Thursday, April 26, 2007

Métro Magic

You know, a funny thing happened to me on the métro last night...

I was on my way home after an unexpectedly longer-than-usual stop at the Monoprix at Péreire-Levallois, as I needed a few things in order to assemble a halfway decent meal for my boy and me. I had also just come from my regular weekly English lessons with the little French boy from hell, and although things pretty much seemed to be going wrong all around (including the mile-long lines at the caisses in the supermarket) I was still in a fairly decent mood. I refused to allow myself to be pulled down by any negativity -- something I've really been working on lately -- and I wanted to enjoy every positive moment of my evening, in spite of whatever life decided to throw my way.

After tumbling out the market door and down the street to the subway stop, salmon, white wine and mesclun green salad (along with some other random comestibles) in tow, I waited patiently on the quai for the train to arrive. For some bizarre reason, every time I stop for groceries after my English lesson, the wait at the station afterwards always seems interminably long. Once the train showed up, I squeezed onto the rush-hour-packed car and tried to keep my balance with both hands full. Normally I would have set one bag down and grabbed the bar in the middle, but I (mistakenly) assumed that this particular métro line wasn't as violent as some others, and that by some miracle I wouldn't collide into the person next to me. Ahem. Again, mistakenly. As the train screeched to one of those completely inexplicable halts, the conductor hitting the brakes as hard as possible, I careened forward, and out of the blue a petite gal with long, curly dark hair next to me held my arm and acted as a sort of pillar for me for the next station or two.

She smiled knowingly and said, "T'inquiète pas. Pleins de sacs, heure de pointe, beaucoup de monde -- je sais ce que c'est !" No worries -- you've got arms full of bags, it's rush hour and the train is super-crowded. I couldn't help but laugh and smile back, nodding in agreement, and from that point foward the mundane métro ride became enjoyable somehow. A bit further along, after shifting around the train carriage a bit to allow more passengers to climb on, she looked down and said, "En plus vous lisez de la super bonne littérature ! J'ai adoré ce roman... Je n'ai lu que deux de ses livres, mais c'est génial." She was admiring my choice of reading, which again was unexpected, because most people usually don't say a thing -- they just stare at your reading material, or read over your shoulder. I had one of my recent purchases with me, Nancy Huston's Dolce Agonia. I started to answer, wanting to add my agreement on how I was enjoying the novel so far, but suddenly I realized I had reached my stop.

Oh, this is me! Merde ! And I had to hop off the train, awkwardly, arms and hands fumbling with my bags. "Bonne soirée !" And that was it. Such a nice interlude, a great parentheses in the middle of an ordinary day.

And there you have it, folks: proof that Parisians really can be kind and lots of fun! I wanted to stay on that train and get to know her better... Shame I didn't have a few more stops...

19 comments:

Samantha said...

And here the cynic in me thought you were going to say that meanwhile, her friend picked your pocket...guess that shows how positive I am!

PutYourFlareOn said...

Wonderful little story! I've had the same experience with Parisians on the Metro especially at akward times of rush hour or strike. The seem to forget their standoffish-ness and are willing to help or even offer a smile saying, "I know how you feel". This city is not as hard as people think it is and it's moments like this that make me love it more.

jchevais said...

Now I understand your cryptic comment on my blog... ;-)


Last night, getting the train back home VERY late, I was waiting at Gare de l'Est and reading when all of a sudden someone swerved into my peripheral vision. It made me jump because the person in question's movements were so erratic.

The black fellow making the erratic movement walked by and told me that he didn't pick my pocket or go into my purse. I told him that I knew that, that he had just startled me but he looked at me like I was lying to him and said, "yeah... right."

Thank goodness there's metro magic for some people. And I won't say that she was probably hitting on you... :-)

Poppy Fields said...

Little encounters like this can smooth out a whole day of stress.

Emily said...

What a wonderful gesture. I hope it improved your day just a bit more. :)

IslandGirl4Ever2 said...

