Living in Paris, and not speaking French very well, has forced me to become observant of peoples’ actions. I watch people interact daily, talking, buying food, shopping for clothes, walking their dogs. This also includes using public transportation- in Paris. I am one of 6 million that use the government funded trains – every day.
Last week something different happened, the routine was interrupted. I watched how the Parisian reacted to the unexpected obstacle that was placed before us.
I learned this day – that I am American to my bones, and may never fit into this culture. Watching the French solve the problem, and how I approached the same problem, was completely opposite in every way.
It started out as a normal rush hour commute. I ride a train into Paris, now that I live in the suburbs of Paris. This is not an unusual occurrence, many Parisians live in the suburbs ( very similar to the USA) .
Many people use this time to take a ‘cat nap’, before they plunge into their day. I use this time to read my American magazines, history books, and homework. Many men watch movies on their large smart phones. I don’t understand this at all – how can you feel, the scene? feel the atmosphere of the movie? But they do – most women will either play games on their smart phone or listen to music . I have learned to play soft music and put ear buds in, to help un stress the morning and to block the endless noise. This way – they know, I am not listening to anything that concerns them.
As the trains pulls into Gare L’Est, an female announcement says overhead – we are arriving. On cue, the Parisians, start gathering their belongings.. bags, suitcases, work folders, pocket book , umbrellas. I start to put my books back in my bag- and slowly put on my jacket. I am in no rush to stay with the crowd. I prefer them to go ahead of me – because I know, the metro train during the week arrives every 4 – 6 minutes apart – so I am not concerned. (she’ll be coming around the mountain …)
But on this day; for some unknown reason – the conductor ‘shut off the electric to the train ‘, and what does this mean??? the doors will not open , with a simple push of the button. Here we were: 3 females trapped in the train. Myself, one black girl with long braids around 25, wearing jeans and a leather jacket. The other woman, was white, wearing a business dress with brown hair to her shoulders – in her 50s (both thin—but you knew that already- damn them).
We all went to all the other doors to confirm, our entrapment. The French girl started to knock on the doors and yelling, to get someone’s attention. One man – (first strike ) was passing by. He looked at us, and I could see he was in his late 60s (strike 2, since multi tasking was not normal in his generation), and he was struggling with his smart phone ( strike 3 – because he had one problem already).
The girl yelled to him, to help us, by contacting the conductor – he motioned to her, to pull the emergency release handle. She said no, but asked him to get the conductor instead. He responded – like I thought, by walking away. His head bent over his smart phone- going back into his world.
The girls facial expression was shock and dismay. I watched her with more interests. She kept repeating (in French)’ he’s serious, he’s leaving’. She looked to the other lady- repeating – over and over. Then both of them, started the same routine again—looking to find someone on the platform to free us.
I approached this problem very differently – I told them, I will wait only 5 minutes more. Then I will pull the emergency door release. They did not understand this, why pull the cord? Someone will come and help us.. tap, tap on the door they went. I stood aside watching this play out —at this point- our 2 cultures divided. Tap, tap… I could not understand these women at all ..
I waited 3 minutes, watching this was too much torment for me. Without asking or telling them – I reached up to the red cord by the door, and pulled it. The plastic safety broke off, and fell to the floor. The doors opened 3 inches, which was enough to get my hand in between and pull the doors apart.
Onto the platform we stepped, myself first, then the 2 French ladies. As I started to walk down the grey cement walkway- I saw the train car in front of me – and a train aid man, dressed in red was unlocking the doors to the car. Out poured 15 people from this car. Disbelief was the only emotion I felt.
Behind me, I heard the 2 french women stop the Aid, and started to talk to him. I did not care, how the story would unfold – I kept walking to the metro.
All day I pondered this, for some reason it bothered me deeply. I played the morning, over and over in my head the actions of everyone. Then 2 nights ago- it hit me, during one of my insomnia nights. The French have become dependent on other people to solve their problems! Bang !! that was it !!
This explains why the women would not pull the emergency cord, why the other 15 people stayed trapped in the other car. This explains World War 2, D-Day, Vietnam etc.. Somehow, t the French create problems – and don’t know they are doing it?? or don’t have the backbone to solve it ?? They put their heads in ‘designer, artiste holes in the ground’, and wait until the problem passes.
This also explains how the current migrant problem is unfolding here. Unemployment is high here-maybe around 13%, and France is the 2nd biggest debtor in Europe. The have seen fit to create Socialism government programs, 50 years ago, and refuse to update them to the new economy.
So when this invasion comes here (besides the terrorists issue) they will want food, shelter & clothing.. but where to get the funds from ?? The current statistics coming in are; 1 out of 5 men can’t read or write. 1 out of 4 women can’t read or write. How can these people integrate into the society here ? its not possible- thus – not workable – thus a welfare case.
The French government will worry about that later .. BUT life and business does not work like this .. We Americans have been trained to solve our own problems… to relay on our selves and neighbors and our churches for aid and help. we don’t look to the government to solve problems, because we know, most of the time – they do not do a good job..
In closing, I learned the vast difference between Americans and French … the French women, waited for someone to solve the problem … while the sole American pulled the cord – and became free …
2 replies to “Trapped in a Train with Codependent French”
My friend Tonya just got done staying there and met you. She posted your site and I’m so glad
What a good read!!!
Glad you pulled that emergency door release
What’s sad is a lot of people, like you said are so codependent
it was very nice to meet Tonya . Sorry for the delay in responding, but I have been fighting the Flu. With the colder weather here, I am not use to it – so in the winter, I tend to get sick .
As for the people in the train , its so odd to me – that they were ok with waiting for some one to come and help them … also — they did not care, if they were going to be late for work .. and this blows my mind .. who wants to lose a job over something so silly ??
Send me any ideas , if you want me to look into something special for you .