I’m tired. It is late in the evening and I have been working off-site all week. My feet hurt from my relatively high heels and the weather has been depressingly grey… I am really looking forward to getting home and having a quiet dinner with my family.
The anticipation mounts as we arrive at Ecole Militaire, I am just one stop from my warm flat where a cashmere throw awaits my chilled bones. The metro stops. We’re between stations, so we sit there looking at one another. We shrug. This happens fairly often and nobody is particularly alarmed. The minutes pass. The driver gets on the intercom, ensuring us that it won’t be long. Technical difficulties. Tick tock. More time passes. The lady next to me pulls out a snack. I call home and warn them I’ll be a bit late.
10 minutes and several announcements later, we have not budged. Some of the younger guys notice that we are stopped at one of the phantom stations that exist throughout the system. We have a platform. The men open the doors and we can get out to mill around in the underground dusk, reveling in the freedom. Only three cars access the platform; most of the passengers are stuck in their tin cans, anxiously waiting liberation. Over an hour has passed.
Finally, the driver gets on the intercom and explains that the train is having electrical problems which have killed the brake system. We are all relieved that our driver refuses to drive a train without brakes. RATP employees arrive on the platform, announcing that the electrical system on the entire line has been turned off so that we can walk the rails back to the Ecole Militaire station. We are being evacuated.
As we take the stairs down from the platform the employee advises us, “The walls are disgustingly dirty, stay to your right to avoid the filth.” Thanks for the tip! I keep this in mind, while still sticking a bit to the left, because that is what everyone else is doing. I figure that there must be a reason as I hop from metro tie, to metro tie, avoiding the rough gravel that threatens to chew away at my gorgeous Fratelli Rosetti boots.
It is a slow, long slog. As we near the station, light pours in and I see the front of a metro train, directly in front of me, at eye level. This is not something you get to see everyday and my photographer instincts take over. Out slips the camera and I leave the crowd to stand in the middle of the tracks for my shot.
An hysterical RATP employee starts yelling at me from the platform above, waving her arms and acting like a mad lunatic. A gallant Frenchman in a business suit tells her off.
“She has been in the tunnel for hours. She earned this photo. Let her take some pictures!”
“Oui, oui, I understand, but even when we turn off the electricity, there is still a current. She could electrocute herself.” Came the stoic reply.
Merde!!! I was standing on live tracks. I hot-footed it back to safety and marveled at the mentality of the RATP employee who had thought to caution us against filthy walls, but hadn’t thought to mention the live wires.
As I walked up the stairs, the employee who had warned me was being verbally attacked by a very upset parisienne who wanted a new pair of shoes to replace the ones that had just been eaten away by the viscous gravel we had tip-toed through. This may explain why we were warned about the soot. The RATP would rather a few fried passengers than the wrath and dry cleaning bills of an entire train full of parisiens.
Of course, the bus stop was overwhelmed by rejected metro users. I had no choice but to retrace my steps above ground, returning to La Motte Picquet, thrilled to be home at last.
SHOES WORTH PROTECTING/ Fratelli Rosetti