Will theLucky Winner Step Forward?

This week's Paris Bistro

Super Loto Win Set to Pay 150 Milion Francs
To Unknown and Possibly Shy Winner

Paris:- Saturday-Sunday, 22.-23. March 1997:- We need something to take our minds off the shifty weather and our other troubles, so the people who have got us hooked on gambling The 150M Loto have decided to let us gamble some more for the money they've taken in and we haven't won yet.

A couple of weeks ago the Loto put up a special draw, with a top pot of 100 million francs, and what do you know? Nobody got six right out of 49. There was gloom in Mudville over that.

So last Thursday night they did it again. I can see them sitting there saying, "The vault is full, the rent's going up, we gotta get rid of some of this loot!"

Normally the Loto rolls off on Wednesday and Saturday nights, just before and right after the 20:00 TV-news. That makes four draws a week, and I think the minimum wager is four francs for two sets of 49-number grills. There is a horrible variety of combination plays, and I understand none of them.

Times are so tough that people are betting far more than they're winning - partly on account of the odds and mostly on account of their stupid ping-pong-ball selection machine.

Somehow the Loto got permission to let the players win the 'surplus' all at once, instead of using it to bail out Crédit Lyonnais again. For the special pot there is a special bet-card, and the stakes are higher than normal - and last Thursday, the pot was 150 million francs.

After the last ball fell out of the transparent ping-pong-ball machine around 20:42, somebody in France was richer by exactly 150,077,770 francs. I checked Friday's Paris and New York closings, and that sum translates into about 26,329,433 US dollars. Tax free, and all at once.

There is a little neighborhood bar in Asnières, just across the Seine from Levallois, where the bet was placed, but the cheque had not been collected by Friday evening. There's time.

Papa Will Be Unemployed Forever

This was a headline in last Monday's Le Parisien, over a photo of angry Belgian Renault workers protesting in Brussels. Renault is not budging a millimetre over the affair, but it no longer matters because during the week medical interns and externs were protesting all over the place and they were joined at week's end by teachers, while the interns promised more for next week.

Le Parisien's weekend 'Demo Map' published today shows pilgrims on parade, bank workers in the streets, homeless protesters, some sort of foot-race up on Montmartre, the renewal of the pedestrian-bicycle action, public service workers on the streets for employment, and finally, the football game at the Parc des Princes is another area to avoid late Sunday.

I had a chat with an intern at Bastille last Wednesday where a white-coated group of them had occupied the steps of the Opéra; not bothering anybody. Demo Paris Interns The beef is all about the government finance people shifting the payments for medical services from the state insurance coverage to the users, who also pay for the state insurance and incidently pay the salaries of the government, so it is only logical that they must be able to pay their own medical bills too.

It's the old idea of throwing everybody out of work in order to reduce salary costs to zero, which looks very pretty on the bottom line. I heard an estimate that 40 percent of all workers in France, work for the state in some way. I don't know if it is true; but does it matter?

They may not produce anything truly useful, but they are not a drain on unemployment funds, and, best of all, they do buy things that other people make and that is positive.

If we all worked for the state and bought stuff, that might cause even more people to be hired to make stuff for us to buy, and we wouldn't have to pay the unemployment tax because there would be negative unemployment; and that would give us even more money to spend on things, causing yet more insane employment, and gradually we could convert the people who work for the unemployment agency to making things too, and paying them more so they could buy more stuff too.

Buying all this extra stuff would create an awful lot more garbage - all the packaging! - and employment would spiral up and possibly get out of control, so many people would be working and buying stuff which would cause a shortage of workers and goods, thereby causing inflation...

Nah! Much better to have 13 percent unemployed and 40 percent making no stuff at all. Anything is better than inflation!

If You Thought There Were Too Many Cars In Paris

Then you were not the driver of one of the 800 cars hauled away every day throughout the city. To get the car back you have to pay the towing company 630 francs and the minimum 230 franc fine.

There are exactly 1,860 polite parking-ticket ladies who go around and stick tons of parking-tickets under windshield wiper blades and these Bicycle Sunday in Paris are helped out by six companies with 50 tow-trucks capable of picking a car up out of the tightest spot, and hauling it away.

Sunday was 'Day of the Bike' in Paris.

However, an employee of one of the towing companies has told Le Parisien that drivers have a daily 'quota' to fill, and apparently this is so high that the operators have to work in a hurry, to the detriment of the paint on the car being 'lifted.' Also they don't always bother to pick up the end of the car that has the wheels locked by the hand-brake, so you can get your car back with half the brakes totally shot.

Out West Where It's Wild

Last Sunday, car thieves went on a rampage in Yvelines and boosted several cars with big motors and even a few trucks. The cops had been waiting for this, because the car thefts seemed to be connected to some serious break-ins elsewhere and the cars were being used for transport.

Around noon on Sunday, as everybody was having their big weekly lunch, cars started disappearing in half-dozen lots. Cops over a wide area swung into action, to herd the thieves into a dead-end; and they had a helicopter to help spot them from the air - and according to the report it was right out of Hollywood, with the helicopter whizzing along two metres above a racing BMW.

Several cars were recovered and some arrests were made, and some innocent civilians were seriously scared by both sides in the wild road and air chases, which lasted several hours.

Apparently the only people who can afford the insurance rates on big BMWs are Loto winners, so you could get the impression that a lot of people are doing okay by the Loto. Either that, or they are people operating Minitel services.

Save the Owls!

Unlike the British, the French are not known as notorious animal lovers. However, tonight owl lovers will be spending the evening hours outside, to express solidarity with the nocturnal birds. It seems as if you have to be close to them to tell one sort of an owl from another.

In the dark, I don't see how this can be done, unless owls make a lot of noise - or maybe if owl watchers don't make any noise at all, they will get to hear the cries of their favorite birds.

Anytime I've been in the bush or forest at night, it has always been noisy; especially when I got whacked in the face by an unseen branch or fell into a hole. Still, I like owls.

France Cleans Up

Tomorrow, thousands of ordinary citizens are going to spread throughout France, wearing gloves and carrying garbage bags, to pick up a year's worth of accumulated flotsam and jetsam, strewn all over the countryside by millions of French residents.

Clean-up day is an annual affair and it is sort of thankless - because year after year it is the same people who volunteer to do it, and they generally clean up the same places as they cleaned the year before.

Part of the problem is the explosion of plastic packaging that envelopes everything we buy. But I still can not understand why people will go to the trouble to carry plastic bags of garbage to the remotest places in forests and other deserted areas, to throw it away, when there is always some kind of handy container nearby.

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