Sunday, May 20, 2007

C'est Quoi, Toutes ces Bulles?

The other day on rue du Four I saw an older lady (by that I mean at least 15 years older than I am), stumble on the sidewalk, catch herself, turn around and glare at the spot on the ground, and then move forward, annoyed.

From a distance, I was thinking in my smug younger ego, "Well, at a certain age (ha! not me yet!) you just aren't as steady on your feet." And, I assumed, she just wanted something to blame. "Aardvarks," we used to call those invisible non-existent obstacles that caused the terminally clumsy -- or in this case, slightly aging -- to pitch forward but not flat out, as if someone had stuck a foot in front of you.

Punish me now, please. I am so unkind, so skeptical. When I got to the spot where she had tripped, I noticed an odd bump protruding from the otherwise smooth asphalt sidewalk. She really had caught her foot on something.

A few days later, crossing the Pont de l'Alma, I encountered a wild-haired, ragged guy on Rollerblades. He stopped dead in his tracks in front of me and, pointing behind him, demanded "C'est quoi toutes ces bulles?" (what are all these bubbles?) as if I was expected to know the answer. I moved on without responding to him, but did stop to look.

Sure enough, Paris sidewalks and streets are sprouting bumps faster than a teenager on Snickers bars -- everywhere there are annoying clusters or single protrusions where you least expect them.

So my weird little question to Mayor Delanoe and his team: c'est quoi, toutes ces bulles?

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