Unexpected Paris Hijack
I’ve just arrived back from the Food Ingredients Europe Conference in Paris. I have to admit that it’s taken all weekend to recover from 38 meetings over 3 days. The whole trip was extraordinarily hectic for a number of reasons. The event itself sprawled over two large halls and my pedometer fell over itself having clocked up so many steps. However, most importantly I suppose, it was also the General Strike that started on Wednesday 4th December.
By the Wednesday evening it was obvious that negotiating my way back to the hotel was going to be a challenge. I stepped out of the event and did my best to hail a taxi but as you can imagine there really was little chance of procuring a vehicle as just about everyone had simultaneously thought the same thing.
Having waited a while, eventually a guy asked me if I needed a taxi for one. On other evenings I had found colleagues to share with but that night I wasn’t going to be so lucky. However, when I replied in the affirmative he said there was no chance of anyone taking just me anywhere on a night like this. You can imagine I was feeling a little concerned but he smiled and said there was an alternative if I was interested.
Photo Austin Neill
‘I will take you by motorbike’ he suggested. I remonstrated that I did not have the appropriate helmet and coat etc. but he brushed away my concerns and handed me a hairnet, helmet and motorbike jacket. You can imagine I was rather surprised by the turn of events and could never have imagined this would be my mode of transport when I had left FIE. However, you should have seen me by the time we actually reached the hotel!
At one point I thought I might well be auditioning for a remake of the Italian Job, albeit in Paris. As I clung on the bike weaved through the traffic at alarming speed, snaking around lorries, mounting pavements and basically breaking every traffic rule in the highway code. I must admit by this point I was fearing for my life and alternating squeezing my eyes shut and then staring like a very fragile rabbit at very big truck headlights.
Photo Christian Dubovan
As I finally stepped off the machine outside my hotel I could barely stand as my legs were shaking so much; I was a wreck, but little did I realise that worse was to follow. Stupidly I had imagined the usual taxi fare of 25 euros would even be lowered seeing as the time taken was much less than normal and bikes are much cheaper to run. I was wrong. As I handed back the equipment the driver said, ‘That will be 125 euros please.’ If I was feeling weak beforehand I was totally overcome. ‘No way, I said. This is outrageous.’ The guy, who was rather burly squared up to me and I was wondering just what kind of a turn things were going to take having already risked my life so dramatically just minutes before.
Gruffly he acquiesced, ‘Well 100 euros then.’ I realised I had been fleeced and reluctantly agreed. I just wanted the enforced relationship to end right there and then. Having negotiated to his satisfaction he said, ‘Now you pay by card', lifted a card machine out of the back of his bike top box and handed it to me. Quite obviously I wasn’t the first, and would definitely not be the last sucker during this strike.
When I told a friend of mine this story she said I should have been impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit. Hmnn, I am yet to be convinced.
Next week I'll outline the trends in food ingredients for 2020.