Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Manifestation: Avoidance

Today was the big day for protests in Paris. The public, after essentially being ignored, is (um, how to put this politely?) really getting ticked off. The plans today were for a very large demonstration on the Place d'Italie.

Which is 1/2 block from my apartment.

Though I know I have a responsibility to my readers, I really just wasn't in the mood to deal with this today. Crammed metro cars, annoying people littering partout, having to walk kilometers out of my way, rude hangers on who just came to make a fuss--I just didn't want it any more. No more! Go away!

But they didn't listen to me.

So, I hid in my apartment until I just had to get a move on and be productive, and I headed out around 1 to pick up a few things at the street market, expecting it to be a shadow of its normal self. I was surprised that most of the vendors were there, and I was able to nearly complete my list without having to go to the supermarket. I stopped in an "ali" (alimentation générale--corner store) to get salted butter and juice (the cremerie had no more salted) before heading home, albeit with 3 boxes of strawberries and a dozen bananas I didn't need. (The market guys get generous near 1:30, when they know they have to pack it up. Plus, being a woman, and blonde, I seem to benefit from this no matter what time it is.) I got home, and Lucy informed me that now was the time for her walk, not later. This seemed a good idea, because I know she doesn't like big crowds, and currently, the area was relatively quiet.

We went out, past the bakery which was decked out in new wooden barriers (photo above), to walk down Boulevard Auguste Blanqui. Lucy likes the center of the street, as there are long stretches of sand with trees (which is closer to grass than cobblestone, in her mind) and often there are retired gentlemen playing boules who pat her as she walks by. On our way, I noticed many television vans parked and preparing for broadcast, including an NBC van. I put on lipstick, but they didn't ask me for an interview. Dangit. (What a waste of lipstick.)

There was a tense feeling in the air, with people checking over their shoulders and looking around for anticipated trouble. Police were stationed all over, and had blocked off most streets. I saw several arguments between officers and moped-riders, who wanted to go where the streets had already been cordoned off with red and white striped plastic tape, and were sure the rules didn't apply to them.

After our walk, I headed over to the American Library (way over by the Eiffel Tower--via the metro and the bus) to refill my shelf. On the way back, the bus driver took an alternate route, as streets way over there were also being blocked off. Though I was worried about being late, I made it back in time, grabbed some of the fraises et bananes (strawberries and bananas) to take to my girls' house, and picked them up at their public school.

The principal was at the door today, making sure no kids left school alone, and that the proper adults were there to accompany the students safely home. We headed the opposite direction from normal, and caught one of the buses that ends up near their house that had been rerouted. Since most traffic had been diverted, the road was busy, and we spent the next 45 minutes driving 3 feet and stopping for 3 minutes, repeat ad nauseum. P fell asleep in her bus seat, and I sat facing her, watching carefully to make sure she didn't tumble forward and face plant on the bus floor. We could have walked in that amount of time, but it was worth it to relax and know we were safe.

The kids' parents got home around 8 (Mr. Kids said the traffic was a nightmare) and we discussed the best way for me to get home. There had been reports of fighting already in the Place d'Italie, and I was a little nervous about walking alone. The bus wasn't running, so we figured my best bet was to walk to the Metro, and take it one stop past where I needed to go, and walk up behind our street. As I walked toward the train, I noticed more people on the streets than usual. Most were tense, and I honestly felt a little nervous being alone (without the dog) and female. As I walked past a store, I saw a big Rottweiler waiting outside. I said hello, and the dog licked my hand and wagged his tail (stump) and jumped in the air. I laughed and patted his head, relieved to see someone who still had joy in his heart that day.

Then his owner came out, rehooked the leash to the hook on the wall, and told me, "Go buy your own dog."

I smiled, said thank you, and told him to **** off, a*****e. (The last part was in English, but I think he got my meaning.)

