Queue-Jumping and Other Parisian Skills
A few years ago, I half-jokingly asked my French university students what they thought of the, ahem, 'unwillingness' of the French to follow seemingly logical rules, like the standing in line concept.
I had lived in Paris for a few years by that point, but certain aspects of the French character hadn't ceased to amaze me.
For example, having seen more than a few motorists squeeze tiny cars into even tinier (and, I might add, illegal) spots on sidewalks, and having witnessed my fair share of dog-owners who refused to pick up canine detritus in any shape or form, I was convinced of the existence of — if not a French character — then definitely of a Parisian one.
Mind you, in a city where there are far more cars than legal spots, I could certainly comprehend the 'creative parking' bit. Mr. FdC has been known to, say, 'push' a car with ours when the need arises. (And as for the time he parked in the bus lane? Well…let's just say that he got what he deserved from the passing traffic cop.)
But mounds of dog doo left in the direct path of pedestrian traffic? What's so hard, I wanted to know from my students, about picking it up and dropping it in the nearest garbage can?
Especially now that the little brown 'J'aime mon quartier - Je ramasse' baggies meant for that very purpose can be found — free of charge — hanging on poles all over the city.
That man who waved excitedly and shouted Bravo Madame! at me didn't mean that I'm the only one picking up my dog's waste, did it? Did it?
Why, oh why, can't they just pick it up?
One student's response to this question made me laugh. Pounding his fist on the table, he told me this: Madame! You must understand! We are Latin people! We can't be constrained by rules!
And although he appeared to be something of a jokester himself, I could see that the other students (as evidenced by their nodding heads) agreed at least a tiny bit with his analysis.
But car-parking shenanigans and lack of dog-minding detail aside, what is far worse (in my book, anyway) is the utter and complete inability of the Parisians to queue.
Like many Anglophones in this city, my sensibilities are somewhat offended when I find myself shimmied up to the person in front of me at the post office, practically sniffing their cologne; but then again, what choice do I have when leaving even the tiniest space means that someone is likely to squeeze between us?
The post office, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg as far as line hopping is concerned; one can observe similar chaos just about anywhere in town, in spite of roped-off 'guidelines' as to where to form the queue.
And in case anyone thinks that breaking in line is a pastime practiced only by the city's youth, I can honestly say that I've been shoved to the side by as many of Paris' poodle-in-pocketbook-toting dames as I have by middle-schoolers or rowdy teenagers.
After a few years of being cut-in-front-of and abused, in fact, I suppose I really did learn to stand my ground. Without a certain bit of aggression in this respect, I would never manage to get anything at all done in this town.
It is my humble opinion that Queue-Jumping 101 should be required reading for anyone thinking of moving to Paris, so well-known is the Parisian propensity to line-break.
(Note to self: Get to work writing Queue-Jumping 101).
So why is it, do you suppose, that while the French appear to be absolutely incapable of queuing at any other time or in any other place, they will wait patiently and quietly — sometimes in long lines stretched out the door and around the corner — for their turn at the boulangerie counter?
If you should ever desire to witness that infamous 'Latin Character' while it is behaving, just peek inside any bakery window.
For a reason beyond the comprehension of even the French themselves, the simple act of baguette-buying will turn your garden-variety queue rogue into the essence of Mr. or Ms. Manners, even if only for a few minutes.
Française de Coeur / Expatica
Photo credit: Zyance (queue).
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