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Metro Musings: On the 7.



Here comes another installment of what happened on the Paris metro! When we were last on the train together, we were on the line 6 and I was being offered a cuddly baby animal calendar. All was going swimmingly until my donation wasn't deemed sufficient, and the offer was immediately rescinded. Diss.

We've moved from the lovely line 6 that boasts one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower (between the Bir-Hakeim and Passy stops), and we are now roaring at high speeds through the metro line 7. 

Stationed quietly on the train, I was happily making my way to work with a bag full English textbooks, crayons and my Tami the Tambourine from Texas. I was fully armed to teach France's future finest about Tami, her Thanksgiving travels and the letter "T" (if you hadn't already noticed). You know, important stuff that will land them those high paying jobs in London or New York one day. Tami will definitely come up in a meeting about price points and liquidation. I just know it.

On this particular late morning on the metro, it was by no means packed, but it was full enough that I had to stand and hold onto the stationary pole in front of the sliding doors along with two other women. On our route, we stopped at one of my favorite metro stations, the star-spangled Cadet, when a woman in I'd say her 40's, wearing jeans, grey converse sneakers and a black jacket that could've use a lint brush roll (or five) hopped on board. She did the one thing that I absolutely despise on the Paris metro. Any public transportation for that matter, as I have seen this kind of defiance in subways in New York, as well as the tube in London.

Can you guess what ruffled and rumpled my feathers so much?

The woman with the shabby (and a little stinky) coat got on board, and placed her back on the pole that me and two other passengers were gripping onto.

I hate when people do this. I hate it because it's an intentional disregard to others. I find it hard to believe that they are wildly unaware of the possibility that other people might also be using it to hold on to in a ferociously speeding train. In these situations, I usually either wiggle my hand out and find another spot of the train, or when it's busy I end up doing a bit of a pole dance, holding it elsewhere to avoid touching the stranger. But almost every time, the pole leaner shifts their weight, where I end up sliding my hand up and down the pole.  

Yesterday on the 7 was different though, I had a situation on my hands. Literally. Not only was the woman pressing really hard on my knuckles but her curly hair was getting tangled up in my fingers. As a fellow curly-haired gal, I get it. Our hair really does have a life of its own. I marvel at some of the situations, knots and mass confusion my hair gets itself into and where it ends up. I'm not a person who has an issue with hair. Nine times out of ten, it's usually mine so I've grown a resistance to being disgusted by it. That is unless, I'm being forced to touch a stranger's...and on the Paris metro of all places. Am I being a diva here? You can tell me if I am.

In an admittedly passive-aggressive gesture, I expanded and pumped my knuckles several times to create some space between her and I. As you can imagine, it didn't go over so well. She immediately snapped around as if I was the rude one and stared me down, presumably waiting for me to pardon myself. But I didn't. To heighten the tension between Curly Sue and I, I did probably the worse thing I could have ever done in the situation to express irritation. I made that "French face". You know the one where you widen your eyes, make a shrug, let out a huff and then dismissively look away. A classic French move that communicates in under three seconds that someone is wrong and whatever the problem, it's not theirs. Of course Tami the Tambourine decided to shake her buns during my triumphant moment, discounting any power I thought I had.

Well Tami and "French face" broke the seal and the woman began berating  me (in the informal tu, of course) that I don't own the metro, it's not my pole and that I'm a dumb connasse. I'm sorry but it's not my pole? Wasn't it her misguided claim of it that got us here in the first place? I calmly responded to her hysteria (in the formal vous) that I didn't feel like touching her hair and suggested that we could all just share it. At that point, the girl to the left of me verbally agreed while also adding her own French little huff and puff. 

Power in numbers!

Luckily, and I say luckily, a seat cleared up and Curly Sue took it, and continued cursing us both to hell and high water. Clearly she was unstable and probably would have ended up punching me in the face. Her need to exercise her power on the Paris metro ran deeper than the stupid pole on the line 7. I know that the Paris metro isn't the kindest of places and I like to say that I'm someone who rises above things like this, but I draw the line at combing a stranger's hair. Speaking of, I found a strand of her hair on my coat this morning. Curly hair strikes again.

