Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Un mystère...

Summer this year has been short and only moderately hot.  We experienced three days of chaleur that kept us indoors.  The rest of the time was spent battling mosquitoes trying to gain entry to our apartment to steal some blood.

For the rest of the month of August, we wandered through the ghost town that Paris became.  Le congé annuel was in full force.  It seems that most people left la ville for points south and west to enjoy three or four weeks of well deserved vacation.  France has the 5th largest economy in the world.  People work very hard here.  So the time off is something they relish.  There were times when we wished we'd joined them.  The quiet our our emptied ville was nearly oppressive.

House of the Sleepy Lion
 Silent watchers over empty Parisian streets...

On a shopping expedition into the 5th, Jude found a wonderful needlepoint shop.  Their hand painted mesh and beautiful wool yarns were very attractive.  A kit might have to ordered soon.  With winter coming on it might be nice for Jude to have an activity that helps keep us indoors and out of the cold and wet.  On leaving the boutique, Jude picked up a guide to living in Paris.

The free guide is filled with interesting tidbits of information.  Including, but certainly not limited to, how to protect your apartment from being burgled.  As an outsider and not knowing the "lay of the land" here, it's easy to become paranoid about such things.  The guide opened a wide array of new opportunities to add to our paranoia.  It lead me to wondering how often thieves were successful, how they operated, and how paranoid should I be?

We noticed how a great number of apartments had their metal window protectors pulled shut.  Those apartments must have been empty.  French insurance companies require residents secure their domicile when their homes are not occupied, such as when everyone is away for the month of August working on the perfect tan.

 Chalk marks on the sidewalk...

The Paris guide included several pages that described a signal system thieves use, complete with illustrations.  Apparently, robbing unoccupied residences is a well organized activity in these parts.  The system includes chalk marks made on the sidewalk near building entries.  Symbols indicate which dwellings may have "friendly" women (why this is important, I have no idea), policemen who might live there, a building that has already been "hit", and symbols marking a residence that is ready for robbery.

Seeings as to how there was little else to do and seeings as to how we were more than a little bored, Jude and I started looking at the sidewalks in our quartier to see what might be seen.  It was fascinating.  One side of the street had chalk marks indicating the same number, like the number "5".  Another street around the corner might have "6" marked next to apartment building doors.  Where there was a business, no marks were found the entryways.

We talked over this new information and compared it against the marks indicated in the Paris guide.  They were not the same.  So we cogitated on this a bit and came to the conclusion that whoever made the chalk marks in our area either had changed the symbol system or used the symbols for some other purpose than to rob unoccupied places.

One day, two men were seen making marks all around our area.  They worked quickly and moved fast.  When they thought they were seen, they ducked into doorways or started conversations with people on the street.  It seemed like strange behavior, regardless of how we interpreted their activity.

What does these symbols mean?

A building one of the men entered had a very different chalk symbol than any of the other building entries.  What did it mean?  What were they guys up to?  Were they setting places up for robbery by indicating which buildings were most easily "hit"?  Or were they just two of the many delivery folk who put flyers and ads into resident's boite au lettre?

It was all a mystery.

What we observe is this:  Since les vacances have ended and the quartier is once again filled with life, living, and uniquely Parisian activities, the chalk marks have disappeared.

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