I have had similar incidents like this while riding on the metro and even while walking on the street.. Just ramdom niceities that make your day a tad more pleasant.. And each time I run into that very friendly French person, I feel happy that the French stereotype is not accurate.. and that there are just as many friendly French folks that strike up conversations with strangers... I have met many people like this since I have been living here (Aug. 2006)...

scribbit said...

You say English classes? What kind of English classes? Literature? You write in perfect English--as this story proves--so I'm wondering what you'd be studying.

ColourMeCrazy said...

I totally love when this happens out of the blue. I've had people on the metro go out of their way to do nice things and it really does make your day!

Raghu Ram Prasad said...

THIS IS TRUE NICE LITTLE INTERSTING STORY .... thanks,, visit my blog

maitresse said...

see, read nancy huston, life improves :)

Wendz said...

Just popping in to say hello and that I am back in Blog Land.

Loved that story too...people can be wonderful when you least expect it.

The Late Bloomer said...

Michelle, I probably didn't make it very clear in my story, but I was actually giving an English lesson to a little French boy here in Paris. A few times a week I do some private tutoring sessions on the side, "pour arrondir mes fins de mois" as they say in French... It helps out just a little bit, but every little bit counts! This one particular boy can be quite difficult sometimes, and I'm just not sure if our work together is really going anywhere. So I don't honestly know how long I'll keep giving him lessons... I really like his family, though, especially his mother, who is a lovely woman. So we'll see!

Wendz, good to see you again! I'll be catching up on all my favorite blogs again throughout the day today... Can't wait to see what you're up to! I've been away for a few days on my end; just had different things going on.

And you're all so right: it's moments like these that really help you through the day and help boost your morale more than anyone could imagine. It's just a shame that they don't happen more often! (Of course, then again, would we appreciate them as much if they did?!)

Sally Lomax said...

Hi Alice!

I found you on Wendz's blog!

What a lovely vignette........ I like your blog!

The Late Bloomer said...

Thanks very much, Sally. It's nice of you to say! I don't update as much as I'd like, but whenever I really have the craving to write and share it here, I do my best to phrase it well... with varying results!

Princesse Ecossaise said...

Hi!I came across your blog on ExpatWomen.com and I love it!

You write beautifully, and it is very true that the French stereotype is not at all correct!

Carter-Ann said...

I just came across you blog from Expat Women listing and it's great! I've been missing Paris lately and reading your blog made it all the worse. It's been years since I actually missed living in Paris, instead of just having alot of mixed memories. Your little metro story put a smile on my face!

Lainey-Paney said...

What a fun exciting life you must lead living there!

...although I'm not a fan of public transportation...

but still...exciting!

avec amy said...

I met a nice Parisienne on the metro on Friday night. She smiled and said something to me, but it was too quick and out of context so I just nodded and smiled back (because I think I understood what she said). I wanted to seize the moment and have a nice exchange, but I couldn't express myself. Funny, I wondered if she thought that I was rude for not fully responding (not knowing that I couldn't speak fluent French). I'm looking forward to the day when I can chat about literature in French with the locals! You've given me hope :)

The Late Bloomer said...

Princesse and Carter-ann, I'm glad the story made you smile! That's precisely why I wanted to share it, because it really did improve my day and put me in better spirits...

But lainey-paney, to be honest, life isn't all THAT exciting here -- yes, Paris is a great city, but like New York it's also exhausting and has its down-side. I'm not knocking it, but if you read some of my other posts, you'll see that my life here is actually quite ordinary, and that I experience a lot of what other people do in other places around the world! It's a different setting, true, but I have the same, or similar, daily challenges and difficulties, all the more complicated by the cultural differences.

And Amy -- with time, you'll definitely be able to share more with those around you, and you may even find yourself enjoying reading things in French! It took me a while, trust me, but now it feels like such an accomplishment when I finish a French novel. It always takes me longer (for example, I'm just finishing the Nancy Huston one now!) but it's well worth the time and effort spent on it...