Handshake Lesson 1

photo: cafe paris europe

The Rue d'Amsterdam's 'Paris-Europe' café is open
while most of 'Europe' is closed.

The Longest Weekend

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 30. October 2000:- As forecast, high winds from the southwest have been hammering France's west coast this morning. Paris airport operations are disrupted and there are no Eurostar trains between London and Paris.

The western A13 autoroute is cut at the Marly Forest by fallen trees. Near the coasts road traffic is difficult, especially for articulated trucks. The SNCF has reported that its rail operations are largely unaffected.

Channel ferries are tied up as Calais is taking a heavy part of the blow. On the coasts, wind speeds of 170 kph has been registered. Several ships in the North Sea are in difficulty and an empty tanker in trouble was picked up by tugs last night.

Although winds are not as fierce in Paris as on the coasts, the edge of the storm is giving the city a good drenching.

Café Life

Handshake Lesson

Europe's handshake rules differ from North America's and differ between countries in Europe. Since handshakes are very informal in North America, Americans might not even know there are rules for when to do it, with whom, and how.

Basic rules require in Germany, or in France, a brief handclasp and no more, no less. No tests of strength, no holding on, no funny business. It's like touch and go.

If you are a European you grow up with this and it hardlyphoto: cinema, denfert needs to be learned. All you have to do is this minimum. But if you are coming from the handshake-angst of North America, you have to learn to do it the proper way from scratch.

Miss that movie? It's probably playing at a neighborhood cinéma.

After 25 years in France, I have to admit I've forgotten the finer nuances of Germany's handshake rules. Maybe I never knew many of them; I shook hands with everybody except waiters, waitresses, barmen and my own immediate family.

Basically, shaking hands wasn't done with people you weren't introduced to. On meeting a couple, for the first time or the 10,000th time, you always shook madame's hand first.

Since you knew you were going to do this, there would be a subtle pre-positioning, so that it could be done tidily - without any cross-group fumbling.

In France, you do shake hands with the barmen - after you've been a customer for about a year. Unlike in Germany, you shake hands with service people you know - the garagiste, who gives a wrist to tap because of hands covered in engine goo; the waiter, who may do the same thing because he's been washing glasses.

The rule is, you only do this on the day's first encounter. But in the rush and tumble of café life, you or the barman might forget the day's vital duty has already been done, and accidently do it again.

Even though it is routine, it is not done absentmindedly. Once, having done it a second time with Jacquo in the Bouquet, he enquired if we hadn't done it already. We had; we were having mutual absentmindedness.

Since the handshaking doesn't start until you are well-known, you learn the subtleties as you go along. In the Bouquet there is a lady who first did the handshake with me a long time ago, but she does it with a particular diving motion.

Her hand starts at her elbow and slants down, as if we are a couple of country horse traders who are sealing a deal. I have wondered about this for a long time - wondered whether it was an odd ethnic trait; maybe a habit imported from some eastern country.

But no. On Friday I asked, and she showed me her somewhat well-worn leather shoulder bag. She said it would slip off her shoulder if she shook hands normally.

Now I'm wondering why I never noticed this shoulder bag before.

Library Card

I didn't like the weather on Friday. It was neither this nor that, and worst of all, its light wasn't inspiring. So I decided to do next to nothing, especially after more than a week of doing somewhat extra.

In the thick brochure for 'Paris En 80 Quartiers' there are a lot of satellite photos of Paris. These are taken straight down and they are very sharp, as if they were all taken from a low balloon on a clear day.

The photo of 'Europe' had caught my eye. I looked though the books I have, and there was nothing about it. Aha! I thought; a bit of undiscovered Paris.

A bit of unfinished business was getting a library card from the local lending library, which is called George Brassens, and is two blocks away. Last time I was there, there was a long wait and I was refused a card because I forgot to bring my electricity bill - to prove that the address the police put on my Carte de Resident is correct.

On Friday, therefore, I had two electric bills and a telephone bill with me. There was no line, no waiting, and 'history' started on the closest shelves.

The good part of it was being a 'next to nothing' day. I didn't have to find one key fact fast; I was able to take my time to 'find' Europe.

In one book I learned that part of 'Europe' had once been the home of an amusement park. Then I found another book that was only about amusement parks in 19th century Paris; so right away I got on to something 'off the subject.'

Apparently, after the revolution, everybody who hadn't ever been invited to dances at Versailles, wanted to go dancing. This became 'dansomania' and to read about it, it sounds as if Paris was one big dancehall at the time.

This is pretty heady stuff compared to the wrecked real-estate deal that 'Europe' became and we can still see today. But, 'Europe' is with us and it stayed 'on subject' because it is here to be photographed, while all the grand amusement parks and giant dancehalls are not.

'Europe' is treated in this issue, thanks to my new library card. Thanks to this card I will probably find out what scuttled 'dansomanie' too.

From the look of the Saint-Lazare area on Saturday, it may be that it has been replaced by 'shopping,' which seems like a dumb sort of mania to have.

The 35-Hour Week and Long Weekends

Last week radio France-Info was telling its listeners about the traffic situation in France. According to the radio, the big traffic jams were not to be expected this coming Wednesday evening, but at the end of next weekend.

Toussaint, which is Wednesday, 1. November, is also a school holiday that starts today; in realityphoto: andre morain it started on Friday or Saturday. Next Wednesday is a national holiday. Tuesday night is Halloween.

A week ago, I gave up sleeping to record André Morain photographing the placement of Ellsworth Kelly's sculpture in the Tuileries.

If you add in the 35-hour work week, which is either four or five days long, subtract a Wednesday and maybe take a day off, then what France seems to have for the first time in its history is a nine-day long weekend, for Toussaint.

