French woman led away in chains for refusing to be safe

I’m exaggerating only slightly. What happened was that a woman, while entering the subway, refused to hold the handrail of the escalator she was on. This is against the law in The Great White North. So she was arrested, cuffed, and carted off to the pokey. Here’s the story.

What prompted this elegant Chess-playing woman, with no previous criminal record, to join the ranks of the nefarious? Germs. Yes, she was terrified of picking up a stray microorganism from the railing.

The law stating that “Thou shalt hold the handrail” is obviously the result of bounteous bureaucratic busybodiness, a rule created to stem the fear in the minds of the excessively nervous that somebody might get hurt. These lawmakers are the sorts of people who sit up nights and concoct various scenarios of escalator doom (lopped off fingers are nothing to them) until it gets so bad that there are unable to live with their frightening musings, and so they see to it that those who would rob them of their sleep are punished

Which is fine. None of my business, and not my country. But what is interesting is the alibi used by the woman: fear of germs. If she merely said, “I don’t want to hold the damn rail. Leave me alone” she would have no allies and no hope.

But she brilliantly played off the those with a Fear of Falling with those with a Fear of Disease. It will fascinating to watch her case play out in court. Experts from both sides will be called. Which will create the most lurid scene?

The Falling group, besides touting the obvious cases of lost limbs, will claim women might trip and catch their earrings in the treads, thereby risking an embarrassing loss of face. But the Disease group has Swine Flu, TB, and the ebola virus on their side. Frankly, I don’t see how they can lose.

Which means the law will be changed to “Thou shalt not hold the handrail.” Perpetrators will be forced to attend classes on cleanliness and will be made to demonstrate proper hand washing. Lawyers will discover groups—under-served groups, naturally—who got sick after riding the escalator, and soon manufacturers will be sued for allowing the spread of disease. Handrails will be removed at great taxpayer expense. And all will be right with the world.

Until somebody trips.


  1. Luis Dias

    Incredible. Just incredible.

  2. Hilfy

    Next time I visit Canada, I need to remember what a Nanny State they are!

    I’m surprised they don’t require everyone to wear safety glasses, knee pads, shin guards, elbow pads and helmets for that most dangerous act of walking.

    They should never make laws that attempt to enforce common sense.

  3. JH

    “The third time, she crossed her arms,” said Lt. Daniel Guerin of Laval police.

    I admire the woman’s doggedness, but not the trouble that follows.

  4. Rob

    As a Canadian, I can tell you what will happen. There will be no court case. The prosecution will drop all charges, and almost overnight there will be some sort of anti-bacterial wipe or cleaner and a new law requiring everyone to use one before using the hand rail.

  5. john

    A lady breaks a petty law; an officer issues a citation and tells her to comply. She refuses and is issued another citation basically for resisting and told again to comply, she refuses to accept it an is then handcuffed and taken into custody.

    That basically what would happen everywhere in response to repeated disregard to direct authority request. She wasn’t arrested for not holding the handrail.

    Her correct response should have been to take the first citation, grab the hand rail, then protest the citation either in court or refusal of payment.

    If she’s such a germaphobe, wear gloves that are washed every day or hold the rail with a tissue like the other OCDs. If she takes this to court I hope the judge throws it out.

  6. JFH

    The only problem with the hand sanitizer is that it will lead to the development of superbugs!

  7. But Rob is spot on. Hand sanitizer stands and sterile wipe dispensers will soon be de rigueur at both ends of all Canadian escalators, then next year the elevators and finally all public stairwells. There is no stopping this movement now. “Those Who Care” are in control of our northern neighbors and could no more stop this snowball from rolling to its naturally conclusion than walk past a Tim Horton’s without dropping in for a cuppa.

  8. She could take the stairs. Or better yet, eschew all forms of public transportation. That’s my personal strategy. No escalators, no subways, and no Canada.

