OH there is really no place that will get your heart pumping like the Métro.
“Le Metro…” is usually the start of about 80% of greetings in paris right behind “salut…” and followed by a series of complaints or excuses. It is hot, it is dirty, it is late, it is crowded, but it is necessary in a huge city to have a system that can get you across the city in 30 minutes at 5pm (that is assuming you don’t have any changes). Aside from the many frustrations that the Métro has I for one am so grateful to have it because otherwise I would be even more late than I already am.
People can be one of the biggest aggravations about the metro. Never in my life have I smelled the mix of grape bubblelichious gum and flatulence but the Paris Métro provided me and my friend with that joy one day. And the way that some people act in the Métro makes you really want to confront them and remind them of the definition of the public in public transportation. There are some rules posted that seats are reserved for veterans, women who are pregnant or have small children, the elderly, and the handicapped… something that is just a common courtesy, something we really shouldn’t have to be reminded about.
But there is also a certain code of how you should act in the metro that is not too obvious… at least not to everyone.
I will start with something that just drives me UP THE WALL. When you get into the metro there is a small area for standing that has two metal poles for bracing yourself, double doors usually used for leaning against when they do not open to a platform, and an average of 8 fold-down bucket-seats. When you are standing in this area BY NO MEANS should you lean against the poles. What you are doing here is taking up and entire pole for yourself, no matter how small or inconvenient you feel you are, and even if you don’t think that people are using the pole: you are in someone’s way. It is extremely upsetting for other passengers to have you press your back up against them, trapping their hand in its grip around the pole. Lean against one of the walls, the doors, even fold-up a chair and stand in the gap that is has left but the poles are not you personal leaning posts ESPECIALLY at 9 am when we are all trying to get somewhere.
When you find yourself being the last to enter the large mass that crams itself into the Métros at peak-times of the day it is very probable that you are by the doors. If this is the case you have a serious responsibility towards the consideration of the others that are in the cart with you. When the train stops OPEN THE DOORS and step slightly outside of them. When everyone stands concretely in there spots on the Métro there is no possible way to get out. Even if everyone did try to move out of your way the ratio of people to space on these trains just does not make it mathematically possible for someone to get out so some people have to step out of the train to make room for those who are just trying to get to their next destination.
You can by all means still keep your place on the Métro despite the crazed amount of people there may be waiting on the platform. IN fact, you might even end-up getting a better spot if you step-out and let people get off the train. The trick is to step out but step dramatically to the side of the doors keeping one hand on the door or even if you can, keep hole of the metal U-bar that is installed by the door. A dramatic move will show to all the people on the platform that you were in fact there before them. The majority of people will respect this fact and respect that you got out to make it easy for someone else and they will let you get back onto the Métro first.
Even if you have no intention to step out of the train ALWAYS open the doors. This at least gives people coming from the back of the little crowded area a chance to slightly fall out of the doors before the train rumbles off. Not to mention it lets a little cool air in to everyone’s relief
Obvious: people with iphones and other devices that can play music not only from headphones but from its speakers… we do not all want to hear your music, even if you think Usher is the greatest thing ever, I’m not as convinced.
Moving through the Métro:
GO FAST! Do not wonder. Walk fast, if you turn down the wrong hallway or end up on the wrong platform it is ok but you really have to get through the metro as fast as you can. Not only does it stink and this helps with dealing with that. BUT the slower you move from platform to platform the more susceptible you make yourself for people who want to take advantage of you.
Some advice for the metro:
If someone tries to give you a piece of paper, do not take it unless you plan to give this person money. They are beggars. I have my own personal opinion about these people who come onto the Métros asking for money. They are the same people everyday that pass me and ask me for money and every one of them says the exact same script about how they haven’t eaten in two days and they haven’t been able to shower and they need to feed their five kids and poor little Johnny who has no neck….blah blah. In any case each day these people come on the trains begging well-dress and clean for the most part just trying to get through the easy way. However now and then there will be someone who will say that they are actively looking for work and if someone is looking for an accountant ect. then they have their CV with them. In any case I’ve only ever given anything to the musicians and artists on the streets that are actually WORKING for their money. Headphones really helps though with this aspect of the Métro. I’ve even seen people who don’t have their headphones plugged into anything with little white ear buds in their ears just so they can have a bit of a wall between them and all that is happening in the Métro.
Just always remember to protect yourself and the things you have with you but to be conscious of the people who are around you and you’re gonna do just fine.