Not me, I hasten to add, but the chap in front of me at the checkout. He’d spoken to me earlier, to cheerfully announce he was buying a can of beer ‘pour la route’, a little too cheerfully, I’d thought.
At the checkout he repeatedly set off the alarm before la caissière asked him to open his jacket. I recognise the problem with the over-sensitive alarm; my library books are always setting it off. However, this chap had no library books and made a grand show of pulling out his pockets and protesting his innocence before she let him go. It was then she spotted the bulge in his pants (!) and called him back.
She pulled out the bottle of Pastis and he shrugged, like a small kid caught with his fingers in the biscuit barrel, and she let him go with a ban from the shop. And, that that was that. No fuss, not argument and no police. It was all very civilised, the second time I have witnessed matters that would have warranted a call to the boys in blue in England, being resolved here informally and effectively.
Maybe it’s because the Gendarmerie are a pretty serious outfit compared with their British counterparts. Like many european police, they are armed and are fairly intimidating (though I think the Polizei come first in the intimidation stakes). Maybe it’s because people take responsibility here and active citizenship means dealing with your own problems. Maybe this is a small place and she knew the guy. There are only so many shops you can get banned from before it becomes difficult to buy food. Either way, I was quite impressed that the matter was dealt with without the (expensive) intervention of the state, and so calmly too. Some might think he got off lightly.
Maybe Monsieur Pastis-Pantalons will consider joining the library.