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freaky friday.

 Illustration by Laura Pérez
Was it just me or was there something in the air on Friday? For some of us, it was the last weekday off before heading back into the full swing of things as today truly kicks off 2013. While I'm sad to see my two weeks of leisurely hanging around my apartment, without a trace of make-up and bundled up in over-sized sweaters, reading and organizing, I'm looking forward to moving and shaking again. And believe it or not, I missed my little French babelings.

So back to last Friday. Friday mornings are my favorite mornings of the week, besides the fact that it's Friday; a nod to childhood when this magical day meant pizza and sleepovers, I teach an early morning adult English class to editors of a French publication at their offices. It really is the one day I get to flex my English linguistic skills, and take a nice break from my usual "lessons" of drawing circles and counting to ten over watered down grenadine cocktails and raspberry jelly cookies. 

On my late morning commute back home, as usual, the train was quiet. With over 14 stops to go, I nestled in a seat with a copy of Elle and indulged in some quiet reading time. The train was moving along nicely with no random stops in the tunnel, no loud or boisterous French teenagers, and no accordion music. All was still until the man across from me - a well-dressed man in his late 40s - addressed the little girl who was beside me, sitting next to her mother. Boarding the train, I didn't get the impression that they were all together, but I wasn't exactly focused on them as I was entranced in an article about the lovely Lea Seydoux. 

Before I offered him my seat so the family could all sit together, it quickly occurred to me that they were in fact not together. Not at all. How did I know this? Well when he started calling the girl whom I thought was his daughter a stupid little bitch and said that he was going come over and punch her in the face, it quickly came into sight that he was another metro lunatic - just in a cuter outfit. The man continued rambling before he stood up and got closer to her, mumbling profanities at this innocent little girl. The mother whispered to her daughter to just ignore him, and the two of them kept their eyes glued to the floor not to provoke him.

All I have to say is thank God I wasn't with my mom and her big mouth, otherwise we'd be dead. Seriously.

Eventually, the man got bored with the mother-daughter duo and found interest in a woman in her mid-50s sitting by the train's doors who was quietly reading the metro newspaper. He walked up to her, hovered over her seat rambling insults before he started whacking her newspaper with the back of his hand. Not at all impressed, she laid the newspaper on her lap, and coolly looked up at him without any fear and told him to cut it out (in the informal - for those of you who appreciate those little details as I do). The man obliged and began scanning the train cars looking for his next victim to approach. Please not me. Please not me. I repeated over and over to myself. I'm not equipped for these situations (but really who is?). I'm just not as calm and brave as the French and can't just quietly tell them to stop it and continue reading. My heart was racing the several times our eyes had met, and was positive that I was next up. 

Fortunately, I was wrong because the next thing we saw was him antagonizing a gentleman who was reading a book. The maniac was whispering in his ear and flicking the back of his neck, desperate for a response. Without a drop of emotion, the young man told him to "dégage", shooed him away with his hands, and continued reading his autobiography of François Hollande. The nonchalance was really quite remarkable. Me not being someone who is exactly celebrated for staying calm in hostile situations, I marveled at the calmness of these passengers who were being threatened.

The lunatic finally got off at Chemin Vert and just as the doors were closing and he was securely on the platform with no longer an opportunity to re-board, the entire train applauded in relief that he was gone. Much to my entertainment, he had heard the train's jubilation of his departure and with his fist, he pounded on the window calling us all spoiled Parisian scum. It was the strangest encounter I have ever seen on public transportation.

The madness didn't stop there. Of course, it didn't. That evening as I was setting up our Friday night cocktail hour tradition, I heard violent screaming out on the street. Aurel and I both ran to the window to see what the ruckus wasWe saw a man with salt and pepper hair and a younger girl, blonde and in about her late twenties in a heated argument in front of the building across the street. The girl ran into the building with the man following behind her. 

Because of the angle we were at, being two floors up, we could see through the small top windows of double front doors of this typical Parisian building. Through the windows, we saw the girl attacking the man with her umbrella. All we could see was violently thrashing about through the small window and heard her screaming. The door opened and the man exited, approaching what we learned was his car parked right outside the building. Following his exit, several other people arrived taking iPhone pictures, while the girl followed the man, continuing to beat him with her umbrella. 

