A couple of years ago, the half-wit socialists in Toulouse City Hall had what appeared to actually be a half-decent idea: the 'Office of Tranquility'. If you had some kind of noise-related or socially-motivated beef, this rather philosophical-sounding local government department (hey, we're in France, after all) would respond to your calls, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Noisy neighbours, street pissers and brainless vandals would all become a thing of the past as concerned citizens dialled the easy-to-remember four-digit phone number (I can't recall what it is) and got Mayor Cohen's caring vigilantes out on the street to tidy everything up.
Let's not forget that, despite Airbus and a host of other high-profile, big money investments down here, Toulouse remains a southern European city with a lot of behaviour to match: poor, irritable driving and unmotivated slanging matches to name but two examples. Bearing this in mind, Mr. Cohen's Office of Tranquility was never going to have an easy time. I'd oftened wondered how effective it was until yesterday, when I saw the first published statistics of its achievements. Proud they were, too; not to be found tucked away at the foot of page ten of the local rag, La Dépêche du Midi, these statistics have been printed on man-size posters and pasted up all over town:
Office de la Tranquillité: 300,000 appels en 18 mois!
Is this really something to be proud of? That two-thirds of the urban population has, in the course of the last year and a half, been sufficiently motivated to pick up the phone and register its displeasure with one or more aspects of their daily life in this city? I'd be rather concerned if I were the mayor. Nowhere does it state how many conflicts have been resolved or what measures have been taken to reduce the number of concerned callers, like "Police execute four pavement-fouling dogs" or "Twenty-three taggers shot this week alone!". Without this type of information, the oh-so-tranquil-office will remain, for me at least, an utter waste of time. When you can't sleep because of partying students or have stepped in some wastrel's freshly-tapped urine the last thing you need is a sympathetic ear. What you need is a gun.