Love At First Sight In the Métro

photo: bistro le paris, champs elysees

This shady-side terrace on the Champs-Elysées is
a bit too early.

A Fiction for Saint-Valentine

Paris:- Sunday, 13. February 2000:- Tomorrow is Saint-Valentine's Day which is vying for Halloween as another obscure occasion for separating you from some cash. Saint-Valentine's Day has a slight edge because it deals in sentiment instead of spooks.

I'm not sure this is what Shakespeare had in mind when he wrote his version of 'Romeo and Juliette' - although I'm sure he was aware of the value of theatre ticket sales.

According to today's Le Parisien, it all revolves around a 'coup de foudre.' In non-Latin countries it is mere 'falling in love' which sounds a lot less dramatic than lightning bolts.

The trick of it in France, is that the real thing must be 'love at first sight.' This is more romantic than any other kind, its value is higher, its effects are measurable by scientists; and poets and writers have a much more exciting time with it.

In the real world, if you are in the métro and you think you are co-experiencing a 'coup de foudre' with another passenger, you better be able to think fast.

Technically, according to scientists, this is impossible if the 'coup de foudre' is authentic. These turn your brain to mush.

All the same, I say you have to think fast. The implications of an uncontrolled 'coup de foudre' could be grave. The worst case, of course, is one which is one-way. Without a simultaneousphoto: small peugeot touring car aller-retour a 'coup de foudre' is nearly worthless - if not a total contradiction of terms.

No. It has to be two people - pow! - blasting each other, together at the same time. This is a workable basis for a true 'coup de foudre.'

One of Peugeot's tiny touring cars at Rétromobile.

What are the odds against this happening - to you? To anybody? Just think of all the people you already know with whom you know no 'coup de foudre' is possible or even desirable. After careful consideration, you've probably eliminated half of mankind.

So this 'coup de foudre' you are supposed to have, be entitled to, is going to happen with a stranger. A situation like this can be full of danger.

Remember, you only have half of mankind left as a possible candidate. From this half you will probably be wise to eliminate all sorts of categories of people - what a long list!

Back in the métro - you see that guy squashed against the door on the other side of the wagon. You look - and pow! - it is love at 'first sight.' Ninety seconds later the train arrives at Odéon and those leaving the wagon push you out onto the quay.

Those impatiently waiting on the quay, elbow you to the rear and jam into the car in front of you and the beeper goes and the doors slide shut with the tail of somebody's coat sticking out. The train picks up speed, headed for Saint-Germain.

And you, you klutz, had a 'coup de foudre.' These do not happen to most people every day of the week. Sometimes years pass between one and the next. Sometimes you never get another. They are rare in other words.

The most essential question, as you stand on the quay watching the red tail lights of the train disappearing in the tunnel, is - did you get a return blitz?

If you are even thinking this fast, and the answer is yes, then you have a big problem. One of them is, 11 million people live in the Paris region.

If the answer is no to the 'return-blitz' question, then your problem is not so great. A mono 'coup de foudre' is just one of life's little tricks, like one hand clapping or doing a head-stand on an apple. If you fail, only you know about it.

But it's Saint-Valentine's Day tomorrow, so let's assume you got a positive return. It was a mutual, two-way 'coup de foudre.' The true thing.

By the time the métro has reached Saint-Germain, your co-recipient of the 'coup dephoto: citroen traction foudre' is under its influence and even with a mushy brain should have the sense to get off the métro train.

No Rétromobile is complete without at least one 'Traction.'

Both of you have to decide whether to reconnect via the métro or on the surface. One doing one and the other doing the other, will not ensure success. If you opt for the street and then change your mind - pure mush - it is going to cost a ticket to get back in the métro.

Even if you have an Orange Card and this costs you nothing extra, once you are underground and looking around the tunnels and on the quays, you can't be on the street at the same time. And vice-versa.

No. If you've had a true 'coup de foudre' there should be something like a magnetic force drawing you towards your blitzed other half.

About 450 metres of rain-slicked sidewalks separate the two métro stations. In principle, with Odéon and Saint-Germain, one exit is on one side of the Boulevard Saint-Germain and the other is on the other.

Since both your brains are mush, I will grant you the sense to leave the métro's underground and start walking towards the other métro station. There are only two sides to the Boulevard Saint-Germain after all.

You are doing this, walking towards Saint-Germain. The traffic is coming against you and the headlights are reflecting off the glistening street - it is darn hard to see, and it is wet.

