Recently, the Paris Transit Authorities published a new rule book in order for Parisians to act more civil on the metro. These rules are written in an old-fashioned and comical way, and are accompanied by humorous sketches. To give you a little idea of their content, here is a rough translation of some of the rules. (The full French version can be found here: http://www.chervoyageurmoderne.fr/Manuel.pdf )
Rule N° 1 tells Parisians to be courteous. It reminds them that the enormous no-smoking sign on the metro platform is not a piece of artwork but a sign forbidding smoking.
Rule N° 2 tells Parisians to be helpful. It reminds them to offer help to a person wearing Bermuda shorts while holding a map in one hand and their head in the other. *Try not to be offended by the whole Bermuda shorts thing… Perhaps you will be more successful than I was.
Rule N° 4 also tells Parisians to be helpful. This time, it reminds them to hold the exit door for the person behind them. It continues to say that in life one should never miss the occasion to cross paths with someone who might give them a pretty look.
Rule N° 9 shows a drawing of a man dressed in old-fashioned clothing looking at the woman sitting across from him with binoculars. The rule simply states to be courteous. It warns them not to stare at people, even if she has killer eyes. Ummm… She? I’m going to let that one pass by reminding myself that this is obviously one of those French kind of things to say.
Rule N° 10 says to be courteous. It reminds Parisians not to provoke a duel with someone who has accidentally stepped on their foot.
Rule N° 11 shows a drawing of a sweaty French man holding the pole above his head, so as not to fall. Sweat drips down from his armpit onto some poor business man who is trying to protect his head with his briefcase. The rule tells Parisians that on hot days, they should keep their arms down along their sides and to try to hold the pole from below and not above.
Although I find some of this rule book amusing, I believe it to be a rather ingenious way to push the focus and or blame on Parisians so that we don’t look at what is truly making the metro ride unpleasant for many. Parisians seem to be an easy target due to the existence of a stereotype that says they are rude. I’m not even sure where that came from. Perhaps back in the day that might have been the case, but the Parisians I see today are modern, worldly and come from all walks of life. They are a far cry from how they are being portrayed. No, not all Parisians are perfect. That said, neither are all tourists… but really? Are we at the point that necessitates taking time, energy and money to publish an online metro rule book for Parisians?
I am not a true Parisian, nor do I claim to be, but in this case I feel that they are getting a bad rap. After living in Paris for 11 years, I have taken the metro more times than I can count. I have always been an observer, and can attest to seeing Parisians help tourists clutching maps, among other lovely gestures like holding doors and giving up their seats for the handicapped, elderly and pregnant women. I have also seen Parisians jump to the aid of people with a baby carriage or heavy suitcase as they attempted to climb the metro stairs. In France, chivalry is far from dead.
These metro rules are all well and good. They can even be taken in a fun and light way, but somehow while reading through them I couldn’t help but look at the big picture. Let’s just say that when my naive self imagines a perfect metro commute, it doesn’t include any of these so-called rules.
My perfect imaginary world includes a metro station where I do not have to let trains pass during rush hour just to push my way on board one of the later trains. This perfect metro car would have enough room for everyone to fit inside comfortably, and have a ventilation system and/or light air conditioning so that we wouldn’t even have to worry about someone sweating on us as they reached up to hold the pole. The metro car doors in my imaginary world, open and close automatically with a lovely and calming ding-dong-ding chime so that I could keep my zen moment alive. As I dream on, I imagine working escalators throughout a clean smelling network of tunnels. Automated metro exit doors would give me enough time to pass through with my wheeled briefcase and then close softly behind me. *Sigh… if only.
I have read many articles about the Paris transit system’s plans and about how they are currently working on building a better metro system. Some of these articles even talked about adding over 100 miles of new metro lines. Wouldn’t it be great if their dream metro system and mine somehow merged into one at some point in the very near future? I don’t know about you, but that would put me in such a good mood that I’d even smile more than I do. Who knows? Perhaps smiling would even be as contagious as yawning!
Do Parisians really need a rule book on metro etiquette, or do they just need a more pleasant environment to travel around Paris? What are your thoughts?