Have you had any funky incidents on the metro? 
Of course, you have...share!

43 comments:

  1. Told you...you are a French girl already! Hahaha Bravo for standing up to the crazy bit**.
    Wow, there seems to be a lot of aggressiveness going on dans le métro, oh la la la, how scary.

    To be honest, I think I've only been on the metro a couple of times in Madrid and then in Paris where my daughter and I got lost going to Montmartre.

    I did have a funky incident on the Madrid metro like thirty some years ago, but I'd call it rather unreal more than funky.
    There was some social unrest right after Franco died and continuous student protests everywhere...my sister and I were practically dragged into the metro from the street by a crowd that was running away from the riot police. We ended up inside a metro car full of screaming students, very cool, until the moment the doors opened and 5 National Guard individuals were pointing their huge riffles (or whatever they’re called) right on our faces.
    They made us evacuate the train and ordered us home. We were unable to get back to ours that night and ended up staying with a friend who lived near that station.
    It was freaking scary but at 17 everything is an adventure!!
    Sylvia S.

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    1. Hahaha! No I'm so not a French girl but the situation called for the Huff, puff n' stuff face! The metro is insane, especially the 7! My girlfriend just told me a crazy story where she had to ride along with the conductor because she was being harassed.

      Why weren't you able to return home in Madrid?! Did you ever get to the bottom of that?! THAT is insane!

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  2. Second base, ha! (I'm 12)

    All my subway stories are based in NYC... Every time I start on a story it's really a buzz kill. I'm not even drinking this time and I'm not gonna' go there. I have yet to hear anyone with a grosser story than mine. Even worse: It happened twice. 1st time: D train to Borough Park. 2nd time: E train from Jackson Heights.

    Hint: thin grey sweatpants, sicko male, rush hour. Not sayin' any more..

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    1. Hehehe, I knew you'd comment on my second base comment. We're Beavis and Butthead, I swear.

      Ewww, this guy was being a cochon during rush hour?! Was it the same dude?

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  3. Do those toe-nail clipping people exist in the Paris metro?

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  4. I saw a young man pin an older man against the wall once because the old guy pushed his way on to the train before everyone had got off. And it says a lot about what taking the RER daily does to you that I wasn't sure whose side I was on...the old guy really did push though!

    Totally with you on the pole hogging thing. I become very passive aggressive in these situations too.

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    1. I hate when people push themselves on before anyone has gotten off! That's another pet peeve of mine! But pining up a man is a little extreme, I'd say. Oh la la. The RER is no joke. I'm grateful that I don't need to take it on my daily commute.

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  5. Dégueu. What else can I say?

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  6. A friend of mine saw someone on the NY subway using fresh cantaloup to masturbate...

    Gross.

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    1. Thanks, Duchesse! That disturbing image is going to be stuck in my mind all day as I contemplate how, why and eeewwww!

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    2. AHHHHH EWWWWWWWWW. This killed any urge for fresh melon this week. Thanks Duchess.

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  7. Even after damn near four years in Europe, public transportation etiquette (or lack thereof), is still something that makes me bat-shit crazy. I can deal with a lot, but this kind of thing is just beyond me. I did a post about it a few months ago actually, http://heathergoesdeutsch.blogspot.de/2012/07/enteringexiting-train-for-idiots.html

    Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of intentional disregard for other people's space, which I don't get at all. As Americans, we're used to having room, so shouldn't we be the ones spreading ourselves out? Why am I the one trying to make myself as small as possible even while carrying a backpack and huge purse (yesterday), and trying to fit it all on one seat/my lap, when the person across from me is doing the huffing/eye-roll thing when someone asks if the seat next to them is available, forcing them to move their shopping bag? Gah. Now I'm worked up again. Calm breaths, calm breaths.

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    1. Heather, I'm so glad that it's not just me who gets as annoyed as I do! I look forward to reading your blog post! I can only imagine what you cooked up!

      What I get annoyed with is that when there IS space, there is still a lack of concern (like the pole lady) for others. During rush hour, I get it but when there is room, come on!

