On a day where 75% of blogs worldwide will be devoted to pondering the question of whether the American election organisers can count or not, petite anglaise is proud to bring you some light relief.
Do’s and Don’ts of Métro Etiquette – Part I
It is not unusual when approaching the turnstiles to be asked by an unsavoury looking male who appears out of thin air: ‘est-ce que je peux passer avec vous?’ This is a rhetorical question, because regardless of your response, you will find a crotch pressing uncomfortably into your rear as you go through the narrow turnstile together.
People who do this are perverts in my opinion. Normal fare dodgers just jump over the barrier altogether, no crotch rubbing necessary. I haven’t worked out how to prevent this from happening yet. Any suggestions welcome.
Take care when choosing your patch on the platform. Seasoned travellers will be positioned exactly opposite the place where the doors will open in the carriage of their choice, to facilitate a swift exit route in their destination station.
Other variables do have to be taken into account however, such as the proximity of an abusive drunk shouting connasse at every female passer by (métro Pyramides, line 7) or a pool of vomit/suspicious wet patch that might just be urine.
Stake your claim
French metro carriages are typically made up of normal seats, some of which are supposed to be reserved for priority use by the old, infirm, expectant mothers or people accompanying small children. Then there are strapontins, fold down seats used only when the carriage is not too full. If you are intent on claiming a seat, a good knowledge of métro étiquette is indispensable.
If you qualify for a ‘reserved seat’, don’t expect anyone to surrender their seat to you willingly. They will hide behind their books and newspapers, fleeing eye contact to protect their hard won seat. The best tactic I found when pregnant was to butt someone on the nose with my protruding belly and state, ‘I need to sit down please.’ Without the merest trace of a smile or any attempt to appeal to their human kindness, which would only have translated as weakness on my part. Ideally it is best to brandish some sort of official card proving that you really are old/infirm/or an ancien combattant because anyone who has queued up to get one is deserving of maximum respect in this country.
If you approach a free seat at the same time as another person, be prepared for a duel to the death. Don’t assume for example that if you are a woman and your challenger is male that he will give in gracefully. Chivalry is by no means dead in France, but the métro is governed by a different set of rules entirely: the survival of the fastest. So, lower your head, under no circumstances make eye contact, and foncez!
Beware of the shrewish French lady in her 50’s or 60’s. You may have reached the seat first and staked your claim, but she will make such loud and indignant noises that you really have to weigh up whether you want to sit down but endure her elbow/handbag poking in your ribs and your cheeks flaming at her muttered insults. Calculate the length of your trip, your fatigue levels and the thickness of your skin and act accordingly.
A particularly annoying woman, in one of those horrible fur coats of which some aging Parisiennes are so fond, pulled that stunt on me last week. Moving from a strapontin (immediately pounced on by someone else) towards the seat I had won fair and square, she coughed and spluttered and exclaimed at my ‘rudeness’. Rather than endure her insults, I stood up just as the metro was pulling into the next station and said sweetly: ‘oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realise you were entitled to a reserved seat. You look fantastic for 75, it’s amazing what plastic surgery can do these days’.
Then I turned, fled, and changed carriages.
Coward? Maybe. Deathwish? Definitely not.
(to be continued)