Just to be more realistic, your Romeo is coming your way, but he is on the other side of the street. He can see better, but his glasses are beaded with raindrops - and he feels a bit dizzy because of this 'coup de foudre' business.

You are not much better off. Your glasses are smeared on the inside with mascara that your eyelashes are wishing up and down, and they have raindrops on the outsidephoto: gnome cycle motor too. Between the two of you, this is called 'blind love.'

Through the rush-hour chaos of the boulevard, he thinks he spots you. He has really got this 'coup de foudre' thing so he is not going to take a chance on letting you get away.

Hand-finished motors of the past look like modern sculpture today.

He gets the 'green man' and hurries across the street within a crosswalk, but fails to see a scooter racing up in the bike lane, hidden behind the halted cars.

Now we have the movie finish - which means an unlikely but happy end.

The scooter driver sees Romeo at the last split-second and swerves to the left. Romeo leaps from the sound, catches a toe on the curb and flops into a big puddle on the sidewalk - just a little too quickly for you to avoid stepping on his hand with one of your high heels.

Romeo is bleeding, but not mortally wounded. You are both soaking wet and both nearly blind. It is love at first sight.

There was other news in Paris this week, but nothing more important than a little bit of harmless fiction.

France's 'Less-than-One-Percent' Online Life

According to the Cisco Observatory there are 249 million people online. This may explain why the 'Net seems full. With seven million hookups, France represents O.35 percent of the total, which is - not many.

As with all of these 'Internet statistics' a few grains of doubt are in order. The places that go to the trouble of concocting these numbers usually have a commercial reason for doing so.

Thus, e-commerce in France is estimated with a volume of 1.6 billion francs, which is 0.42 percent of the worldwide total of 68 billion - Francs? Yen? Dollars? In the area of domains, France has 58,000 in .fr compared to 5.4 million in .com. Some of these dot-coms are French of course.

Exactly how these numbers are cooked up, is seldom explained. They may be based on telephone surveys for all I know.

Beaubourg's Stars au Féminin

The reopening is old news now. During the klotzy culture factory's two-year renovation, its Web site kept ticking over. Take a look for a current show titled 'Stars au Féminin' which has something to do with 150 films; on show until 2. October.

The 'Fête' de l'Internet

Every year this event is announced with some fanfare, and every year I fail to grasp what it's all about, because it seems to be entirely 'virtual.' In order not to forget it, I'll run this one again.

The Fête's organization is non-profit and it is coordinated by the AFI association. This event is not restricted to France; at the European level it is called the Fiesta 2000. The actual Fête/Fiesta will take place from Friday, 17. March to Sunday, 19. March.

GNT = Greenwich Net Time

'Greenwich Net Time' has been on trial since January and is supposed to be rolled out on Tuesday, 29. February, which it 'leap-day' - which is in some dispute too. The idea, I think, is to have a universal 'Net Time' so all our emails carry some sort of correct time, independent of GMT. It might even be some new metric-type system.

Web Shorties:

Better-late-than-never: The Year of the Dragon has had several Web sites devoted to it, but just as I missed the actual date - Saturday, 5. February - I have been slow in getting any URLs for it. Here's one. Luckily, the 'dragon' year continues until 23. January 2001.


The 27th comics festival at Angoulême ended a week ago. This Web site presents this year's prize winners, plus links to other sites featuring 'bandes dessinées' - BDphoto: make unknown for short. In France, the 'comic books' are hardcover and they outsell practically all other forms of published fiction, except some potboiler books sold in airports.

How big the motor is the question posed by the over-long front end.

The annual 'Milia 2000' takes place from Monday, 14. February to Saturday, 18. February. This is the annual market showcase for multimedia, which includes the Internet of course. Entry fees are from 2000 francs to 5000 for the 'Think Tank.' These amounts do not include the value-added tax; so add 20.6 percent to the bill.

Some of the suggestions for these Web site references have been gleaned from 'Internet-Actu.' Internet-Actu has also just launched a new bi-weekly newsletter called Pixel-Actu, which concerns digital imaging; also in French. Laurent Katz is the editor. For a taste of Pixel-Actu, give its Web version a hit.

Both of these newsletters feature many items you will already be familiar with, but they also include news of developments in Europe. Both are well-written in French, so if you want to build up your techno vocabulary, these newsletters can help.

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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