      But hey, we live in Europe, this is just one thing we have "deal" with. Not too bad if you ask me! : )

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  8. Aside from someone taking up the entire pole... I just don't like touching other people. At all - especially on the metro. And in America we go to great lengths to sit one seat away, hold on to the other end of the pole etc. Then here, it's like people's faces are squished against the glass doors the metro is so packed which leaves no breathing room. Then if you add in someone's hair? Gross.
    I wish that I would be able to tell someone off like that!!! Curly Sue... watch.. you'll see her again in a few weeks. Stuff like that always happens.

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    1. How strange. You don't like touching total strangers? Odd. For some reason, people don't mind touching each other on the metro here. It's so bizarre! Oh you would have been repulsed by the hair situation. I can just see your face!

      I didn't really tell her off. I just calmly explained, yet my logic fell on deaf ears. If I see her again, I will move to the other end of the train. She was certifiable.

      Have a nice weekend!

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  9. Franschhoek FabNovember 29, 2012

    Yup, you are definitely becoming a French girl.The shrug and the fact that you can use "tu" et "vous" to denote superiority.Well done,just loving it!

    One of the things that I don't miss about my life in Paris is the Metro.I am that person,that every visitor to Paris feels that they can ask for assistance/directions on how to use the Metro(generally in broken French)Even on a short stop to Paris this year and I have now not lived in Paris for many years.I think that I must look like a tour guide!I do the French thing and pretend not to understand them sometimes when I am feeling mean.

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    1. Thanks. I didn't mean to get all French on her, but it had to be done. I'm always the person who just accepts it, but the hair? That was going way too far.

      I don't think it's rude if you don't want to give directions. If it happens all the time, you have to draw the line someone otherwise you wouldn't get anywhere!

      Speaking of asking for directions, yesterday someone stopped me to ask for them and I was so annoyed, I ignored them. Why would I do such a rude thing? Because I was jogging, profusely sweating with headphones on! This happens fairly often too! Good lord, people!

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  10. well the other morning on the subway I look across at some woman sitting opposite and something is moving across her coat sleeve...a cockroach....it crawled all up and down ...and then she and the roach got off at the next stop....

    and I hate the pole hoggers just as much as you...oh and backpack people who leave them on in a crowded train..I just ram right into them...and men who sit with their legs wide apart (like what they've got down there is just so huge they can even attempt to put their legs together)and woman who put a full face of makeup on during their commute...or people who eat chinese food on the subway...or people who eat potato chips in your ear all the way home and wipe the crumbs on their coats...people with their ipods on so loud the whole car has to listen to Lil Wayne...people who talk loudly to each other about their personal business...people who stand in the door way and refuse to move when you need to get off...I could go on.

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    1. The great thing about having roaches for pets is that they're in no short supply and can live a full ten days without a head.

      Bon appétit!

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    2. @Deb - Omg. Omg. Omg. That is SO gross. "then she and the roach got off at the next stop..." HAHAHA. Did they enjoy their commute?

      Yes all of your pet peeves are so spot on! The potato chips is the worst! That happens at the movies too. I've had teenagers read MY book out loud over my shoulder in my ear to show off that they can read in English. I told one that his accent was embarrassing and that he should just stop. He was horrified. He he he. Little shits!

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    3. @Duchess - Oh god! SO SO SO gross. Growing up in NYC, we needed the exterminator at our apt. once a week because our neighbor downstairs was a Jabba the Hut slob. 10 days without a head? Are you kidding? I'm glad I didn't know that as a little girl....

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  11. The answer to all this angst is.....use the velibs!

    Love Denise

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    1. I'm absolutely terrified of riding a bike in Paris. The bike lanes aren't everywhere and even they are risky. My student's mother told me that a bus hit a bicyclist over by the church at Place Franz Liszt (where there is a bike lane) and her head got bashed in and there was blood everywhere.

      So sad. The poor thing.

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  12. ...Duchesse... cantalope!!! can't quite picture this ( not that I want to) was this a man or a woman?

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  13. Hair has a way of doing this to people. Crazy.

