France — or, to be specific, Paris — has a problem. But, in the spirit of “Lafayette, we are here (again),” never fear, mon amis, I have a solution.
The problem? Thousands and thousands of tourists. OK, right, that’s not new. But since 2008, thousands of those thousands have been putting “love locks” on the Pont des Arts, a bridge across the Seine near the Louvre. Lovers pledge their troth (or just smooch), lock a lock onto the bridge and then throw the key into the river. (Think of it like getting married in Vegas, only without the paperwork.)
Voila! Tres romantique, oui?
Non. Tres mal!
(Full disclosure: I don’t speak French. But I do have Google Translate.)
Anyway, over the weekend, a hunk of the bridge railing fell down under the weight of all that love. Even worse, the French authorities seem at a loss as to what to do.
Which, frankly, surprises me. You see, I recall visiting Paris in 2004 with my wife and two young sons. After a tour of Les Invalides, we strolled across the grounds, and the boys, as young boys will, sprinted off across the grass. Instantly, a gendarme appeared, avec whistle (which he blew, loudly), and gestured that we were most certainly not supposed to be on the grass.
Yes these same officious folks have spent six years trying to figure out how to keep this one bridge lock-free, without success?
Sheesh. Time for some American know-how (and I’m not talking about the petition that a couple of Americans living in Paris have started to ban the practice).
Listen up, Lafayette, here’s what you do:
First, go buy your maintenance guys a good pair of bolt cutters. Maybe a few pair. Have them start at the middle. Cut a lock. Throw it into a trash can. Repeat. If you’re short of public workers (or if they’re on another long lunch break), maybe you could go to the Bastille and get some inmate workers. (What, no more Bastille? When did that happen?)
Second (and this is the real hard part), you might want to post a guard or two at the bridge. All the time. Yes, even at night. And weekends. And all of those holidays. Even during, ahem, long lunch hours.
I know, I know. Parliament will have to debate this. Labor laws will have to be rewritten. Union rules too. But give it a shot. After all, you guys once overthrew royalty and beheaded the king. Napoleon conquered most of Europe (sorry about that whole Russia thing). You can do this.
Now, probably, after a few months, people will get the idea and you can cut back to one guard. And one bolt cutter.
Yes, the lover lockers may move on to a different bridge. You know how lovers are. Of course you do. You’ve been luring, and fleecing, young lovers for a long time. But you can do it. You see, you can use the same technique at the new bridge. It works for all bridges. You’ve head of “broken windows” policing? Same thing, but with a bridge.
I hope this helps. True, you may not read this right away, what with the time difference and the shorter work hours and shorter workweeks and all.
But I hope you get on it soon. You see, my wife and I are coming to Paris in November.
Don’t make me bring my bolt cutters.
Follow Paul Whitefield on Twitter @PaulWhitefield1