Thursday, May 05, 2005

When the Metro Closes

I think theoretically you’re supposed to buy a ticket on the Paris night bus but nobody ever does, and tonight is no different. I stumble on the D, headed home to the 18th arrondissement, pushed forward by the human tide behind me.

The Paris metro closes down in the wee hours, so between 1 and 5:30 AM, the cash-strapped, the people who get off work very, very late, and everyone who didn’t score in the bars converges upon Place du Chatelet to grab the moving vehicle that will take them home. A variegated tide of human wreckage spills on at every stop.

At Grands Boulevards a group of 30something women board the bus. I can’t tell what they’re on – maybe they’re simply giddy – but in any case they make quite a racket. For about ten minutes they content themselves with flirting with the driver, whispering to each other and giggling like it’s the junior high school cafeteria:

“You’ve got such pretty eyes, monsieur.”

“Are you from Martinique? You look exactly like a friend of mine from back home.”

They soon tire of this, however, and start to play Bus Conductor.

The ringleader starts calling out the names of the stops whenever the bus halts, but deliberately in the wrong order, so that when we’re at Gare du Nord, she yells out Barbès, when we’re at Chateau Rouge she screams Porte de Clignancourt, and so on. Drowsy passengers jolt to attention, thinking they missed their stop.

The ringleader, a pretty woman in tight jeans, finds this hilarious. Her sidekicks admonish her for a moment, then double over with laughter. Their howls are the only sound on the bus. Then Bus Girl gets aggressive, turning to her companions and shrieking,

“Tickets, please! Show me your tickets!”

“Drop it, girl, cool it.”


More passengers jolt awake. The zany band of shrieking Bus Girls continue their antics on our merry way to the northern extremities of Paris. For once, I don’t have to worry about falling asleep and missing my stop.


Anonymous B. said...

You're my new Metro newsletter !
Thanx for your chronicles, so realistically funny ;-)

5:56 PM, May 13, 2005  

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