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    1. Hair does make people crazy. Having so much of it my whole life, I'm very aware of this. I keep it back and when I live in a shared space, I have always had to do a ten minute post shower bathroom clean up to make sure my hair isn't all over the place. People just don't like other people's hair. Fair enough.

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  14. Ella! Be careful girly. I am serious. And yes, I did gasp out loud at "connasse"...That said there are definitely folks in France who go out of their way so that you touch them...

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    1. You're so right. I will never do this again. My general rule of thumb is to avoid confrontation with strangers, but this situation annoyed me so much that I had to react. But you never know with people. There are some loons out there that I shouldn't test my luck. : )

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  15. The rudest I can remember off the top of my head was once on the moscow metro. I was holding onto the overhead bar and I could tell the woman next to me wanted to get off at the next stop, but wanted to hold on till the train stopped, for obvious reasons. Instead of asking me to move, or if i was getting off, this woman just walked into my arm and knocked it off the pole. Cheers!

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    1. What a bitch! Hahaha!! I can just see your dry "Gwan" reaction. I hope you didn't fall or anything. That sounds even more aggressive than my story. Geez...

      How cool that you were in Moscow. Are the metro stations just beautiful?

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    2. They really are amazing! The metro gets crazy busy and crowded though (I had to commute on it for 2 months!)

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  16. @Denise: it was a man, he would cut them in half, carve a hole in them and use them as he would a vagina.

    Bon appétit!

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    1. I've created a monster with this post!!!

      Something like melon vag is going to show up in my Google key word stats. I just know it.

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  17. Ha, I started walking to work to save my blood pressure - nothing to do with the keeping fit, more avoiding the urge to strangle arrogant students, private school little shits and many more on the low level line I get to take to work otherwise (it's work the 1 1/2 miles each day, honest!)

    As for stories, well I remember being in London when I was 15 and a bomb threat happening at Euston station as we were headed to the underground. Now that in itself wasn't freaky to me, the IRA regularly did this, and even on the provincial line I took when I went to school we had a bomb threat on my birthday every freaking year! No, what was freaky, was that we were all told to just get on the first train coming in, regardless of direction, and sort ourselves out further up the line, you know, when we hadn't been blown up. Getting on with us was a guy in a white coat, like the kind doctors wear, complete with stethoscope. He was quite obviously either escaped from or just recently released from a mental health facility, and despite how packed that train was, he soon had his own little space around him as everyone tried to back away from him the crazier he got. I was kind of glad to get off at the next stop...

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    1. Oh how sad! Bomb threats on your birthday...every year?! How awful. What was this guy in the white coat (that's freaky in itself) doing? Shouting about and making a scene? I get nervous around obvious lunatics. You never fucking know what they have under their coats. The world is going mad, I tell you.

      LOL - "Private school little shits" HAHA.

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  18. I love that you've mastered the French shrug, puff, and look away. I'm still learning, like Grasshopper x

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    1. Mastered it? No. But can pull it out when needed, which isn't very often...just when I'm forced to touch some lady's hair!

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  19. Thanks for the hilarious description of "just another day" on the Parisian metro, Ella! It got my morning off to a great start.

    But after reading the comments, I'm gonna have to see if I can distract my mind from the disturbing images conjured up by Duchesse's cantaloupe story!

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    1. Haha, the comments are pretty graphic, aren't they! I love it. Everyone has so creep ball story! Grenobloise's "thin grey sweatpants" and Duchess' cantaloupe story. So gross.

      MK - I remember your story from last year, when you caught some one pickpocketing Japanese tourists and you stopped them. After you were concerned that you used the informal tu instead of vous. I thought that was so sweet and so you. :)

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  20. Nothing on the metro drives me more crazy than the pole hoggers. It doesn't even seem like a very comfortable or secure way to ride the metro. I always hope we stop suddenly or swerve so they will fall over.

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    1. I just KNEW that pole hogs would piss you off too! I just knew it!! : )

      It really is so infuriating, especially when you were there first and they just slam their backs onto your knuckles as if it's nothing. Grrr.

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    2. You're not on the clock Girl. No ones going to stuff dollars into your panties for working that pole. So get off it!

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