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The Craziest Thing I Heard When I Was in France Last Week

Last week, I was listening to a debate in France about the use of Eolienne windmills in France. Interestingly, after putting all of their electric lines underground, the French are putting these ugly, low-efficiency, bird- and bat-killing windmills all over the country. There were four people on the pro-Eolienne side and only one on the other, and there was an economist specialized in energy technology who was supposed to be the voice of reason and facts.

I won’t mention most of the crazy things that were said during this debate, because they were no different than the nonsense we hear on these issues here. At some point a listener sent in a question via the Internet (not via the Minitel) that asked, basically, ”Why would we keep using these Eolienne when they cost a fortune and are not profitable and can’t produce much energy?”

That’s when everyone turned to the economist. His response was so French that I thought it was worth sharing it with you:

“First, I would like to dispute the idea that Eolienne windmills aren’t profitable. Once one adds all the subsidies and financial support the industry receives from the French government and the European Community, it is losing very little money.” He went on to explain that “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

It’s not as if American economists don’t say their fair share of stupid things, but if that’s the definition of a profit in France, then I guess we have an explanation for many of our economic differences in the last 20 years.

Going back to France is always a weird cultural experience. While there is no denying that I am very French, after living in the U.S. for so long, I now feel like a fish out of water when I go back. The lack of access to the Internet, the taste of diet coke sweetened with aspartame, how gross public restrooms are, and warm glasses of water at meals are among the hardest things to get used to. On the other hand, I do like the fact that wine is served at every meal and that cold cut is served pretty much throughout the day (at least in my family!).

However, I was somewhat impressed by the fact that stores were opened more than I have ever seen then opened in France. For instance, most stores were opened on May 8th – World War II Victory Day.

As always, I was glad I went but happy to come back to the U.S. That is, until I was detained with my two kids by immigration for three hours last night at Dulles airport, after a nine-hour flight (longer than usual because of the Icelandic volcano) and a three-hour wait at the airport in Paris (same volcano).

No explanations were given to me as to why I had to go through a special screening. From the start, I suspected it had to do with my fingerprints and some IT problems they were having. I was the only resident waiting. No efforts were made to check why I was there, in spite of my requests (I even shamelessly explained that it was my 40th birthday and that I should be at home drinking champagne rather than waiting there without knowing what was going on). Neither were any efforts made to see if it would be appropriate to have some sort of triage in place to differentiate between people entering without a visa or with expired passports and someone like me who was stuck because of IT problems with their equipment.

When it was finally my turn, they just fingerprinted me again and let me go with no explanation. It was too late for champagne, so I went to bed frustrated, to say the least, with the immigration process in this country.


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