They Strike? I Walk! And Gripe!

Today, December 26, is the 22nd day of the Paris transportation strikes.

Am I resigned? No, I’m furious!

I hope the government won’t give in to the unions. And I hope that someday in this country the government and the unions will sit down to discuss reforms intelligently, with good will on both sides and reach an agreement without clashes and strikes. Dream on!

We’re in France, baby.

As one who has always worked at home as a writer and journalist, I don’t have the same kinds of problems that people who work in offices do. That’s for sure, and I am grateful. I do wonder, though, how it is that people who endure long commutes on crowded trains and metros – if they can find ones that are running – continue to support the strikers. That is one of the mysteries and paradoxes of French life that I guess I will never, ever fathom. So, as the French say, passons.

But guess what? Even and especially people who work at home need to get out of their immediate environment, take a metro or bus to go Somewhere Else. In the good old days before the strike, I would jump on either the metro or a bus (preferably the metro because it isn’t dependent on unpredictable Paris traffic) and go wherever I liked in this city.

Now, thanks mainly to the communist-led union (CGT) that has no intention of “giving in” to the government, I’m virtually under house arrest. Fortunately, although I’m not in a neighbourhood of museums and fancy clothes shops, there are things to see, places to walk to, and that’s what I did today.

I started at 3 pm and gave myself an hour which stretched into two (I always end up having coffee somewhere). I walked past the entrance to the metro which remains defiantly and desperately closed, then down the pleasant avenue du Pere Lachaise where the flower shops abound – logical, because the upper entrance of the grandiose Pere Lachaise cemetery is at the end of the street.

Then, a stroll on the cobblestones of the ancient graveyard where I invariably discover something I have never seen before. Today, as I gazed at the marble tomb of the famous French writer, Colette, I saw out of the corner of my eye some fellows sitting on the cold pavement. They were sketching – I know not what – and were so concentrated they didn’t even see me taking their picture.

After that, I walked to a charming bistro where I admired the old-fashioned French penmanship way high up and ordered a Perrier because it was too early for a delicious glass of St. Amour (love the name as well as the wine). Night was falling as I walked past the magical and ancient church of Saint-Germain-de-Charonne, the oldest in Paris, then up a flight of stairs very much like those you see in Montmartre, and back home.

The walk was great, especially because due to the lack of buses I had to walk all the way instead of cheat as I usually do. But don’t think I’ll thank the strikers for that! I’m American, not French. There’s no way that I will adopt the French mantra: “Yes, this strike is a pain in the neck but I support the strikers.” For services not rendered? No way, especially because on top of everything, I have paid for a month-long transportation pass that I have hardly used. Surely they jest, you might say. Mais non!

When it comes to things like this, we’re not talking about a cultural gap. We’re talking about a cultural chasm!

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