Saturday, January 8, 2011

When it snows in Paris

Ohmygosh, it is snowing. People on the street stop in their tracks in their amazement. Look down at their ballerinas and loafers in despair, only now realizing that this might not be the most adequate shoe wear in wintertime. Hang their car keys on the hook and vow not to take them up until it thaws. Cancel their vélib-subscription. And take out their warmest Canadian-Goose-jacket, with furry hood. Just in case.

Paris is definitely not prepared for snow of any kind. It is already flabbergasted when several snowflakes come soaring down from the sky, thanking the weather gods if it melts on the ground. When there are snowy gusts or even snowstorms that wrap the city overnight in a white cloak, everybody freezes in their activity and waits for the inevitable to happen. However, when even the public transport workers freeze in their activity and wait, the inevitable will roll around even more quickly and ferociously. The inevitable looks a bit like this (with a true snowball effect):

- The city doesn’t have enough snowploughs or salt or other equipment to clear the streets, so most people either slide around on their way to work or take the metro. (This winter, the city used 1/3 of their supply of salt in one weekend. Go figure.)

- Since they can’t use their car, everybody tries to use the metro.

- The metro lines, not used to so much traffic, breaks down.

- People who don’t know about this continue to try to get on, leading to a huge “pedestrian jam” in the main switching point Chatelet.

- Airports can’t clear the tarmac well enough or de-freeze the planes, so they get shut down as well. Occasionally, an airport terminal will have to be evacuated because the snow threatens to destroy the roof (happened around Christmas in Charles de Gaulle).

- The parks can’t be cleared of snow either, are apparently too dangerous for public liability reasons and are closed off.

- Nevertheless, people somehow manage to get in and go skiing and snowboarding. On a slope that wouldn’t even qualify as hill in Switzerland. In a closed-off park.

- It therefore seems as if at least (and only?) the snowboarders are happy when it snows in Paris.

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