"What should we do?!" I asked in a panic, looking through our junk drawer for the postcards that we get every week in our mailbox with all a list of all of the emergency numbers. Just as I found my phone and realized the number to call the police in France is 17, I turned around to see Aurel with our three foot Christmas tree in his hand, ready to launch it out the window. 

"What the hell are you doing?!" I cried out in shock. 

"We have to stop him!" he said as he moved my desk over in order to open the window.

"Let's not call the police, let's just throw a Christmas tree at him? What is this logic?!" I said while wrangling the innocent tree out of his mad man hands.  

Before we could make the right decision and call the police not attack him and his car with a pine tree, the man sped off into the night. The girl then joined the iPhone photographers, lit up a cigarette and began giggling before walking off with her friends...as if nothing at all strange just occurred. Good thing we didn't heave the Christmas tree out the window.

Last Friday was one of the stranger days that I've had in Paris, and was just another reminder that there are sick people out there and to be aware of my surroundings. Here's to starting 2013 on the right note...and not getting accosted on the metro. Big goals for 2013, I tell ya...

24 comments:

  1. Ugh, crazy people on the train are the WORST. I'm horrible at handling them, too. I tend to desperately ignore them. And thank goodness Seb didn't hurl the Christmas tree at them! Though it would have been hilarious. :)

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    1. These days unfortunately we can't just assume that crazy people won't kill us. I hate to say it but now it's more true than ever, and that's all I was thinking about as he was harassing the other passengers. I'm so grateful that he got off without harming any of us.

      Hahahaha, yeah the Christmas tree was really out of character and hilarious. I was both horrified and really amused! : )

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  2. A red blooded American would have already been down there trying to rescue the damsel in distress, instead of just lobing Xmas trees from the window.

    Of course had a man gone down and intervened he probably would have become the next victim of the umbrella, shortly before discovering that the man was the older brother trying to control and that he was in fact the victim. So French logic wins the day, once again.

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    1. Sylvia, it was really impossible to tell what was going on. They were both really violent, her more so than him, it her bloody hell screaming that was confusing us. After seeing her carry on as if it was a big joke, I'm glad that we didn't call the police OR launch the tree out the window!

      There is something to be said about French logic, isn't there?

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  3. yikes..we get our share of crazies on the toronto subway but I'm not sure everyone would react as "cool" as that train of Parisiens...anybody saying filthy things out loud to a small child on our subway would likely get a knuckle sandwich from somebody..for sure the emergency strip would be hit...that's just not cool...and some crazy coming right up to you and actually touching you...also not cool...

    just keep your eyes down and read that mag...no eye contact.

    I found the paris metro pretty safe and incident free but I do remmeber coming home kind late one night (after 11pm) and was appalled by the Roma "musicians" using small kids at that time of night to collect money while they played...again you would just never see that here....

    still waiting for your HHI episode to play here...

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    1. Debbie, it was so strange how cool and collected everyone was. I was mentally screaming, 'umm, hello? Men, jump in now. This is weird!' but I never did get my wish and everyone carried on as if it was a mere nuisance.

      The man seemed to be attacking people who were reading and minding their business, so that's why I put my vapid Elle magazine away - tout de suite!

      I tried to send it to Conrad and it tied my computer up for almost two hours that I had to stop the download. I'll email HGTV to find out when it will air in Canada. : )

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  4. Um there is no way I would have been that cool if metro loony had come towards me on the train, I think I would have literally stood up to him in all my 5'4" glory and screamed back at him - which in hindsight may be exactly the response he was eliciting..

    I am cracking up imagining how Seb must have looked with the tree in his hands - what a hero! You have to get rid of it sometime, perhaps chucking it out the window was better than lugging it down flights of stairs?

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    1. Yeah, I think he was looking for verbal reactions and no one was offering it to him. Me, I would have screamed in his face out of pure fear...probably the WORST thing anyone could do. I'm so grateful he didn't approach me.

