I ran into Joe on the streets of Paris recently. He was wan and drawn. Glancing continually behind himself. “I’m on the lam,” he whispered. For 36 hours, and I still have hopes of making the border.”
This was a total shock. When the sign on the door reads tiez, Joe never pushes, but dutifully obeys and pulls. When it says poussez, he pushes. A law-abiding fellow. “For goodness’ sake," I asked, "what are you running from?”
“Just look at this,” he croaked, and slipped a creased piece of newsprint into my palm. It told a chilling tale. One that made me quickly wonder what shirt I had put on this morning. Under the Headline, “Beware the crocodile,” it told of a citizen in Thailand who had been apprehended by French customs police on the Strasbourg-to-Paris express. In a suitcase they pried from his grasp were 275,431 stitched crocodiles and/or alligators about 1 inch in length. The cops were unsure which, as are most people.
But these flics were no dummies. No matter how much the suspect protested that he was an insignia collector, the more they became firmly convinced that these reptiles were falsified trade marks going onto shirts, sox, sweaters, hats and even suspenders to be sold to unsuspecting tourists.
Now the dragnet was out all over France. Joe had just returned from Bangkok and Hong Kong with reptiles all over his wardrobe, even his shorts. So here I found him, dodging from dim alleyway to grimy sidewalk in Paris, sporting a Pierre Cardin belt, a St. Laurent tie, a Ferrari key ring and matching Lacoste shirt, sox and suspenders. To make it worse, he reeked of faux Givenchy after-shave.
“There is a woman in Bangkok who can free me,” he lamented. “Down at the end of Silom Road at the Oriental Hotel she operates a cart selling all this stuff. She assured me that her cart was franchised.”
I saw his dilemma. If you couldn’t believe in her franchise, how could you believe in the $25 Rolexes they were selling on next cart.
Then Joe became bitter. “Why me?” he asked in the mode of every framed person in history. “I never broke any French laws by posting handbills against the law of 1881 (Defense d’Afficher Loi du 29 Juilet 1881 can be found on on most Paris buildings). I never tore the tags off mattresses under penalty of law.”
I nodded inadequately.
“Why don’t they go after the real crooks? Only yesterday I saw a Chicago Bears sweat shirt, and under the NFL emblem was written, “Let’s Get Cracking.’ “I sure bet Mike Ditka never said that!” I could only mumble that I’d rather face 275,431 crocodiles than Mike Ditka.
Then Joe heard the wail of a police van. Our conversation was over.
“Turn yourself in!” I pleaded.
“Not a chance,” he scoffed sardonically, putting on his Porsche sunglasses. “I’ll just have to keep running until my Gucci shoelaces wear out.”