Chasing Hemingway

Metro Stories

I hate getting behind on blog updates. As soon as things start to happen, you tell yourself you can’t post about them until you’ve covered the stuff that came before, and then, next thing you know, you’ve found a job (at a documentary film production company), you put a deposit on an apartment, your boyfriend comes to visit, the two of you get caught in the Great Eurostar Crisis of 2009 but still manage to get to England to spend the holidays with his family, you get caught in the Great Snowstorm of January 2010 in Britain but manage to get back to Paris anyway, you move into your new apartment and start working full-time, and then it’s just impossible to catch up on everything on your blog.

There, I think I’ve caught you up now. Moving on…

First things first: I am still cold. It has only gotten colder since I last complained about it. In fact, you could say quite seriously that I haven’t felt my toes for a month. The last time I recall being truly warm (apart from the hot showers I take as soon as I get home from work in order to drive the cold from my bones) was when I was curled up on James’ parents’ couch in Yorkshire. I was warmer in northern England than I am Paris (which, for the directionally challenged, is further south)… hm. My office also uses heating sparingly and we can’t figure out how to work the heaters in the main room of our apartment, so it’s a perpetual state. Which is great, considering everyone everywhere seems to think this is the worst winter in, well, ever. I feel conspired against.

Since returning, I have also started to compile a collection of anecdotes and amusing observations about the métro, for your benefit. I will add to them as I see fit.

On my first day back at work after Christmas, I was running from the cold, into the métro station, and as I walked up to the machine to buy myself a ticket (I hadn’t yet recharged my card), a perfectly ordinary man approached me. There wasn’t anything particularly notable about him – he was probably about my height, looked to be about age 30, well-dressed enough and particularly against the cold, not attractive but not ugly – as I said, perfectly ordinary.

Excusez-moi, mademoiselle, he said, seriously, and I thought he was going to ask me the time, or directions, neither of which I was particularly prepared to give. And then he proposed to me. Formally, sincerely, earnestly. I barely laughed, and said, Non, and turned to the machine to get my ticket. He kept standing there. He wasn’t laughing.

Alors, c’est oui? What?? Did he not hear me say no? Does he not get that I’m ignoring him?

J’ai pas entendu votre réponse… Well if you couldn’t hear my response, that’s your problem, I’m not talking to you anymore.

Finally he walked away, but only because he finally seemed to realize that I wasn’t speaking to him anymore. But he never cracked a smile once. He seemed entirely sincere. I’ve been the butt of silly flirtation jokes before (Do you know where Rue Princesse is? Yes, it’s just there, and then you go left– Well, you see, I can’t go there without a princess, so will you be my princess? Ha. Ha. Ha.), but that usually ends in laughter on both sides and everyone moves along. This guy never laughed!

I wandered – well, more accurately, I probably marched, because I was cold – down into the metro and onto my train, only to find a guy playing a surprisingly good acoustic guitar on it. Musicians on the métro are no surprise, but his level of talent was; unfortunately for him, I was too cold to move to get any coins. I also felt particularly broke as I’d unintentionally spent 40 euros the night before, so my generosity levels were down for the week. He waited in my section of the train for his stop to come, and I found myself additionally impressed by his clothes and his guitar; clearly he wasn’t just doing this for the money, but because he was actually a musician. And then a guy got on with a didgeridoo. Yup, a didgeridoo. The huge, long Australian instrument that must look thoroughly bizarre to the uninitiated.

Our guitarist had clearly not seen one before. He looked at it puzzled, interested, and finally tried to ask its owner about it. At this point, I discovered he was foreign (probably Eastern or Southeastern European, but I’m not sure), because he couldn’t communicate well to the guy what he wanted to know. Fortunately, the owner – a youngish man himself – was happy to share his knowledge, and explained it briefly to the guitarist a few times. In French, of course, so I’m not sure the guitarist understood. Finally, he put it on the floor and played it. In the métro. Best métro instrument ever. The guitarist was thoroughly pleased, and at least the didgeridoo player and I were smiling. Point for Paris.

I have also begun to notice a growing phenomenon in which métro musicians perform Christian music. Curious. I’ve never experienced this before this trip, and now I’ve encountered it twice.

Yesterday, I couldn’t bring myself to give money to an older couple performing in the métro, purely because the husband was playing pieces on his violin that my sister used to play as a kid… and my sister played them much better. I wanted to like this man’s music, because they were an adorable older couple, but they looked more warmly dressed than I did, and the music wasn’t that good, so no monies from me.

My rule for giving coins is usually if they’re really good and have therefore made my day better. I feel then that it’s an exchange of services and I’m not just giving money to any old person who shows up in the métro and purports to play music (most of them don’t). I am, however, happy to promote talent. There have been a few instances, though, where I’ve given money and then found myself tragically short of change later, and I regret my benevolence. I’m holding out hope that my karmic points will pay me back in the end.

More métro stories to come. Wish me warmth!

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This entry was published on January 12, 2010 at 10:34 pm. It’s filed under England, France, immigrant, meeting people, metro, music, Paris, travel, weather and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Metro Stories

  1. All those coins probably you jingled with when you were tiny, now becoming a treasure of discretion, its cute indeed.
    As for the Princess part, I quite agree with the stranger//You do look like one.You could post an odd photograph on your blog, to make things visual and audio too if I cud hear your voice.

  2. Pingback: Street Suitors « Chasing Hemingway

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