Saturday, May 14, 2005

Too Slow

I’m a fast walker. I’ve got long legs, I’m often running late, and I like to move quickly. All of this is was a major disadvantage in the Paris metro. The bulk of the system was built in the 19th century and is not meant to handle today’s crowds. The passageways are narrow and winding, some stops only have one exit, and the staircases are a death trap for the elderly or handicapped. Add to this the influx of summer tourists and you had a large-scale transportation disaster.

I had no patience for the sluggish, the uncertain, the lost, the laden-down mass of people schlepping up the stairs in front of me. Just thinking about that set of stairs off the Four at Gare du Nord at rush hour gave me panic attacks.

That’s why I brought the following proposal to the attention of the mayor. Since its inception two weeks ago, metro slowness has become a thing of the past and it has been universally hailed as a model for transportation systems across the world. Here’s what was done, at my behest:

Metro Solution - A Modest Proposal

City Hall invested in about three dozen wolverines, a handful of komodo dragons, and an assortment of other vicious carnivores, and set them loose underground. Special security systems (including electronic collars) ensured that these new RATP “employees” would never make it out of the stations, so the city at large remains safe.

However, fear of being devoured by a bloodthirsty predator suddenly made the average speed in the metro pick up dramatically. No more absent-minded weaving back and forth. No more blocking the escalators. Everybody now runs everywhere. Those daring enough to brave the metro, and the possibility of a grisly demise at the jaws of some hungry animal, sprint from platform to platform, bounding up the stairs three at a time. Workers and students arrive at the office and classroom revived and refreshed by the morning sprint. The average commute time has plummeted. The productivity of French workers promises to rise dramatically, a wholesale economic resurgence of France is imminent, and with it a re-calibration of the trans-Atlantic balance of power. The metro predators serve to create fear but also help combat the rat problem – two birds with one stone. The frail and the elderly take the bus and are thus not deprived of access to public transportation. (The buses are much more elderly and handicapped friendly).

Mayor Delanoë has promised to comment on this post. I might clear some room in my schedule for lunch with him sometime early next week. In any case I expect to be awarded the Legion d’Honneur by the end of the year.


Blogger juliana said...

HA! Great idea. Reminds me of when I would run (I'm not one of the slow people) around the Paris metro too. Would be kinda scary to see the wolverines take off a chunk of someones leg though...

6:54 PM, May 14, 2005  
Anonymous ddj said...

This is a great idea. But it wouldn't surprise me if there were various animals like that already running around in the metro. Sometimes you look down those tunnels and wonder just what the hell is down there...

Your problem is similar to mine. I want to drive about 85mph to get home after work, but people insist on driving slowly in the left lane. I either have to pass on the right, or tailgate them while swearing at them.

5:46 PM, May 15, 2005  
Anonymous Chris said...

The Legion of Honor... you and M Homais.

6:34 PM, May 15, 2005  
Anonymous passive smoking said...

Yes! A fine example of civic responsibility.

1:49 PM, May 16, 2005  
Anonymous J.W. from L.I. (Nicolas knows who) said...

Can I apply for the position of komodo dragon? Like komodos, I "undergo rituals of appeasement...pacing around a feeding circle in a stately ritualized walk." I also throw my body "from side to side with exaggerated convulsions" and "throw up the contents of [my] stomach when threatened to lessen [my] weight in order to flee." And I have nearly reached my maximum length of ten feet.

Please advise where to send application, resume and letters of recommendation.

(Citation: http://animaldiversity.ummz.

5:43 AM, May 24, 2005  
Blogger Nicolas said...

Applications for the position of komodo dragon or other assorted metro predators should be addressed directly to the appropriate RATP offices - although I do hear that there is currently a big demand for velociraptors.

2:02 AM, May 25, 2005  
Blogger Ed said...

Fantastic idea. Mind if I steal it and put it into use here in Washington, D.C.? It's prime tourist season here, too....I think all those school kids from Iowa could use a good scare with a dragon nipping at their heels.

11:15 PM, June 27, 2005  

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