I've seen numerous manifestations in the two years I've been in Paris, but something about today's manif by ambulance drivers was different.
I often have a disconnect between what is announced on the news and what I see happening in front of me. I don't immediately associate one with the other. Arriving in front of St. Francois Xavier, when I saw the ambulances blocking the boulevard des Invalides, my first reaction was that there must have been a major accident, and the EMTs were there to save an injured group.
Then I saw the sign, "Ambulanciers en colère." (Angry Ambulance Drivers)
I recalled the manif I had read about in the news, the ambulance drivers who are upset about the price of fuel and its effect on their livelihood. Here it was, right on my regular beat. Although breaking news events like this happen often in Paris, each time I am taken aback by stumbling across the epicenter of the day's news story.
Content to proceed on foot, as there was obviously going to be no #92 bus, I crossed the place Vauban in front of the Hotel des Invalides.
It was a massive roadblock of about 500 ambulances from every département of France. The vehicles were largely unoccupied, but all had put their sirens on automatic. A cacophony of the two siren types blared through the neighborhood. The dissonant dee-DAAH, dee-DAAH of some, the staccato deedle-dee, deedle-dee, deedle-dee of others. In the middle of it all, it began to sound like a symphony of plaintive bagpipes.
Most manifs have lots of people marching, waving banners, and human voices shouting.
This was powerful imagery in its absence of people. From my vantage point there were only empty ambulances, wailing. A flashing blue reminder where we would all be if the ambulances lacked drivers.
Avenue de Ségur was completely shut down, leading up to the Ministry of Health where the ambulance drivers were focusing their demonstration.
I hope that there weren't too many medical emergencies in France today.