Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Secret Omnibus Inspector of Paris

Some things just tickle my fancy. I was doing some family history research and read the following story in an old newspaper - you couldn't make this stuff up!

The Edinburgh Evening Courant Sep 13 1867

An Eccentric Traveller - The Paris correspondent of the Express is responsible for the following:- Most of the omnibus conductors in Paris, more especially those on the line from the Barriere du Trone to the Palais Royal, have been for years familiar with the face of a little old man with a cheerful look, sparkling eye, and grey hair, who literally passed half his life riding in omnibuses. This eccentric individual always got into the first omnibus which left the quarter in which he lived at seven o'clock in the morning. He went in the first instance, to the Palais Royal, and then somewhere else. He took half an hour for his breakfast, and an hour for his dinner. The rest of the day he passed in omnibuses, and he always contrived to get a number in time for a seat in the past omnibus from the Palais-Royal to the Trone at midnight. He sat whenever he could in a corner next the door, so that he might talk to the conductor, and he betrayed visible vexation when he could not get that place. On getting into an omnibus he always asked for a "correspondence" - i.e, a ticket entitling the bearer to ride for nothing on some other line - but he very seldom made use of it. His habit was to put the ticket in his waistcoat pocket and pay afresh in the next carriage. Two days ago, after taking his dinner in a third-class restaurant which he frequented in the Rue de Ville, he asked the waiter to let him sleep a little, but begged him particularly to wake him in half an hour, as he had to take the omnibus for Batignolles. When the waiter, with the punctuality due to a regular customer, came to wake him he shook him by the shoulder in vain. The little old gentleman was dead. The doctor called in certified that he had been carried off by an apoplectic stroke. The domicile of so great an omnibus traveller was easily found. It turned out that he was a native of Nantes, whose head had been turned by his coming unexpectedly into a considerable fortune. He was under the delusion that he was a secret inspector of omnibuses, whose duty is to to about and report the passengers, with a view to discovering frauds on the part of conductors. 1500 omnibus correspondence tickets, carefully sorted and labelled, were found in one of his drawers.

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