Nothing Toulouse: Part 4

by David Davies on November 26, 2009

There is one thing the French are particularly adept at: entitlement. The sound of a Frenchman in a traffic jam is the sound of a Frenchman leaning on his horn. Columns and columns of cars, a symphonic cacophony of irate indignation. The horns say: how dare I be kept waiting on this ring road, which, by definition as a ring road, is prone to traffic jams, of which I care not. The horns say: let me through. The horns say: I am dissatisfied.

The intended use of the car horn is as an instrument of warning, of awareness. A beep on the horn is an alert for all other drivers – we are unsure of what the beep is for, only that it must be paid attention to. In France, the horn is an impotent weapon, an audible signal that what is taking place – going on, if you will – is unacceptable and will remain so until the driver sees fit to remove his hand from the horn. It. is. the. done. thing.

We have barely begun to scratch the surface of the total lunacy that is French driving. One day I witnessed a man reversing a full half a kilometre down a main road. Awestruck, I watched him pursue the course he had just taken like a rewound videotape, sucking up the road. His car made that dreadful whirring reversing sound that cars make, the kind of noise which suggests the mechanics under the bonnet are being asked to do unspeakable acts that would not be forced upon a car with a more respectful driver.

On and on and on he chewed up tarmac like some ridiculous Benny Hill sketch, destroying all notion of a highway code. Not once had I made eye contact with him, yet I knew what he was thinking. This was a road. The road was designed for progress, to get him to where he needed to be. The needs of others were entirely secondary. Worse than secondary. Tertiary. He had somewhere he needed to be and the quickest way to be there was to reverse, so that was what he was doing because it needed to be done because he needed to be there. In its own, selfish way, it was a twisted logic.

France functions as a dictablanda, one where everyone is their own dictator. Toulouse is a macrocosm of this philosophy. To every Frenchman, the rest of France is designed to bow to him. Nothing should be prioritised over his progress. This system works because it proposes a fascinating insight into the human mind: place society-wide, obvious coping mechanisms in place, and everyone can be a dictator.

French people

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