It is Wednesday night, pouring with rain and I am heading over the Pont d'Iena to pick up Expat girl from her acting classes the other side of the river. There are roadworks on the bridge and cars are streaming from all side, crossing the Place de Varsovie aiming to squeeze into one lane which leads towards the overpowering Eiffel Tower.
A little shove and a push and it seems I've hit a Mini with the side of my car. Not thinking much I carry on at snail's pace following the traffic flow when I notice through my rear mirror the lady behind the steering wheel taking note of my number plate. I move forward crossing the bridge in order not to produce a complete melt-down of the traffic and stop right below the Tour Eiffel.
The tower lights start sparkling which means it is seven o'clock sharp and I am now officially running late. It is the first time I am looking down rather than up.
I am checking the fenders and bumpers of my car which seem to be in tact. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the Mini which has come to a halt behind me. It looks to me as if this lady has had quite a few run-ins. I prepare myself for a downpour of insults and am ready to shoot back. This is the way things work in Paris... you attack first, no matter what.
Instead a French lady steps up to me and says politely: "I think you hit my car." We walk around the vehicles evaluating the damage and seeing that I am late in picking up my daughter, she suggest we telephone later to meet over the weekend.
Well, to cut a long story short, we met on another rainy afternoon in a little bistro in the 15th arrondissement over a cup of coffee and had a pleasant exchange of information while filling in the accident report. Turns out she has a son who's in his last year of school just like mine and from what I could tell her priorities seem to be very similar to mine.
Nobody got hurt, the damage is done and the insurances will cover it. However, there were two ways to go about such an incident: aggressively or with a civilised conversation.
We said our goodbyes and as she was crossing the road with her bright red umbrella, I thought to myself: "I like this mum, we could have potentially even become friends."
Little does this lady know but she has done a great deal in restoring my faith in the Parisian people's ability to show empathy for others.
Je vous adresse tous mes remerciements, Chère Madame, pour cet agréable rencontre qui aurait pu être très énervante.