"Tout à Bas!"

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'Exceptions' Explained

by Jim Auman

Warren, NJ:- Tuesday, 4. December 2002:- After reading about the strikes in France on November 26, which affected Radio France - which then spread to the US and the rest of the world - and especially the bitter confrontations in the editorial offices of Metropole, the Metropole reading community of Warren, New Jersey decided to exercise their right to be an exception and go on strike. The following is a transcript of the debate that was secretly recorded -

Countdown Jim:- "I've had it with providing countdowns to save 'Ed's' butt. I'm overworked and underpaid. Come to think of it, I've never been paid! Not a sou, not a centime... "

Reader Jim:- "If you keep on complaining, that's what 'Ed' will pay you in - sous, centimes and francs. They're worthless now."

Countdown Jim:- "My point exactly! Look at all the work I have to do! Not only do I read Metropole faithfully, but I have to read 'Le Journalphoto: ile de la cite, pont neuf Français' every month, 'France-Amérique' every week and 'L'Express' every week as well. De plus, I go to a French class once a week and we have articles to read for homework. And to top it off, we have to speak French in class as well. What's my reward? Nothing, rien, not even a used cork from Champagne-Ricky."

Reader Jim:- "How else are you going to learn how to read French?"

Countdown Jim:- "And I forgot about 'Champs- Elysées' and Radio France International - when it isn't on strike."

Reader Jim:- "At least for 'Champs-Elysées,' you can read and listen it during work, or what remains of it. It gives you something to do."

Countdown Jim:- "But I can't listen to Radio France and drive at the same time."

Reader Jim:- "After December 20, we won't have that problem. We'll be laid off and unemployed. We'll be Les Misérables nouveaux et nous ferons le chômage. Just like the French. You can get up at 6 AM and listen to Radio France in the living room and not worry about driving."

Countdown Jim:- "Why should I get up at 6 AM if I don't have to?"

Reader Jim:- "Pour la Gloire. Pour la Gloire du Metropole et pour la Gloire de la France."

Countdown Jim:- "What good is la Gloire if I don't get paid?"

Reader Jim:- "Because you then participate in something much bigger and greater than yourself. It allows you to forget trivial things such as youphoto: pont st michel, view east're starving, cold and homeless. Remember, the French love to make fun of and insult themselves but la France, that is untouchable. You mock it at great peril. Look at where the tourists go - the Loire and the great châteaux, Versailles, Mont St. Michel, la Tour D'Argent. That is la Gloire. Could you afford to eat at la Tour when you were a student? Of course not. That is why France has la Gloire; to separate the riff-raff Misérables from the people who deserve la Gloire. Besides, who tries to find the traces of Victor Hugo's Paris during the uprising in 1832, even if it were possible? In addition, by providing countdowns, you add to 'Ed's' and Metropole's Gloire."

Countdown Jim:- "We're not allowed to polish their apples."

Reader Jim:- "That's right. What good is a strike if we don't denounce someone? On the count of three:"

Reader Jim and Countdown Jim:- "Un - deux - trois - A bas 'Ed'!!!"

Countdown Jim:- "Hey, wait a minute. You just said the word 'separate.' The whole idea of the French Revolution was - 'Liberté, égalité, fraternité.' How can you have égalité, which, if I'm not mistaken, means 'equality' if you have the idea of 'separate?' Remember the idea of 'separate but equal' that existed in America? It was separate but it wasn't equal. Is this some kind of logical, twisted French thinking? You know that the French are so logical that they don't make sense."

Reader Jim:- "Egalité is a wonderful concept until it is put into practice. At that point the idea of 'l'exception' is born. Nobody wants to be treated differently, unless it is in their favor, which is only natural because everybody thinks himself or herself as being better than every one else. That is why in France no one talks while waiting in line. You might be talking to someone who is inferior to you - horrors! - and the other person doesn't want to talk to you because you might be Belgian, especially with your ridiculous accent, as opposed to their cultivated and refined accent."

Countdown Jim:- "The Québecois think I speak French very well. Anyway, we're getting off the subject. These ideas of la Gloire and égalité are very interesting, but 'Ed' still isn't paying me."

