Emmanuelle phoned me up this morning, from the airport in Paris, to inform me that she and her friend were about to leave for an excursion to New York. I reacted by pointing out that she hadn't even told me anything yet about her trip to Moscow and Saint-Petersburg last week. She said laughingly that she had not had time to tell me anything about Russia because she had been so busy preparing her trip to the USA.
I was reminded of a short excursion to Manhattan with my son François, many years ago. Our very first taste of the amusements of America was provided by our young black cab-driver. Just after leaving Kennedy airport, he told us he had to drop in at a gasoline station. Having drawn his vehicle up alongside a gas pump, he got out of his cab, only to realize that the cap of his gas tank was on the far side with respect to the pump. So, he got back in and mumbled something about having to reposition his cab so that the cap of his gas tank was right next to the pump. My son and I watched with amazement as he made a series of back-and-forth movements which finally turned his vehicle in the opposite direction, but brought it in a half-circle to the other side of the pump… where the cap of his gas tank was still, of course, on the far side of the cab. The fellow simply couldn't understand what was happening. Starting off a new attempt to get his vehicle located at the right place, he looked across his shoulder at François and me, and said with a shy grin: "Jeez, I just gotta force myself to use my brain a bit better to solve this problem." On this third attempt, he did in fact succeed.
Once settled into the sleazy little hotel room we had booked, we went out walking in cold, wet Manhattan. Within five minutes, as a result of standing too close to the gutter at a street intersection, we were swamped with muddy water, and had to return to the hotel to clean ourselves.
That afternoon, there had been a gruesome murder affair in New Jersey. A young Hispanic guy had shot an entire family. My son and I were amazed by the non-stop TV interviews with various friends and colleagues of the murderer. They all seemed to be saying much the same thing: "Carlos is such a nice friendly guy. Everybody loves him. You know, he's the sort of fellow who wouldn't normally hurt a fly. It's hard to know what to say, because—believe me—Carlos is really a great guy." Clearly, there was something wrong. Carlos might not hurt flies. In certain circumstances, though, he seemed to be capable of hurting humans. But it was as if nobody were prepared to believe that their nice friend Carlos had just used a rifle to mow down three members of a family.
I forgot to remind my daughter, on the phone, that she might look into the idea of climbing up inside the Statue of Liberty, as my son and I once did. But I suspect that Emmanuelle will be able to imagine exotic projects of that kind without the advice of her father. As soon as she gets back to France, I intend to ask her if she heard any news about Carlos during her stay in Manhattan. It would certainly be a pity if such a nice guy were still in jail.