Saturday, September 1, 2012

The strike strikes back

The autumn not only comes with the joy of socializing again (essentially to brag about the defunct vacation) and the solemn resolution  (once more!) that this is the year when I'll read *more*. It also comes with the sweet whisper of the ineluctable autumn strike creeping up. Every year, the reason for that one big strike in September/October stays a little foggy (for me, at least! The last years' was in protest against moving up the limit age of retirement, if I remember right. Or was it against reducing the overall number of teachers?...). Anyhow, nothing could take away the feeling and the aura one gets after surviving one big French strike.

Like my first encounter with a transport strike ever: I had just arrived in France (about 5 years ago) only a couple of weeks after I had started my new French job. I was young and successful and the whole world was mine, hourray! And then, there goes the walking and then again the walking, endless hours, every day, for about one week, from and to where my office was located in NW Paris... ("What's a small week compared to a lifetime?" I'm tempted to say now, but I didn't feel like saying it at all at the time...)

There was no living soul at the metro (the personnel had simply locked the doors, except for the automated line 14), no busses or trams, no nothing. It was only a test, I reckoned... I was left there, all by myself, me and my misery, but I was not to be that easily discouraged! It's true that all the others sharing my fate looked better armed and more knowledgeable about the entire process, since they had put in place a whole lot of alternative transportation means (carpooling, bicycles, kick scooters and some even used the touristic boats on the Seine). I so envied the power that experience brought them! So far for the foreign girl trying to make her way in the big city... Keep walking, neophyte!!!

Thinking back now, on the bright side, I can certify in earnest that Paris has a great signage system, I could always (but always!) find the much needed directions, using the ubiquitous maps in the deserted bus stations or at the closed entrances of the metro (and everyone knows how easily I could get lost, it's not even funny anymore).

Oh, the good 'ol times when white collars were riding kick scooters in their way to the office, tie flying away, in the cool air of the Parisian morning! Just priceless! It's all long gone now, since the freshly appointed (now ex-) president, monsieur Sarkozy, helped pass a law forcing unions to provide a minimum transport quota in times of (that kind of) trouble. The move, of course, lessened the leverage power of unions, but did, in exchange, an immense good to humanity (legend has it that when the jury of the Summer 2012 Olympics came to evaluate Paris' proposal to host it, back in 2005, there was a big fat transport strike seasoned with a few demonstrations, which entirely cut the appetite of the jury to see it happened during the Games. But you won't read about it on the French Wikipedia! :) ).

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