Rush down the stairs into a metro station. Swipe my purse along the electronic reader that scans my Navigo, walk briskly to the quai, and huff impatiently if the wait is longer than 2 minutes. I have perfected the art of metro-surfing; I lightly lean on a pole or door, shift my weight ever so slightly with each bend of the train, grabbing for a hand hold only if the train suddenly breaks for a “sick traveler.” My iPod is on high volume and my portable is close by in my pocket so I can easily respond to any textos I might receive.
I cover lots of ground every day, whether I’m above or below it. If it’s not convenient to go somewhere by metro, the RER will probably work. Buses, despite being like a free sight-seeing tour sans annoying loudspeaker, are less reliable so you’ll rarely catch me on one. People-watching, eaves-dropping, and noticing curious ads are in my daily repertoire. French ads are so strange! Like the one I saw in an RER station advertising a swinger’s website: Savez-vous où se trouve votre femme ce soir? (“Do you know where your wife is tonight?”) is imposed over a picture of a sexy, red-lipstick-ed woman’s face holding her finger to her lips as if she’s saying “Shhh…” I’m sure the same types of websites exist in the US, but I don’t think there would be a big billboard in a major station. These ones from the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens/Paris Transport Authority) are quirky and make me giggle. I saw a family of tourists puzzling over them recently and I butted in to help explain what each one meant.
There are a few “ghost” stations on the metro; stations that are no longer in use but haven’t been removed. When I whiz by one of them on the train, it’s fun to catch a glimpse of an old platform and know that people used to be standing there, waiting impatiently. Last year there was a giant, lit-up billboard for the movie Prometheus set up on a ghost station on the line 9, and I wish I could see the 40’s-era ad for cornstarch too (10 pictures down on the ghost link above).
I know the metro so well now that I’ve begun memorizing which end of the train to stand on in order to be able to walk directly off the train to the exit. I’m so proud that I’ve gotten to this point – I’m the girl who used to get lost driving from Berkeley to Oakland! I’ve come a long way.
The one thing the metro is lacking is that it doesn’t run all night. When out at night, at about 1:30 you have to make a choice – will you stay out until 5:30am when it reopens, or leave NOW?! More than once, I’ve had to sprint to the nearest metro station and hope I can catch the train. Of course, there’s always the night bus, but that’s another story…