Just got back from a week in Paris. Was it romantic? Well it was for the many couples we witnessed making out on subway seats five feet across the aisles from us, so close you could almost hear them. These scenes would have been titillating if the participants had been good-looking or both girls, but we were unlucky on both counts.
As those who claim to revere Paris often say, there are cafes on every corner. And there are, so you go to the cafes to absorb their magic. They are usually crowded with everyone loudly speaking French and laughing, I can only imagine, at the recounting of old Jerry Lewis movies. The waiters normally speak English, but only transactionally. You feel isolated or, at least, excluded, and you absorb little. The bill is soon brought, and it’s time to say sayonara (or whatever they say over there).
Travel from famous big building number one to famous big building number two on your list of famous big buildings is accomplished utilizing the metro system. Trains run every few minutes, but people will still kill to catch the one just leaving the station. Missing that train means 2 to 3 minutes of their lives will have been squandered. Slow them down as you try to figure out which way you need to go at your peril. On busy subway lines you are in very close physical contact with five or six strangers of a whole spectrum of sexes as you dance together for balance. But balance is not really necessary as there’s no room for anyone to fall down. After some of those encounters, and after wishing everyone buenos noches (or whatever it is they say), I found myself craving a cigarette, though I have never smoked.
Speaking the French language is fundamental to being treated as a human being in Paris. But it’s not only speaking it, as I have witnessed people who teach French asked to speak English as their French is found wanting somehow. You need to speak Parisian French. It is not their heroic performances in the two World Wars which confers the Parisian superiority, but the facts that they speak Parisian French and that they live in Paris.
Paris is definitely a great city which many people seek to visit. But it’s not as if those living there now have anything to do with that. It was people (like Napoleon I and Baron Haussmann) with a vision of what a great city should be, and economic support from whichever monarch hadn’t had their head removed yet (Napoleon III) who made Paris a great city about 150 years ago.
A great city needed big impressive buildings to intimidate the population to inaction. A great city needed wide impressive roads so that the army could get to any insurrection quickly and put it down. You can tell right away that the upper classes always intended to treat the lower classes in a civil way. And you needed a large intimidated population of slave-like workers to get it built. Now who wouldn’t be proud of all that?
An accident of birth, therefore, leads to Parisians living in an interesting city and speaking the language of that city, and this accounts for their superiority. And, because they are superior, others must be inferior, so it’s only natural they treat you that way. It’s nothing personal, as you’re not a person, really. And that’s my explanation for the abysmal behaviour of Parisians.
After such scathing commentary on the present-day inhabitants of Paris, you may imagine I will share with my friends the story as related above. But, alas, the undertaking was too pricey for that. No. Like the vast majority of travellers to Paris, I will speak of my love for this exquisite city. I will speak of the big famous buildings by their real names which I will memorize, and I will tell amusing stories about my experiences around each one. I will go into raptures about cafe food and the funny French waiters and how they always said “per favore” and “grazie” (or whatever it is they say there). I will count myself amongst those who claim to revere Paris, and I will never go there again.