by Claude Milot

Parisians have a reputation for rudeness. I think it’s a bad rap. I spent three weeks in Paris last October, and the only rudeness I witnessed was by three Somalians who cursed an attendant as they jumped the Metro turnstiles. As for my wife and me, we experienced nothing but courtesy and friendliness on the Metro, especially from the young people who insisted on giving up their seats to us old folks.

In fact, people went out of their way to be helpful. I have several examples, but here are just two. One day my wife Yvonne and I decided to go by train to Fontainebleau, the famous chateau about 50 miles outside of Paris. But we couldn’t figure out how to buy a ticket—there are no ticket sellers in railroad stations like Gare de Lyon, only automated machines with hard-to-follow instructions. When we explained our dilemma at the information office, a man who had overheard us led us clear across the station to the right machine, got us the tickets, and led us to the platform where our train awaited. When he learned that we were Americans, he expressed deep sympathy for the loss of life caused by a terrorist attack in New York. Nice man.

The second story is about two Frenchwomen—I call them my angels—who came to my aid when I tripped and fell on the Quay d’Anjou and banged my head against a stone wall. I wasn’t seriously hurt, but they knelt by me and stayed with me until they were sure I was OK. After Yvonne checked for blood and didn’t find any, I got back on my feet with the help of my two angels. I thanked them and tried to make light of the incident, saying to them—in my best French—that if I hadn’t fallen I would never have had the opportunity of meeting two such beautiful ladies. They smiled. And Yvonne and I went on our way