Either Friday or Saturday or both of them were classed as 'rouge' in the Paris area, for traffic trying to get out of town.

Once out of town, there is supposed to be no problem, because this is not summer and everybody isn't heading towards the same beach. Actually, with this extra-long weekend, many residents will be visiting families, spread all over France.

It seems as if the 35-hour work week will work out very nicely - not for everybody of course - and permit France to have something like a Thanksgiving fête, at Halloween.

The commercial possibilities of this haven't been fully worked out yet, but I'm sure we will all be aware of them by 2011.

The only thing left to wonder about is the traffic situation on Sunday, 5. November - when all the scattered revelers try to return to Paris at the same time together.

Metropole's Services

The three firms listed below have chosen Metropole Paris for affiliate association. You're reading Metropole, so you have something in common.

Affiliation is a way for Metropole to offer you products and services related to Paris. You benefit, these firms benefit and any modest benefits for Metropole will help it to stay online.

Health Care In Paris

You probably have planned your trip to Paris long in advance. As unlikely as it is to happen, if you are hit by a nasty 'bug' after getting here, it doesn't have mean that your holiday will be spoiled.

HighwayToHealth allows you to seek medical care here almost as easily as at home. A 'city health profile' for Paris has been created by HighwayToHealth, to give you information about local health care, including the ability to make appointments with doctors and for medical services.

For peace of mind, take a look at this before you leave home. See 'HighwayToHealth' for its health care and insurance services for travellers.

Pétanque In America With French Boules

The French game of pétanque - or boules - can be played nearly anywhere, almost anytime - by just about everybody. Anyphoto: poster, mois de la photo free patch of the earth can be used as a playing field - as you probably know if you've seen the game played around Paris.

Regulation boules are made out of metal. These are available in France, but they are a bit heavy for casually hauling around in your luggage.

'Petanque America' imports France's quality Obut boules and will ship them to you anywhere in the Americas.

Petanque America's online shop has books about the game and its short list of simple rules. It also has 'junior' boules for children. While you shop around for the less weighty souvenirs of Paris, get Petanque America to do the heavy work for you.

Online Paris Hotel Reservations

Don't wait until you get to Paris to book your hotel, only to learn that 85,000 dentists have arrived the day before you. Reserve now through 'Bookings' Paris hotel reservation service. Doing this will give you a chance to preview the hotels available in Paris and aid your choice of lodgings with a minimum of fuss and bother.

5th Meeting of the Café Metropole Club's 2nd Year

Last Thursday's meeting was your club's 4th in its second year of regular meetings in the well-known central Paris café now known worldwide as La Corona, official headquarters of the Café Metropole Club.

The 'report' of the meeting is worth reading. If you were engrossed by the 'subway' World Series in Newphoto: sign, rue de moscou York City you will know its outcome by now, so reading about the meeting will be a good cheer-up, with its brand new flood of unusual 'firsts.'

Before getting too entangled with all this, try to remember that the very next meeting of the Café Metropole Club's second year will be on Thursday, 2. November, at the usual time and in the usual place.

Brand new readers can also take a look at the fairly new 'About the Club' page to find out about the 'usual time and place.' This page also contains other slightly useful and reasonably accurate information about this magazine's club for readers in Paris. If you have not been aware that an online magazine can have a 'real' club in Paris, now you do.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 4.44 - 1. Nov. 1999 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled, with some reason, ''Home' In Paris.' The 'Au Bistro' column's title was 'French Win Rugby, Somehow.' This issue had two features, titled 'American Dreams In Paris' and 'Declining a Beard Trim In Jordon' by Linda Thalman. The Café Metropole Club got into its regular swing of 'bombast' with 'Dizzily Climbing Memshership' and the Update was 'Europe Has Better Gadgets.' The 'Scene' column was headlined 'Mose, Not Noah of the 'Flood." There were two sets of new posters: four 'American' posters andphoto: sign, place de dublin two regulars - that is, Parisian ones. Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Happy Hour.' As in, a time of day and not necessarily a funny cartoon.

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 3.44 - 2. November 1998 - The week's Café Metropole column was art-and- money-laden, with, 'Unique Picasso Collection Auctioned.' The 'Au Bistro' column was headlined, 'Paris Is Wet!' This issue had one feature, titled 'Dancing On the River - The Seine's Future?' Makiko Suzuki emailed from Toyko to tell us about 'Lady Liberty's' holiday there being about to begin. The 'Scene' column was headlined 'Tango's Last Gasp?' There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week had the caption of 'Ya gotta light?' Which is not kosher English.

Metropole's Exclusive & Solo Countdown to 31. December 2000:

Last week I wrote here, 'The 21st Century starts on Monday, 1. January 2001.' Even if you already know this because you are the 'wiser people' who read this last week and the week before, what is this 'Ho Hum' I'm getting back? A reaction like this is not Metropole-reader-like.

Having our own countdown is estupendo! I don't understand the big yawn. You remember New Year '2000' was just a rehearsal? A tryout countdown, like an out-of-town opening in Alice Springs? Last year's countdown was not the 'Really Big One!' It doesn't feel like the 3rd Millennium yet, does it? Let's hear some whoopee!

This leaves only about 62 measely days left to go - or less, if you are counting shopping days until Christmas - or more if you are counting waiting days until January's sales start - until we all arrive in the 3rd Millennium. Even if you were on Mars during the last countdown, you probably won't care that now 304 days have slithered away since New Year's 2000. The 2nd Millennium, which lasted nearly 1000 years, is now more nearly over than ever. It's nearly history, for Pete's sake!.
signature, regards, ric

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