Halley Knigge (Griffin)

Write. Share. Communicate.


Tonight was the Monte Cristo party for all international students. R is sick, so I ended up having to go alone. Somehow, it was fun anyway – I ended up dancing all night with 2 boys from the Sorbonne, 3 from Germany, one from Montreal and one from Boston – all at once. For some reason I ended up dancing in the middle of the club with them all kind of awkwardly dancing around me in a circle. Who knows how I ended up pimp of all the boys…but it was entertaining.

Somehow, from within the depths of Le Monte Cristo, it didn’t seem to be a problem that I’d already missed the last metro and had no money (or debit/credit) card for a cab. I figured I’d just walk. I’ve had my pepper spray for two years now, and though I’ve walked with it held out before, I’ve never had to use it.

Tonight though, it was 2 am and all I wanted to do was call my friend Kelly from a phone booth near the Champs Elysées. I was in the phone booth, arranging my stuff when a dirty man began pounding loudly on the windows. He demanded 10 euro from me, and when I told him I didn’t have it, he became even more insistant. I told him (in french) that if I had 10 euro, I’d be in a taxi, not a phone booth, that I had no cash and no bank card, but I was sorry.

Instead of leaving, he opened the door to the phone booth, grabbed me by the chest and threw me to the ground before walking away. (EDIT: When I woke up this morning, I still had a dirty handprint on my chest. Yuck.)

I picked up my pepper spray, and though I didn’t know the word in French, I told him I would “put pepper sauce in his eyes,” since that was the closest translation I could come up with. I ran away shouting at him and wielding the pepper spray, and being a girl, I of course started crying. I was running up a side street crying when a man started following me. He didn’t seem menacing though, so I turned around and asked him the way to Gare de L’est. Talking to a friendly person at that point was too much for me, and I couldn’t stop crying.

This man owns a restaurant near the Eiffel Tower, and he withdrew money from his own bank account so I could take a taxi home. He never tried to touch me, but told me about 10 times that I was very pretty, and I shouldn’t cry. I tried to get his phone number or at least his name so I could pay him back his 20 euro, but he refused. All I could get was the name of his restaurant, and I promised him I’d be back with my roommate.

Now that I’m back safe in R and my September apartment, it’s hard to stop crying. Part of that may be the fact that I think I have my own pepper spray in my eye.

Nevertheless, the point of this story is that not only has every French person I’ve met been excited to learn that I’m American, but each one has tried to take care of me in some way. After my savior tonight, I think I love the French.

I had my pepper spray out and armed while I was being dragged to the ground – though I kept threatening, I was still too scared to spray it, even as I was being thrown into the dirt. Make sure you have the balls to wield the pepper spray you possess, or it will do you no good.

As soon as I stop leaking from the eyes, I’m going to bed – first thing tomorrow, I’m going to locate this guy’s restaurant and drop a lot of money there.

Author: Halley (Griffin) Knigge

Storyteller and adventurer with a focus on new and social media. Ten years of award-winning writing and editing experience, eight years working professionally to share compelling stories through brand journalism, three years as an airline spokesperson, two years as a Tacoma Arts Commissioner and 30+ years of learning something new every day.

9 thoughts on “

  1. that’s kind of scary, it’s good ur okay

  2. This was your Dad’s REAL fear – the one he didn’t tell you about. And he is very proud of the way you handled yourself, and very appreciative that the French will reach out to help those in need. BTW – You don’t need balls to use pepper spray; ovaries will suffice. 😎

  3. That sounds terrifying, especially when everything is happening in another language… Good for you for thinking your way through the whole situation. If you were a little closer to Seattle I’d come give you a big hug right this instant! I’m so glad you are okay!

  4. I don’t know much about pepper spray, but I think you did the right thing. I’ve read several news items about incidents where police pepper spray didn’t stop a crazy person. Seems to me that the drill should be – get loose, spray and run fast. Crying is optional unless you point the spray the wrong way.

  5. We hope Rachael feels better soon – is there a medical facility in/associated with Science Po?

  6. Es -tu idiote? Pourquoi es-tu seule (j’espere pas soule) dans les rues de Paris a deux heures du matin?Grace a Dieu que tu sois sauve. Prends plus soin la prochaine fois!du poivre en bombe? (sais pas mais mieux que sauce je crois.) Bises, Mmme O

  7. hii talk to your dad beep on line and he gave me the hml to your blogi was mugged in paris once when i was 18.. didnt have any spray and no one came to my aide but it was a long long time agoglad that nice man was so good to youenjoy paris its wonderfulsome day iw ill go backlove from a fellow americannamed arwen

  8. Halley! What a scary experience! I’m glad things turned out okay…and I wanted to say something about the straightening iron-ness in your last entry. I appreciated that paragraph, and you should take lots of pictures of your French-straightened hair. It sounds like your trip has been amazing so far!

  9. I just hope you know that there’s a lot of us that will get on a plane for you at the drop of a hat.

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