This week started and ended on very opposite notes.
I’ll start with the story of the charmer from Monday night.
After two straight weekends spent out of Paris, our refrigerator is starting to look like we’ve been through a disaster of some sort. Walking home from the supermarket with groceries bulging out of my purse and market bags and carrying a loaf of toast in my arms like a baby, I heard running behind me. I thought nothing of it, dismissing the fast paced footsteps as someone exercising. The person stopped when they reached me and stopped me in my tracks: “Hey!” I heard the person say. I looked over my shoulder thinking something might have fallen out of my bag and found a young boy (teenager?) staring at me. I said, “oui?” wondering what he might want.
Very honestly, he looked at me and said he had seen me walk out of the supermarket and found me “adorable” and thought he needed to tell me before I walked away.
I really didn’t know what to think or say – I said thank you but he stayed looking at me like if I should have said something else.
With my hands full of groceries and straight out of work, I don’t exactly look like an adolescent, so at the same time I was confused and flattered.
I don’t believe I have a supermodel’s physique but I get a fair share of harassing cat calls on the metro and the streets of Paris, which is not at all pleasant. This on the other hand, was not lewd at all. The kid was genuinely nice about it, and when I told him I was on my way home, he wished me a good evening and went on his way.
To end the week however, I’ll finish with the story of the beast.
Living in Paris as a foreigner, you kind of learn to play by the rules and keep a low profile in certain situations. This doesn’t and shouldn’t mean becoming a total pushover in uncomfortable situations. I don’t believe in letting people I don’t know and look like I shouldn’t trust take advantage of my law abiding self who pays for the metro every morning and every evening. Friday morning was no different.
For blocking someone in the form of a terrifying looking junkie thug from passing through the metro turn style with me, I got insulted, pushed and spat in my face. This being the first time such a thing has happened to me, I decided to stand up for myself and let the metro people know about it. After about twenty minutes of explaining what happened to the agent, she said there was nothing she could do for me and suggested I be on my way. While I know that what happened to me today probably happens to a lot of other people under much worse conditions, I find it completely unacceptable for the metro to acknowledge there is a problem and sit there without doing anything about it.
If I pay my way every day, it’s not only because I don’t want to pay a fine for getting caught without a metro ticket, it’s also because I think it’s normal that we pay for a public service. I don’t think it’s normal for others to think they are entitled to a free ride that other people are willing or in my case UNwilling to give them. I also don’t think it’s normal for the metro to file away my complaint without even acknowledging there is a real problem with their system and that the longer they take to clean up their act, the worse it will be.
I can count on one hand the times I have felt in danger on the train, which in and of itself is a reason to consider myself lucky, given the stories I have heard from colleagues and friends. But the fact that these moments have happened, shows there is a problem and the way I was “taken care of” today shows that that problem isn’t going anywhere.