One learns, very quickly, that to survive on the Métro you have to, well, sort of put your worst foot forward.
If you look happy, pleasant, or even neutral, you will get stared at, glared at, and sometimes accosted.
If you look like you are angry at the world and one wrong look in your general direction may unleash a firestorm of fury, people leave you alone.
So, in order to survive, I have adopted the "don't mess with me" look whenever riding the train. (This is the same look that works with cranky cashiers.)
I learned, from my own mistake, that you never smile. Someone who sees you do it may assume you are laughing at them.
They are French. This is what they think when they see a smile. As absurd as it seems to us, that's the way it is.
One day, early in September, I nearly got my fingers pinched in the door as they shut. I smiled, thinking 'you idiot, Ronica. Wake up and smell the coffee.'
The man near me glared at me until the next stop, assuming I was laughing at him. I didn't yet know how to say, "I'm not smiling at you. Get over yourself! It's not all about you, Mr. Metro-riding-weird-furry-hat-when-it's-hot-out-what-the-heck-are-you-thinking-anyway-you-must-have-a-sweaty-head!" So, I suffered his glare until enough people got out and I could turn away.
That's why yesterday was so, well, I guess there is only one way to put it. Bizarre.
Maybe it's the Christmas spirit. Maybe I just got lucky. Maybe my guardian angel was watching over me and prodding others to respond in a way that seems so very un-Parisian.
I got smiles from two different people, on two different metro lines, at two different times of the day. I'll call this a record. And they weren't those creepy, weird smiles that make you feel like you need a shower. They were real, honest-to-goodness warm, kind smiles.
And how? How you say? How in the world did I succeed where so many others have failed?
I think I am really starting to like it here.