Blood, Sweat and Sneers in the Parisian Metro

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Summer in This City

A mini-heat wave slapped Paris this week and one would think that would make the Parisians happy.  The sun had been hiding for at least four weeks and it was reassuring to see it finally make an appearance.  However, the transition was “quick and dirty” and the citizens of this beautiful city were just not psychologically ready for it.  How do I know?  I take the “Metro”.  There, in the underbelly of this beautiful capital, you see the real Paris.  And this week, with 90 degree temperatures and high humidity, the real Paris was not a pretty place.

As soon as I walked into the passenger car on Line 1 of the Metro and smelled the overwhelming scent of summer sweat, I knew this would not be a pleasant ride.  The train was packed – people were impolitely pushing to get on and to get off – it was chaotic to say the least, but that’s not new.  The new thing I noticed is that the fellow passengers, who usually have indifference written on their faces, now looked nasty.  They wore snarls instead of smiles – as if they were angry at everyone present because it was hot and they were uncomfortable.  I had a premonition that something bad was going to happen.  And I was right.

Mistaken Phone Identity

The train stopped at Concorde, a particularly busy station, and in the hustle and bustle of entrances and exits, someone dropped their iphone without even realizing it.  A happy, helpful tourist who was coming on the train picked it up and gave it to a man who was leaving the train.  The tourist innocently thought it belonged to that guy.  It didn’t.  The real owner of the iphone, who was standing near the door, finally woke up and acknowledged that it was his.  He snapped it back with a quick flick of his wrist and looked at the tourist with that snarly, nasty look I had mentioned earlier.  He did manage to whisper an unconvincing “merci” to the tourist who saved his phone; then plugged himself into it and turned on his indifference.

Here is the scene of the Blood, Sweat And Sneers in the Parisian Metro.

Showtime

Then, the real show started.  The tourist was from southern France (I could tell by the accent) and he was with four other friends.  One of them started a monologue about how the man who recovered his phone was practically yelling at the tourist when he should have been showing a little more gratitude.

“You do someone a favor and they treat you like scum”, the man said.  “He should be happy he got his phone back, the ungrateful jerk.”

At that point, the “jerk” unplugged himself.

“What’s your problem?” he asked the friend of the tourist, “I said thank you.”

“It was the way you said it, you thought that my friend was trying to steal your phone instead of giving it back to you.”  The steamy metro car just got steamier.

Fight to the Finish

They shot insults back and forth – the usual angry talk about going outside to finish this off, wherever, whenever.  People stepped back to give them room; there were a couple of passengers taking out their iphone to film the scene.  When the Metro reached the next stop, they were both sneering at each other with red faces – who was going to throw the first punch?

Fortunately, the iphone jerk was with a girlfriend.  She had been standing right behind him in stoic silence all this time.  Anyway, she touched his arm and told him it wasn’t worth it.  It seems they were already late for wherever they were going.  (I wonder if they were going to be late for an Anger Management class – at least that would be funny.)

So, the incident was over; there was a little less steam on the subway train and people went back to sneering.  I hope the heat wave ends soon.  I don’t know if I can handle the drama.

 

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