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Saturday 28 January 2006

People in Distress

Every time I've riden the metro lately, there's been at least one passenger in obvious distress on the train. A few days ago, I saw an empty car. Score! In retrospect, I should have made a more careful note of the fact that the woman waiting to get off of it was holding her nose. Yeah, so this guy, who was now rocking back and forth dazedly, had been sick. Oh my god, the smell. Me and another woman got on, sat for a minute, looked at each other and went to stand by the door to change cars at the next stop. But what to do about the guy?

Today, I was riding the 11 line to Chatalet and I saw another guy sort of swaying as if he were sick. I noticed that one of his shoes had been decorated in a really weird manner. He splattered it with brownish red paint. Soaked it, really. And it was on his pant leg too and oh my god, his shoe and pant leg are covered in blood! Chatalet is the terminus of the 11 line, so I got off at the end, but he didn't. He stayed swaying in the metro car as it drove to park in the tunnel.

I was on my way to see Michelle (the secret girlfriend of the soon-to-be-famous Cynthia) and asked her what to do when I see people in distress. She told me that if it's an emergency, I can pull the emergency break, but I should do it when the train is stopped in the station with it's doors open. Alternately, I can go talk to the station agent when I get off the train. I can picture myself waiting in line for a while and then "Excusez moi à vous déranger mais il y an person avec un problem dans un train qui ummmm le train est sortie um... dix minute ummm.... un person malade...."

Coming home, I don't know what was going on at Place d'Italie, but it was bad enough that a bunch of metro workers were standing at the top of a staircase, not letting anyone down it. Meanwhile, hundreds of people were pouring into the station from other trains and from the street above, trying to get home and waiting in a pedestrian tunnel that I was trying to make my way through. There was an "accident" the metro workers explained. Oh my god. So I got on an escalator to go towards my line, which, fortunately, was not effected. You know, it's a really bad idea to get on a moving surface that ends in a crush of people. What are you going to do at the end, walk backwards on the moving surface? What about the people behind you?

The moral of this story is complex and multifaceted: never get on an empty metro car. Notice if people are holding their noses. Learn how to summon help. There are a huge number of homeless and sick people in Paris. This morning, it was -4C outside. Médecins du Monde has distributed tents, but it's not enough. The cold drives people indoors, into the metro, where all the commuters ignore them, just like they do in the summer, when these people are in the streets rather than on the subway. I don't know about life in the big city. How can we just step over and ignore somebody who obviously needs help?

When I got home, Cola was in crying distress from her toothache, so I walked her over to the dental x-ray people and arranged an earlier appointment. But it was late friday, so that means monday. Then I took her to the pharmacy and got her some better pain killers.

My dad gets here tomorrow afternoon. Maybe I'll go buy some pants before then. And read the Burroughs that I need to read. And mop the kitchen and generally clean and buy groceries and send a mandat to my landlord's mother already, it's only, what, 3 weeks late.

It's really goddamn cold, by the way. I've heard the cold front blew in from Siberia. Oh sure, you get your cold snaps with air from Alaska or Canada or the Arctic, but we get fucking Siberia. Who sounds more damn cold and desolate now?

Every bad thing that happens in Paris also happens in Middletown Connecticut, only there it all seems much much worse somehow. And there's no metro there.

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