As I got closer to the Metro, I saw people leaving the protest. These were the ones who'd had their fill, and were ready to head home to dinner, or to a nearby brasserie for a beer to discuss the events. Tour buses passed (yes, there were tour buses), driving the participants back to wherever they had come from. This crowd was happy, relaxed, and generally a bit older than the under-26 set who are most affected by the law in question. I took the escalator up to the Metro platform, and found it full of people. I moved my way to the front, and scanned back and forth, trying to ignore my rumbling tummy and cursing the boulangeries for all being closed already. When I got on the Metro, so did hundreds of others, so we were literally crammed in like sardines. Half the crowd waited on the platform, and taunted us through the windows as the car slowly rolled on.

The walk home was fairly quiet, and I could see lots of police vans, ambulances, and television trucks parked, but couldn't see past them to the actual protest. Finally arriving home, I ate a bit of chocolate and a banana, drank some beer, and told Dr. B just how nervous and scared I had been. He said, "Put on your shoes. We're going to the creperie for dinner." As we ate, we relaxed when we saw, out the window of the restaurant, police heading down to get something to eat at the Kebab restaurant. Then, we saw those same police running full throttle back to the Place--not a good sign.

We ordered dessert.

As we walked home, the Place was eerily quiet. The protesters were gone, and the camera crews were cleaning up.

Under our window, the crew that had been there was still there, and their generator was still running, loudly. Dr. B asked me to speak to them.

I approached them, and (in French) asked them what time they would be turning off the machine. The men were very polite, and answered me in English, saying repeatedly that they were very, very sorry and asking if it was the noise that bothered us. They said they would try to be out of there in 15 minutes, but they were sorry that it was taking too long, and they hoped their bosses wouldn't ask for more work from them, but that again they were really, really sorry.

They apologized waaaaayyy too many times to have been French, or even American. I think they were Swedish.

It was so nice to have someone be nice to me, that as I climbed the stairs to our apartment, I finally was able to let go of some of the stress of the day. All of that avoiding is hard work.

Whether one agrees with the CPE or doesn't, whether or not the law is repealed or enforced, I hope this is soon over. I'm tired.



At 4:46 PM, April 04, 2006, Anonymous The Bold Soul said...

Whew... I was tired just reading about your day. It must be stressful to be so close to the action and have to plan your life around it, yet not to be able to do anything about it. CNN, MSNBC and Fox were all running live and continuous coverage of Paris today. It didn't look quite as bad as last Tuesday except for a few poor guys who were getting dragged around by the mob and kicked in the head. At this point it seems to me like a bit of a lost cause... the government will move forward with the law (in some form or other) anyway.

Glad you made it home safely. And I hope that wasn't the last of your "perfect lipstick" you wasted on that NBC van!

At 6:43 PM, April 04, 2006, Anonymous smgjulie said...

Been thinking of you as I hear about the protesting. What a drag to have it affecting you so much - but glad to know that you're surviving ok.

At 4:46 AM, April 05, 2006, Anonymous Tanya said...

Bonjour ! Just wanted to say that I really enjoy reading your blog...After travelling to Paris a couple of times I'm hoping to leave the sunny shores of Australia to live in France sometime soon, and reading your posts has been a fun and interesting way to stay in touch with what's happening on the streets of paris, as well as giving insights to french culture and how you manage to survive all the challenges of being foreigners living in France. So happy I found your page !

At 5:09 AM, April 05, 2006, Blogger PutYourFlareOn said...

I exited the place d'italie metro at around 19h30 after work yesterday and waas greeted by the CRS and told to move it! Very scary indeed. Not sure what was going on because I hoofed it out of there. Like you, I'm tired of all this too. Unfortunately, I think that the protests could go on for a while longer... this is our paris life!

At 8:29 AM, April 05, 2006, Anonymous Roxanne said...

Wow! What a good explanation of what it is like. I hope that it is all over soon, that is crazy and a hastle. Thoughts of peace are being sent your way...


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