Reader Jim:- "No, but it's all tied together. Everybody can share in la Gloire, that is, the peasants starve while looking at and creating the glorious monuments of France. At the same time, the nobles and 'Enarques' can also look at their monuments. That is true égalité. Don't forget what Stendhal said - "The law, in its majesty, forbids the rich and the poor from sleepingphoto: rowboats, seine under bridges." But too much of a good thing is therefore bad. So we must have l'exception. That is why the Enarques and nobles must live well. Do peasants buy Dior and Chanel? Of course not. Peasants are crude and uncouth. Nobles, by definition, are noble and therefore worthy and dignified."

Countdown Jim:- "What about Enarques? They run the country, but they can't figure out how to change a light bulb. There's nothing noble about them."

Reader Jim:- "Intelligence is valued above all in France. Nobility is valued in France. That is part of la Gloire. The fact that nobility and intelligence are seldom found in the same sentence is l'exception. The fact that Enarques can't tell a sheep from a dog* or the fact that they told the citizens of Toulouse to close their windows to keep out debris from the explosion last year was useless because all of the windows in the city were blown out is l'exception."

Countdown Jim:- "So you're saying that by allowing me to send countdowns, 'Ed' permits me to create la Gloire? And that money can only be appreciated by those who have it? Since I don't have any money, I can't appreciate it? Therefore, I don't deserve it? He is saving me from disgracing myself? Just because I started with nothing and still have most of it left?"

Reader Jim:- "You are becoming very logical."

Countdown Jim:- "God help us. But not too much because that would be too much égalité, which is bad, so there must be l'exception but not too much because that would reveal too much inégalité, which is even worse. But not enough égalité would mean there aren't as many exceptions but there would still be too much inégalité which is also very bad and if it's a leap year there must be more exceptions and more égalité in the right quantities unless the SNCF is on strike at which point the whole concept goes out the window because the track gauge - 'l'écartment' - is set at 1.45 meters [4 feet 8.5 inches] which is la voie normale [standard gauge] and the only exceptions are la voie étroite [narrow gauge] which can be either metrique [1 metre] or Decauville [60 cm] where each écartment is logically rigorous within its own system but each form of l'égalité de l'écartment is incompatible with each other but if the SNCF goes on strike during a leap year then the formula for l'égalité is - [[366! X l'écartment [100cm x 60] X number of écartments] divided by the number of individual French cheeses]] X number of Metropole readers + average daily sales of Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc + square root of SNCF employees who provide helpful information as well as sell tickets** which means..."

Reader Jim:- "Which means it's time to call off this strike and have lunch."

So we leave Countdown Jim and Reader Jim. But after reading "Reds In My Street" and looking at the pictures, Jim '68 immediately springs to the fore -

Jim '68:- "Look at the smoke and the swirling crowds. There's nothing like teargas in the morning. Who was it that said - 'To be young and alive in thephoto: pont st michel, view west morning of the Revolution, that was sublime.' What discipline in the face of that gas attack! No one is breaking ranks. Wait a minute! According to the article that's smoke from the various food stands set up along the route! What a bunch of wimps! In my day we marched for hours without food or anything to drink. No wonder everyone was so grouchy and irritable. Not to mention that food stands were almost unknown in Paris. Either you brought your own food - terribly bourgeois and could be contaminated by the tear gas - or stopped at a restaurant or café - which really disrupted the march of the demonstration."


* An 'Enarque' was driving in the French countryside when he saw a shepherd with his sheep. The Enarque stopped and made a bet with the shepherd that he could tell how many sheep the shepherd had without counting them. If he won, he could keep a sheep as a prize. The Enarque gave a number; the shepherd counted his flock and the number agreed with that given by the Enarque. He picked up the animal nearest him and started going to his car.

The shepherd called after him: "You made a bet with me and you won. Now it's my turn to make a bet with you. If I win, I get my animal back." The Enarque agreed. "I bet you're an Enarque." The Enarque said: "You're right. How did you know?"

"You took my dog."


** According to a popular book about the French whose author you interviewed not too long ago, an SNCF ticket seller can either sell tickets or give information but not both. When I bought tickets for a trip to Chartres, the ticket seller not only sold me the tickets, but also gave me information about the departure of the next train AND wanted to speak to me in English! I refused to listen of course.

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