The Metro is such an integral part of Parisian life that people are more likely to tell you the name of the closest Metro stop than the street they live on. On an even more personal level, when Parisian girls get a bikini wax, they ask for “un ticket,” a tiny rectangle of hair the exact size of a Metro ticket.
We take the Metro everywhere, especially in winter, as it’s the fastest way to get around. Nothing bad has happened to us yet, but we’ve seen a lot of things. None of us has been pickpocketed: in fact, the closest we got was an guy in a hoodie telling Murray not to carry his cell phone in his back pocket or someone would “piqué” it.
The Metro is an animated place. It’s not uncommon, in the middle of the morning, to see someone with an open beer, or even a lit cigarette. The Asian girls hanging around the entrance to Strasbourg-Saint Denis? Prostitutes.
In the recent spate of poor air quality days, the Socialist government declared the Metro free. On those days, there were more beggars than usual on the lines, but most of them are extremely polite. They mount the car and tell everyone their life story (they are 21, unemployed, they live on the street, could we please help with a few centimes or a meal ticket, Happy New Year and all their best wishes to you and your family.)
What I love the most about the Metro are the singers and musicians who jump from car to car performing for coins. On our line, the 9, there is a couple who perform together. She sings traditional Spanish songs, while he raps alongside of her. Sort of like Rihanna and Jay Z, except not. Murray saw a talented North African guy on the 9 early one morning playing a guitar and singing traditional French chansons. The entertainment on the school bus, he said.
Not everyone is so charming. One hot, late summer day a guy whose hair was matted into one giant dreadlock came on and started walking through the car asking everyone if they’d ever heard of a band called the BeeGees. He then sang Boney M’s “Daddy Cool” in a high nasally voice for about 20 minutes.
The craziest part of getting on the Metro is the “bum rush.” To explain: when Murray is riding around on his own, a young girl often approaches him and asks if she can squeeze through the turnstyle behind him so she doesn’t have to pay. It even happened to Emmanuelle (who is 11) one time– by a well-dressed 40-ish lady who didn’t even ask. Inevitably, though, at some point in the week we’ll see aforementioned young girls with the transit police crying and emptying the contents of her purse onto the floor.
I can only imagine the perverse pleasure the male police get from asking the girls if they can see their “ticket.”