride, having specific destinations in mind. The car typically sits in a designated spot until needed for longer excursions. It sits there, seemingly safe, behind the candy cane striped "lift pole" gate .. which reminds me of a World War II movie with soldiers and "checkpoints". Who would dare violate the Mercedes while it resides within this militaristically defined sanctuary?
Yes, I said it, "the Mercedes" .. that symbol of significant automotive engineering and aristocratic wanna be consumers and posers around the globe. Why, you might ask, would an American francophile choose to be displayed in possibly the most ostentatious vehicle I could "occupy" in the country I love so much ... why? I have only two answers for that question. One - because I like the car .. it is comfortable, it is fun to drive, it is sturdy and it feels safe. And answer number Two for driving that sleek silver Teutonic Creation? - because I'm an idiot. How else could I possibly explain choosing to drive an expensive automobile created in Germany, while living in and professing love for France? What in the world was I thinking? ... duh ...
In relation to the Mercedes; a wiser man would have figured out the error of his ways immediately upon arrival at the rental counter in Charles de Gaulle. When asked what type car I wanted, I responded "Mercedes" and was immediately raked over the coals by both gentlemen behind the counter. I remember vividly a couple of their comments: "You know, Sir, French cars are very high quality" and the more direct "Don't you want a French car?". Some of the more oblique remarks simply left lifetime scars, and I don't recall the exact wording. Needless to say, it was a relief to depart the airport in my Helmut Mobile ... not escaping, however, without leaving bits and pieces of my primary "self" scattered around the parking lot. I felt a traitor to my beloved France, but as the stereo began filling my "foreign" capsule and the realization I was once again "home" dawned on me, I leaned back and enjoyed the smooth, solid ride to Versailles.
May 6, 2012 is a very significant date to modern day France. It was the date of political & social change that is likely to reverberate in French history on a level akin to the election of President Obama in the United States. I feel fortunate to have been in France during this time. I witnessed the passion and participation of the French people in their political process. The energy of this event was astounding. Unfortunately for the idiot American in a Mercedes (that would be me), 2012 was a time of intense revelry for a return to Socialism and a departure from the perceived Elitism in French government. Socialism won the day ... and here I was, driving the "M" word while renting an apartment in Versailles .. the cradle of conservatism.
Of course, being the idiot, I failed to see and absorb the realities of life as they swirled around me. I was too busy enjoying "my" France. It seems no matter how many times over the last thirty years I remind "me" to not become enamored with the idealized version of "my" France .. the mentality still creeps in, lulls my brain to sleep, and introduces more stupidity .. based on what I want reality to be. Me .. Me .. Me ... idiot!
A couple of days after arrival, upon settling into the apartment, after once again mentally deceiving myself into another hopeless state of "my" France, I walked to the waiting chariot in "my" parking lot, opened the door and took possession of "my" mobile throne. On the key-chain was an activation button for that partition of safety, the protective WWII gate. One push of the button and up the gate went, allowing me to glide underneath and enjoy total access and freedom to explore the highways and byways of "my" beloved part time country. I drove to my friends house, parked and exited the "M" , then walked around the car to make certain I had gotten close enough to the curb to protect both my glistening vehicle and those drivers who were navigating around it. As I approached the passengers side, I saw a piece of papaer affixed to the middle of the front tire. A piece of paper declaring "We will not have pity on you when the new government is in order!" That, my friends, was an instant mental jolt for me ... and the idiot was awakened. From that moment forward, during the entire month of May, I was confused ... just didn't know whether to sit up really, really straight as I drove, trying to look aristocratic and "Sarkozy like" or slump down and attempt to appear deeply ashamed of my obviously selfish and wasteful ways, in attempt to gain favor with the new Hollande camp. My Capitalistic Pride was suddenly reduced to that of a Pit Bull being chased down the street by cats.
The remainder of my visit went without incident. No further threats were plastered to the Silver Demon and I learned to wisely listen to political opinion and conversation in a most respectful and curious manner. The day of my departure, I sadly packed my bag and walked to the parking area. As I approached there was a car leaving the lot. The driver had already pushed his button to raise the barrier, so I waited until he was clear to proceed. Just prior to stepping forward, I pushed the "open trunk" button on the "M" and I recall having a fleeting thought of what a great car it is and a resounding "screw them if they don't like it. I work hard for my money and I deserve to drive a Brutish Beast if I want to!" I took a step towards my "accomplishment" .. just as the red & white hammer descended .. no doubt guided by the hands of French Justice.
Yes, this really did happen ... I woke up lying on the bare concrete you see in the attached photo. That WWII gate caught me square on the head and knocked me cold. I was down in Versailles.
Mesdames et Messieurs .. Ladies and Gentlemen .. I joined La Resistance in Versailles last May, and why wouldn't I? The signs were all there .. from subtle whispers to a violent attack .. and this "idiot" was resurrected by the light and divinity of Peugeot et Citroen ... bringing me even closer to realizing "my" France ... sigh