We Did It! We Got 'Golden October!'

Cafe Le Lamark
At the top of the métro stairs, or the bottom
of Montmartre's stairs - 'Le Lamark.'

And Along With It, We Got a Big Bad
Pollution Alert Level Three

Paris:- Saturday, 4. October 1997:- Friday night's TV-news showed sunbathers on a beach near Perpignan; some of them swimming in the Mediterranean. When asked if he thought of being in the office, one laid-back gent said, "Not much."

Then Perpignan's official weatherman was shown looking at his Hansel and Gretel weather-station thermometers. He said Thursday's high of 33.5 C was a record; and to tell the truth, it would have been a fair temperature for August.

It is not quite so warm in Paris and the mornings have been a cool 10 degrees, but at midday, it has been a lot warmer than practically any day of this summer's July.

While the government goes about its tiresome chores of announcing new and higher taxes almost daily, devil-may-care Parisians are by metro Lamark-Caulaincourt walking giddily around in last summer's clothes while the 'new' season's winter threads gather dust on store shelves.

From inside Le Lamark, to the stairs, or to the métro.

The dateline above says 4. October - so its now official! - its 'Golden October' time in Paris. If you had the misfortune to be someplace damp and drizzly during the recent 'summer,' jump on a jet today and get yourself to Paris as quick as you can.

'Golden October' means you get mid-summer weather in the daytime, cool evenings for dressing up, plus you can take advantage of the full fall offering of Paris activities. I won't say this is a one-time opportunity; but the possibility of it happening again in this millennium, is remote.

Every Blue Sky Has a Bit of Silver Smog

The flip-side of the 'Golden October' story in Paris, is smog. There is a solid high-pressure lid over the Ile-de-France; and there has been little wind, so warmth and diesel combined on Tuesday to send air-quality into the Red-Alert zone.

When this happened, in the 12th arrondissement, Dominique Le Parisien - Oui et Non Voynet, the minister for the environment and leader of the 'Green' Party called the Prime Ministre, Lionel Jospin, and they set off the alarm.

Odd or even, it's the last number before the letters that counts.

Locally this is called 'level three' and it has been agreed that this will set off emergency measures. One of them was to ban cars with, on Wednesday, even-numbered plates.

Le Parisien devoted its front page to making this as clear as possible to its readers. An odd number is okay or 'Oui,' and an even number is not, or 'Non.' If you are caught 'even' on an 'odd' day, the fine is 900 francs

On an even-numbered day of the month, I think it would be reversed. This is logical and everybody should be able to remember it. But, suppose all the smog-alert days are 'odd.' It would mean the 'evens' would never get their turn. It is probably for a reason such as this that Rome abandoned this system in 1993.

Wednesday's big surprise, which caused Le Parisien to print an editorial on its Thursday front page, was the fact that Parisians wholeheartedly accepted abandoning their beloved cars.

The habitual morning jams leading into the city were less than half of normal, even though the total traffic reduction was estimated at only 20 percent - even-numbered cars with pool-riders were permitted, for example. The biggest surprise for travellers was the regional public transport's decision to give everybody a free ride - and passenger traffic was up by five to ten percent.

Okay, these figures don't seem like much. I rode the bus number 29 from the gare Saint-Lazare across town to the gare de Lyon, and the trip - through many narrow and usually clogged streets - was almost swift. The bus was pretty full most of the way, and there were more people waiting at busstops than the number usually seen.

Evening TV-news showed pedestrians walking across an empty place de la Concorde, and evening rush-hour traffic racing along the Seine quais - when it is usually crawling or outright stalled.

A cyclist said it was great and in the next breath said it was very dangerous - because the few cars around were going much faster than usual. Usual is, the cyclist goes faster.

There were jokes too. The government is trying to somehow squeeze a 35-hour workweek into reality; and people were saying, why not just work on odd or even days - 'la alternée.'

The authorities are very pleased with how it turned out; they apparently had no idea whether residents would accept it or stage a revolution.

It could be, as often seems to be the case, that public opinion is far ahead of management thinking.After passing a bad day in Paris, you have Le Parisien - 'Ca Marche' a rotten evening, feeling lousy. Most of us are grown up and can handle it - but there are a lot of kids and people with breathing problems. For them, air pollution is pure poison.

Le Parisien is surprised about how good we were.
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