Ligne 6 Direction Nation
The metro goes above ground for while here, between Charles de Gaulle Etoile and Cambronne (the general that kids in elementary school credit for having invented the word “merde” :-) and if you turn your head at the wrong moment, you miss the Eiffel Tour, peaking out alongside the Seine, massive, legs apart, a strange undefinable colour under almost-snowy skies that are still blue, but menacing. I still can’t help smiling when I see it, I mean…I’m here, and this is the place with the single most recognizable landmark in the world, and I just past it, under a blue sky. It gets me smiling every time, like I almost can’t believe it. I’m smiling now, thinking it was just yesterday that I passed it.
Three young mothers with their children, four in all, about seven years old. One of the daughters, stands in the semi-circle formed by her family and demonstrates her latest Arabic dancing, pointing a graceful foot in front of her, swiveling her hips in wildly feminine poses, tossing her golden brown hair and moves around herself slowly, surprisingly deliberately for such a young girl, in the middle of a crowded metro platform, everyone ignoring what’s going in. I inch in closer, they make a little space for me and look up with a twinkle in their eyes, all amused by the little fire she refuses to stuff out. She dances even when her brother tugs on her arm asking her to stop, and now her arms are above her head, tying around themselves a complicated language of music that is being played on the next platform. She backs up, closer and closer to the edge and her mother yanks her back, laughing that she wouldn’t be so smart if she fell inside the tracks. We all clap at the end of her performance, and out of breath, but pleased with herself she looks at all of us, even me, part of a family for such a short time.
Ligne 1 Direction Chateau de Vincennes
Rush hour, on a Saturday night. Rush hour to party, really. No one talks, we all pretend like it’s normal to be so close to everyone on a train, to have someone’s arm under your nose or someone’s face next to yours. two young men get in and start making fart noises, telling jokes and giggling so infectiously that passengers now try to avoid their insistent laughing gaze. You see passengers moving in their restricted space, trying to look away, but laughing anyway…the two clowns get off with a curtsy, looking almost relieved that PEOPLE are riding the metro, people by virtue of their laughs and smiles.
Bus direction Opera
Looking at the bus schedule I meet the gaze of a scruffy very thin man, with very dark hair and a five-o’clock shadow. Big mistake. He starts declaiming my name (which he has bestowed on me after a French actress he says I look like –Chimene Badi–but I looked her up on Google images, and honestly, he was being complimentary) and having an entire conversation with me. After about five minutes of this loud one-way exchange, I run for cover, crouching at the back of the bus between passengers that make a wall in front of me, and turn to me, laughing. He is, after all, a very very funny guy, and quite eloquent. If only I wasn’t his victim. He calls out to me, calling me other famous names, Patricia Kaas etc. And finally, gets off the bus, a little miffed that his “star” disappeared. When the glass doors close, the bus explodes in a relieved laughter and everyone starts asking each other who Chimene Badi is, and commenting on the colorful bus rider who is now walking along the street, following the bus stuck in traffic and talking to himself.
Many more postcards. Many more bus rides. Many more metros and RERs…in a long daily commute. There has to be an advantage to so much public transportation!