Thursday, May 03, 2007

March of the Turtles

An inordinate amount of people wear backpacks in Paris. And I'm not referring to students and tourists. I'm talking about adults riding the metro during rush hour in business attire. While I expect more from the "fashionably chic" Parisiens (the ones that ridicule American for wearing Bermudas and knee-highs), it's not the assault on my eyes that I find irritating. It's the assault on my face.

I have been the victim of backpack burn many a times as an oblivious commuter drags his dirty Eastpak across my cheek because he is too clueless to realize that the canvas mess on his back moves with him. My instinct is to reach up and grab the handle at the top of his shell and pull him to his knees so he can beg for my forgiveness. The very handle that is intended to be used as a carrying device when it’s not practical to wear the backpack! Of course I don’t have the language skills or the balls to do this so instead I just push the backpack out of my face and look the other way when the culprit turns around.

This issue is taken very seriously in San Francisco. Public service posters appear in BART trains reminding commuters to remove their backpacks as a courtesy to fellow travelers (just in case someone forgot to pack their common sense that morning). Perhaps we are a little too nice in California. I’m going to need to toughen up if I’m going to make it in the Big City. A daily dose of sandpaper canvas to the face during my morning commute is a good start.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Think of it a cheap dermabrasion to keep the youthful glow of your complexion forever.Now you know why I need a keeper on mass transit (Rosina)., Love mom

The Late Bloomer said...

I can relate... My morning RER commute is along the same lines. I try to be sure to carry my own purse down low when necessary, instead of keeping it on my shoulder, but I have on occasion forgotten to shift it around and gotten some dirty looks from people. But those BACKPACKS -- what the hell?! I agree that some are completely oblivious to those around them...

Just on a personal gripe, I also HATE it when we arrive at a busy stop, like La Défense, and I step off of the train to allow for other passengers to get off -- to clear the way, if you will -- and just as I prepare to board the train again, a million other people barrel past me before I can get the chance. I'm lucky if I even make it back on the train so I can travel on to my next stop. I mean, I stepped OUT OF THE WAY for the others, come ON!

Sometimes it's truly every man -- and woman! -- for himself... Then again, as my recent Métro Magic post indicates, from time to time you run into some friendliness and politesse that wipes all the ugliness away -- at least temporarily!

Almost French said...

You are not alone. Ici in DC, I have almost gotten black eyes from people's backpacks, computer bags and large carryalls while I am sitting in a seat. Our metro does not have the up and down seats by the doors like in Paris, so when it gets crowded you don't stand up to save room you stay seated. And then the assault begins. People are always moving around. The worst offenders are the men!!!

However, we have a ton of reminders, written and told by the conducters, to allow people to exit before trying to board.

Anonymous said...

now you know why i drive from noe valley to the financial district :-) -Gil

Anonymous said...

Save money buying sandpaper. Just tell Bilbo to lick your face. Super-D.

Polly said...

The RATP is on a friendliness campaign, so maybe a note to them would help. In situations like this I always think WWAFPD (What would a French Person do?) and if the answer is 'A French person would get indignant and scold the offender", well then, that's the best option.

I don't have to take the metro at rush hour, TG, but for example when idiots are just standing blocking the lovely narrow sidewalks I say like a true Frenchman, indignant, "On peut passer, non?" or whatever it is that I copy from hearing on the street. Sure makes me feel better.

It's not my nature to say stuff like that -- usually I'd be saying-"Oh excusez moi," and wait demurely til they were through or saw that I needed to get by. But that doesn't happen. Good luck!

David said...

I think instead of pushing or pulling the backpack, you should quietly unzip the backpack halfway down so that the contents of the backpack will slowly but surely slip out of the backpack JUST AS THE CULPRIT EXITS THE TRAIN AND THE DOORS SHUT. Then you can pick up the suckers wallet and laugh maniacally as they vainly run down the platform after the train.

Anonymous said...

I have a problem travelling in the train with my M-16. lol !!!