Rituals (France)

Locking the public garden for the night. 

The Luxembourg Garden, which has a fence around it, an elegant fence with a number of gates that are closed at night, keeping the birds in and people out, is locked at sundown like many other French parks. There is a ritual for this; last night I stayed to enjoy it.

At about 6:15 pm (at the moment) policemen close the children's playground, a gated enclosure within the gated enclosure. You hear their whistles in the background over the noise of the children. More whistles, loud, short, shrill, playful, and fewer children's voices. The merry-go-round is wrapped up.

Now there is a half hour of quiet before--6:45 on the dot--the whistles begin again for the rest of the garden--a whistle off to the left, to the right, in the distance, coming closer--until the last chair is vacated, the last basketball-tossing kid throws his last shot, the last chess players gather up their board. Small children have gone, older ones head off on their skateboards, the petanque players put on their coats. People walk towards the exits, north, south, east and west. The joggers continue--I've been among them; you avoid catching the policemen's eyes until you've made it round for the last time and out the right gate. A policeman stands at each gate, keeping people from coming in--I've tried to do that too--if you are crossing the neighbourhood from west to east or vice versa, it is a good deal further when you can't cut across the Garden. The policeman will make no exceptions, the garden is closed, sorry.

Bonsoir Madame, the policeman says to the frowzy blonde woman in a mini-skirt. A demain.