Friday, October 12, 2007

Another day, another manifestation

Just another ordinary day in Paris. At the intersection on rue de Babylone, the police were redirecting traffic yesterday afternoon. Cars were backing up, honking. I could see the far end of the street was blocked off by a white police truck. Another day, another manif. (I recalled my first days in Paris when I saw my first manifestation ever, parading noisily down the rue de Rennes, and was so excited, snapping pictures, thrilled with the drama of it all.)

Now I don't even bat an eyelash, and simply do the mental calculation of how to change my transportation plans to get where I need to go. This manif was headed down to les Invalides.

So I walked down the rue de Babylone anyway, figuring that I could get to the boulevard, but that bus service would be interrupted and I'd simply have to take the metro at St. Francois Xavier to get to my meeting across town.

Think again.

This time the two policemen wouldn't even let pedestrians down the street. "C'est bloqué." is all they would say. A small crowd of would-be passersby stopped, incredulous that we weren't able to go the one block to the street. One by one, they asked the same question. "Can't I just go to the metro?" Same curt but polite reply each time, "C'est bloqué." We all started looking at each other with an oh-well-what-the-hell shrug. "Can we get to Duroc station, au moins?" asked one lady. "You can try, but I can't promise anything," replied the gendarme, clearly tiring of his role as an information desk clerk.

"Can you least tell us the projected route of the manif?" she pressed her luck. No reply.

I stood there immobile for a moment, weighing my options. I was already running late, and couldn't decide which way to head to catch a bus or metro that would skirt the manif. I chewed on my fingernail as I contemplated.

"Surely, madame, you cannot be so anguished as to have to do this," said a smooth gravelly-voiced man. I looked up and saw a 60-something gent, wavy hair, silk ascot, imitating me by biting on his finger. He smiled.

"Mais si," I replied, returning the smile. "I'm trying to figure out whether I should try to go to Duroc or Sevres-Babylone to catch the metro." I stuck my index finger back in my teeth. I needed to think, fast.

"Ah, parfois il faut choisir dans la vie," he said with a twinkle. "Il faut prendre des risques."

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