    If you demand and use the nanny state “amenities,” then you get the authoritarian mind and body control that comes with it. I recommend rejection of all that. Take the road less traveled. Learn how to walk. Many one-year-olds have mastered the art, so you can too.

  9. JA

    The problem with hand sanitizers of course is that some one will get cancer. Then the sanitizers will be declared carcinogenic, with or without rigorous proof, companies will fail, bureaucracies will blossom, and psychiatrists will see a slight uptick in their practices and we’ll all get to see a new round of personal injury lawyer advertisements on TV: ” Hurt on an Escalator? Call William…)

  10. Bob W

    “This must be Flutterbudget Center,” declared the Wizard.

  11. David

    As John points out, she was arrested for disobeying an order (not for the handrail, that’s just an ordinary ticket). What is not mentionned, is that most people have trouble obeying the “Subway Police”. These are applicants that were refused by real police departments, and make themselves believe they are real cops by being tough guys with the weak. As soon as there is real trouble, they run and call for the real police. They should be supervised more closely, and give friendly advice to subway users, while anticipating negative responses. Someone doesn’t what to hold the handrail? Let them, and give a ticket. Don’t make the remedy more damagable that the disease.

  12. Leo P. Indiana

    This is a sad story, not about a poor woman, but about politicians, bureaucrats and other demagogues that justify their self importance by filling reams of paper with silly laws, rules and regulations. You have seen the type, the old geezer in need of a sound bite that seizes on a tragedy and announces that as soon as he gets back to the seat of repression he will pass a law to protect the children and animals from malfeasance. We used to charge criminals with murder, now we up charge them for using a hand gun, does the victim care? Now if they use a handgun from a car there is a tack-on. Pretty soon if you were smoking when you pulled the trigger it will be another 20 months in the slammer for exposing the victim to second hand smoke.

    This is then coupled with the “peace officers” who are living their power fantasies by hauling a woman to jail for not holding on the handrail. Oh the humanity! What next, malicious walking; failure to look the officer in the eyes when being spoken to? Certainly we have seen that breaking wind at an officer will get you a trip to the slammer. We can burn the flag but can’t fart on the police, go figure.

    The power hungry couch their argument in the half truths about each loss of liberty being for our own good, what is unquestioned is; do we need to be watched and protected from ourselves at every moment? I think not!

    I will concede at one time there was a need for regulation and rulemaking, but now the very organisms we created are working to self justify the expansion of their meddling. Don’t believe me? Look back on the early days of the Federal regulators, early regulations were aimed at hazards which claimed 20 or 30 lives a year. Lately I’ve read of hazards being investigated that have claimed 10 or 15 lives over 25 years. There must be a magic number of casualties that once exceeded require regulation no matter over what period of time they occur.

    Government in every form boils down to a grab for power; we just do it now “for your own good”

  13. James S


    What right does the officer have to tell you to do something in the first place?

    As far as I am concerned all civil servants (and police officers come within that genre) are just that – servants. A servant may be given authority to request that you do something but can not force you to do it unless they have that authority.

    In this case the servant requested that the lady hold the handrail; she refused. Under the powers given to that servant by the populace he then issued a citation for not holding the handrail. This is all well and good and, we assume, is the intention of the populace.

    However the servant went too far and then issued a citation for resisting further requests followed by arrest. Is not holding the handrail an arrestable offence? Almost definitely not. So why did she get arrested? Because the servant overstepped their authority by turning the original offence into one in which he had the power of arrest.

    Things like this are how police officers get their arrest stats up.

  14. Joy

    But they won’t ban skiing or ice hockey.
    Wait until someone tries to ban high heels.
    They’ve banned driving without a seat belt here because it was costing the NHS too much money. They’ve banned smoking in all public places except research establishments.

    Some clever clog publican has found a loophole; he asks everyone to fill out a tick box questionnaire about smoking and pay a pound so that his customers can smoke for ever in his pubs after the one off payment. It’s totally legal and gets around the ban.
    I wish him luck with it.

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