      Seb looked insane with the little tree in his hand! He was so frantic, like it was the only option. Crazy Frenchmen!

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  5. God.

    The first situation you described reminded me of that news story about a sexual assault on the Parisian metro - http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NYvRkYUIBB0

    As for the lovers' quarrel, some ppl seem to thrive on that kind of drama. How sad.

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    1. What a terrible news story! I wasn't even under the impression that it was that late when this sleazeball was lurking around and following select women. Good to effing know.

      I have no idea what the story was outside our place. Nothing added up. Also, I've never seen them in the neighborhood before or since...too weird.

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  6. That is really freaky! I'm such a chicken that I would have probably got off that train at the first stop. I just get paranoid about people getting physically violent, it really scares the s*it out of me!
    What a Friday!
    Hope your week starts on a better note.
    Sylvia S.

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    1. You know, I was considering it and I think the next time I feel uncomfortable like that, I'll just hop off.

      Rightfully so that you should be aware/concerned about people getting physically violent! These days, it's not paranoid - considering everything we've seen in 2012...

      My week has been pretty good so far! Thank you!

      Happy hump day tomorrow! WOO HOO!

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  7. I was definitely not expecting the bit at the end of the second story where the girl just lit a cigarette and started giggling after all that drama!

    Very impressed by Seb's resourcefulness as well.

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    1. Neither we're we! It was as if NOTHING had happened, and she just carried off with almost a smug look on her face with her friends. We both looked at each other (standing in a pile of pine needles) and were like "okay, c'est normal...". Too weird.
      Maybe we should have heaved the tree out the window to teach her not to cry wolf!

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  8. I am really in awe of how calm the people were on the train.. and also the girl giggling at the end. I am just how you describe yourself to be in these situations.. even with a cool-calm face I get all tense inside. I suppose the ppl on the train were not as calm as they seemed to be too- but to react in an calm, emotionless way; that's a great way to handle it! Weird Friday.. here in the "country", it doesn't usually get that intense. Then again, I rarely take public transport! Glad your xmas tree wasn't tossed out of the apartment!

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    1. I think it's our NYness that would bring out inability to stay cool and calm! I'm sure the other passengers were concerned (especially the mother!), but are much better actors than we could ever be. Imagine if that happened in NYC? Oh la la! Pure havoc would ensue! LOL!

      Other crazy stuff happened today too and I just looked away. I can only take so much cray in a week!

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  9. Oh I so want to go on the metro with you some day :oD Glad you saved the Christmas tree though ;o)

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    1. Hahaha I seem to see it all, don't I? I think it's because I'm bored of my iPod and am not plugged in therefor I'm SUPER AWARE.
      The Christmas tree has been since recycled. It's as if Christmas never happened here. : ( Boo.

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  10. I think your weirdos might be related to The LPV weirdos.
    And yes, miniature Christmas trees make the best weapons. Obviously.

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    1. OMG. Are they weird by you too??? I hope they aren't dangerous like they are here. I'm thinking like a French Twin Peaks, would I be on the right track there?

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    2. OUI! Oh the stuff that I can't write on my blog because it's simply too strange (and quasi-illegal)! You'll just have to come for a visit and see for yourself ;)

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  11. Oh my goodness the sexual assault thing Duchesse mentioned is horrible. And so scary. I think I probably would have freaked out Ella, good for you for remaining calm!

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    1. The video is terrifying! This creep is lurking (of course he has nasty long hair) and following women. A cautionary tale for us all to be a little more aware...

      Hahaha calm! More like hoping and praying that he wouldn't approach me. I'll be better equipped next time! : )

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  12. While in Paris last October, I was crossing the Pont Neuf when one of the "Crazies" walking in the opposite direction walked right into me on purpose. I gave him a glare and moved on. Then he turned and started to follow me. I was with my granddaughter (age 16), and didn't wish to create a scene or expose her to potential danger. Fortunately, there was a tour group directly in front of us. We "joined in" with the tour group, and he turned and walked back in the other direction. Drama averted. A big city is full of mentally ill people ... and con artists ... so keep your radar on and be safe out there.

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