“It is the working man is the happy man,” Benjamin Franklin wrote. “It is the idle man is the miserable man.” With all apologies to America’s premier kite enthusiast, he’s full of shit. And if he hadn’t spent the last 228 years buried in the center of Philadelphia, he’d probably need to have a chat with a decidedly not-idle French baker, who was just fined €3,000 ($3,695) for working too hard. Where’s the happiness in that?
Cédric Vaivre runs Boulangerie du Lac, the only bakery in Lusigny-sur-Barse, a town in northeast France. Last summer, in order to accommodate a steady stream of tourists, he kept his doors open and his ovens running seven days a week. It seems like that kind of commitment to his potential customers—even the ones who mispronounce ‘croissant’—would be commended, but instead it attracted the attention of the local authorities.
“A few days ago, I received registered mail from the labor inspector following a check of my bakery this summer,” he told the L’Est Eclair newspaper. “I am told that I will be fined because I was open seven days a week. My file was sent to the public prosecutor. Yet I only did my job.”
France clearly has some peculiarities. In addition to the enduring popularity of both mimes and Gérard Depardieu, there’s an equally strange decree in the the Aube region that requires bakeries to be closed at least one day each week. In 2016, Vaivre received an exemption to keep his boulangerie open all seven days, but he did not receive permission for that exemption last year. Vaivre has tried to plead his case, insisting that he just wants to keep a seven-day schedule during the busy summer months, but the Bakery Police is having none of it; one official told him that his “only option” was to open a second location that would close on a different day.
A petition in support of Vaivre has collected almost 2,500 signatures, and the mayor of Lusigny-sur-Barse is on his side too. “In a tourist area, it seems essential that we can have businesses open every day during the summer,” mayor Christian Branle said. “There is nothing worse than closed shops when there are tourists. You have to have some common sense.”
Vaivre hasn’t paid that €3,000 fine yet, because he’s holding out hope that the authorities might reduce the amount or waive it entirely. Until then, he’s one working man who is pretty much the opposite of happy.