I often write about how arrogant the French are and how they are so proud of that trait in their collective DNA. I usually talk about it in a negative sense, having been married to a Frenchman for a while and remembering so many fights where he absolutely had to give me some kind of “moral lesson”. I also come across daily French life lessons from disgruntled bus drivers, bakers, school teachers, administrative workers. It can be exasperating sometimes, but, I just saw an example of where a crime was prevented and a very dangerous situation averted due to a French woman’s up-in-your-face attitude. You gotta love it.
This true story is about an attempted robbery which happened last week in a bar/tabac in a small town in Normandy, near Calvados. It was about ten in the evening and a hooded man toting a pistol and an empty bag burst into the quiet bar where there were about ten clients. The manager and owner, Nathalie, was holding a month-old baby in her arms when the robber stormed in. He shouted something about this being a hold-up and the first thing she did was to start yelling at him about how that wasn’t the way one should talk around a baby. She calmly brought the baby back to his mother in the next room and then came back to handle this guy.
She yelled at the thug some more and told him he should take off his hood if he wanted her to talk to him. He demanded to see the manager. She kept on insisting that he show his face, all the while shouting that she was the manager. Nathalie insisted that a real man wouldn’t hide behind a mask and threaten a baby. She advanced toward him; aggressively
pushing him out the door. A shot was fired and then another one. (The shots, fortunately, turned out to be blanks). A client picked up a chair and crashed it over the robber’s head while Nathalie picked up his empty bag and beat him a few times with it. The guy finally made it out the door and took off on his motorbike.
Now, the police, of course, don’t suggest that anyone follow Nathalie’s example. They don’t advocate vigilante justice. But, as Nathalie said in an interview afterward, she had no time to think. Her French sense of civic education and her arrogant French attitude just took over. No one acts like the robber did in front of a baby!
That was the first thing she preached to him. Secondly, if you want to talk to me, take off your mask. And thirdly, get the heck out of my establishment! And take this stupid, empty bag with you! At the time of this failed robbery, Nathalie didn’t know that the gun was shooting blanks. But she didn’t care. That guy’s actions in front of the baby were unacceptable.
The would-be thief actually came back to the scene of the crime since he had forgotten his charger. The police were on their way and the young 21-year-old man knew he would be caught. He gave himself up and Nathalie waited with him calmly in her bar for the police to pick him up. She undoubtedly had time to give him a few more life lessons. (One of them probably was that he should have been a bit more prepared and certainly not have forgotten his charger!)