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.