Subject: a visit to a police station in France
Hi Ziners, I promised this story to Jennie: A few years ago, my wife & I were driving through France, on our way to Annecy from the Alsace area. We took a scenic route through some mountain areas with great scenary (it was January). All this took quite a bit longer than expected, and we wound up stopping for dinner in Besancon. From what I remember, the main road in Besancon is essentially a very large traffic circle (roundabout), with half a dozen different directions you can choose from.

We wanted to exit toward Lyon, but could not find that exit. One of the great things about roundabouts is that if you don't see what you like, go around again. Well after the third time around, past the railroad tracks, under the bridge, etc. (we were getting to know the route quite well), we knew we had to stop, so we found a hotel we we found that there was indeed an exit for Lyon, they just used the ancient name of Lyon (sorry I can't remember what it is) on the sign instead of Lyon. Proceeding, we were on our way. What does this have to do with the police? By the time we left Besancon, it was almost dark.

We are now on the road about a half hour, when we come to some kind of a checkpoint. They pulled over each car and took a quick look, and then you're off. Except us. They are looking at the headlights and pointing. One looked a bit dimmer than the other to me, but that was about it. It turns out that the headlights on this particular car (and I believe a lot of European cars) have what I call the parking light built into the headlight. On this particular headlight, the main light was burned out, and only the parking light remained. This was the cause of concern of the police. They ask for the registration, which I retrieved from the glove box and handed it over.

He points to the papers, and I see that the registration is expired. Now keep in mind that my French is roughly equivalent to a three year old. My wife has mastered the key shopping words. I can get by with very basic concepts. Registering an auto is just beyond my capabilities. We do a lot of shrugging and pointing. He and his partner decide that we should follow them to the police station, which we do. It's a short distance away.

Now that we are there, the police are at a loss for what to do with us. The one that initially pulled us over is so nervous, that he is smoking a cigarette that he forgot to light. We explain (we think) that the car is rented and nothing more can be done that evening. We suggest (in the universal charade language) that they photocopy our registration papers, and fight it out with the rental company.

He accepts this, and we are on our way once more. We reach our destination a couple of hours later (the person we got directions from back in Besancon was kind enough to phone our B& B in Annecy to say we would be a little late).

By the way, we now check the registration and the lights on each car we rent, though this problem has never happened again. Steve in Chino Hills, California