Most of the time, I am OK about being a tourist. There's a lot to do and strangers are to be seen peering myopically at maps and street signs, orienting themselves appropriately. It does therefore come as a small jolt to one's pride, especially one as urbane and street-savvy as I should dearly like to be thought of, to be 'taken for a ride'.
I have to say, it was neat, however. A personable young woman approaches the mark in a crowded street, clutching what looks like a large gold ring in her hand. After a moment's recalibration, I realise that I am being asked if the ring she has allegedly found on the street at my feet belongs to me. I reply, with an insouciant smile, that it is not - figuring on the fly that the woman can then keep her prize, and by the look of her somewhat shabby and underfed frame, she could use a little good fortune. Surprisingly, she then presses the ring on me, telling me it does not fit her, but might fit me quite well, not failing to point out how handsome it is and how there is a 'hallmark' proclaiming its authenticity as 18 carat gold. At this point, the first tendrils of doubt begin to cloud my reasoning along with what I can only describe as naked, undiluted and shameful greed. The woman suggested I might like to 'give her a little something - perhaps enough for a Coke or a cup of coffee.' With comprehensively asinine stupidity I pulled out my wallet to find a small bill. The ring looked and felt like gold; I gave the woman 5 euros - her face darkening - she was clearly expecting more, but, nameless suspicions aroused, I simply shrugged and walked away, feeling simultaneously smug and ill at ease. It was only after a minute inspection at a table in a cafe on rue Madeleine including dropping the article on the ground that I realised that brass is less dense than gold and has a different timbre when dropped on to a hard surface. Onlookers presumably doubted my sanity. The scam is apparently widespread and is practised by Eastern European gipsies. Furthermore, I was incredibly lucky not to have my wallet filched by an accomplice during the conversation.
I rather thought my luck had turned, as it happened, since there was seemingly no queue to get into the Pompidou Centre, which still looks unfinished - I wanted to see the Brancusi exhibition. Like all other public museums, it's closed on Tuesdays. Ah. Oh, yes, and in case anybody was wondering, I was laughed at later without mercy, which did me good. Probably.