July 24, 2004
Having read Danté’s “The Inferno”, I have a much better understanding of the Paris Metro.
You see, we’ve been “enjoying” a typical Parisian summer this past week. 16° in the morning and climbing to anywhere between 27° and 29° by the afternoon. Likewise, once the sun sets, the temperature falls back down into the mid-teens for comfortable sleeping. That’s all good, unless you have to trek clear across the city in mid-afternoon heat, in the bowels of the Metro system.
The Metro is a tangled web of tunnels and tracks for 13 subway routes and 4 rapid transit trains crisscrossing the city. Needless to say, the tunnels are stacked deep underground and at some stations you spend the bulk of your time striding down wide staircases or catching your breath as you coast down escalators.
Now you’d think that the air would get cooler the further down you spiraled into the Metro system, but that’s not necessarily the case. Sure the connecting corridors are breezy, but they simply funnel the warm air from one station to another as the trains shove their way through the tunnels.
During one particularly scorching Metro experience I stood watching a businessman, squashed in alongside of me, melt before my very eyes. Holding flowers in one hand, and gripping a pole for balance with his other hand, he was unable to keep his glasses from slowly sliding down his nose. His crisp navy suit began to droop on him like a rag. His light blue shirt slowly turned a deeper sweaty hue. And the beautiful bouquet of flowers in his hand appeared to wither as though it was the subject of some sort of freakish time-lapsed photography
Needless to say, last evening as I showered and prepared to attend une petite soirée at a friend’s apartment across town, I realized that it was an exercise in futility. I would be a sweaty heap in the course of two, maybe three, Metro stations.
And sure enough, not an hour later, I was dripping with sweat as I negotiated the maze of tunnels that connected my Metro line to the line on which my friend lives. And as is often the case as one walks deeper into in the Parisian Metro, music began to travel on the warm air that blew past me. Buskers. A duo in fact. An accordion and a tuba, playing a tango. I couldn’t help it. I laughed out loud and looked around me. My fellow commuters and I looked as though we had been dancing the tango, if not the lambada, for hours, red-faced and glistening with sweat.
So, with a bit of a flourish, I yanked a flower out of the bouquet I had in hand for my friend, and clamped it between my teeth, strutting past the buskers in my best improvised solo tango, wiggling an eyebrow for effect.
The tuba player couldn’t control his laughter and let out a little *BLAT*. But the grinning accordion player kept the melody afloat and nodded deeply to me as I sailed by.