...Continued from page 1

Except for static, color drop-outs and some total snow, the 'news' seemed strike-free, but the weather-news lacked its animated rain clouds and its snowflakes falling on the Alps.

Earlier today there was some sort of strike at Gare du Nord affecting the Eurostar trains. For many years it was possible for all trains to stop in France while Eurostar kept rolling, but it looks like the chunnel operation finally is having its turn.

The nation's driving-test inspectors are still on strike, much to the major annoyance of all the would-be motorists who would like to take the test so they can get on the roads to drive around looking for parking spaces.

A Special Case - the Truckers

Tonight there is a strike warning from the truckers that they will be beginning a major strike next Saturday. Normally news services do not care or fail to know the reasons for strikes - is it another French 'exception?' - but this time we have been told the truckers want a 13th-month salary and raises for seniority on the job.

Let it be remembered that long-haul truckers have had a major strike every other year since the famous 'all-everybody' strikes late in 1995. Each time the truckers have managed to make their actions felt everywhere and each time after some pain for everybody, they have been promised some of what they've been demanding.

Seldom has any of it ever been delivered.photo: samaritaine window, photo This means that truckers re-run their strikes, partly to try and collect on ancient promises, and partly to try and claw some new benefits - usually ones that most other workers enjoy - out of their employers.

This photo is called 'Just a photo.'

Let's say the truckers are good Christians and they remain optimistic. They always think the next strike is going to get them what they want. The employers always appear to give in enough to get the wheels rolling again - but never manage to deliver.

You may be unfamiliar with the idea of a 13th-month salary. Generally, some employees receive this, sometimes just before Christmas, or just before summer holidays.

It works by dividing the total salary for a year by 13 instead of 12, and lets employers pretend that they are 'giving' employees some sort of gift. For workers, it is a handy way of getting a fake extra month - of 'short-pay' - at a time when it is handy.

When things were even more 'social' in Europe 15 or 20 years ago, 14-months' salaries were not too uncommon. The principle was the same - divide the annual salary by 14 instead of 12.

Also in principle, long-haul truckers are not paid by the hour because safety regulations are supposed to forbid them from driving more than so many hours in a day - just like airline pilots.

Most trucks on European roads are equipped with 'black boxes' that show things like the speed they been going, and how many hours per day the truck has been on the road. Police inspect the telltale disks frequently.

Winter and Fog

Pretty much all of western Europe is close to the Atlantic ocean and in winter the difference between temperatures on land, the ocean's temperatures and any other stray temperatures flying around - combine to create fogs.

For a reason unexplained by scientists, these fogs tend to congregate on high-speed roads like autoroutes, autopistas and autobahns. Although many of these roads do have speed limits, these tend to be somewhat high.

For some other unexplained reason, many drivers tend to treat fog as if it some sort of benign night-time effect, and roll into it with fullgas. However fog, unlike simple night, is not penetrated by headlights very well.

The result is major cascades of pileups involving cars, big trucks and tankers, motorcyclists and highway buses. These happen often and everywhere.

Paradoxically, these huge collisions are often apparently caused by very prudent drivers who, when they spot the approach of fog on the highway, immediately turn on their four-way warning blinkers, and slow right down.

Slightly less prudent drivers then run into them. If a huge 30-ton semi-trailer runs into this two-car pileup, then it's the beginning of the end.

If more than 80 vehicles are involved, totally destroyed - but especially if both sides of a divided highway have to be closed in order to evacuate the survivors - then it will be featured on the evening's TV-news. If over 100 vehicles are involved, there's a good chance for pan-European coverage.

Internet Life

This 'life' isn't what it used to be. Who still gets a chilled shiver when the dialup finally signals, 'you have network?' To the whole world no less.

You already know whatever you might be looking for will be 'not found' or incomplete - while your screen's window will be complete with animated banners, popups, mystery windows overlaying the main one - with stupid popup questions like, 'will you accept this cookie that with eat itself in 2005?'

Dépot-Vente de Passy

The way standards are next to nonexistent these days there are few people other than some Japanese ladies who have their hearts set on getting that 'chic' little suit from Chanel, mainly because it costs a lot for something neat and simple and pure trash is cheap. I should say, 'cheaper.'

I shouldn't write 'cheap' in the same sentence as 'Chanel,' but this is about a shop in Paris in the semi-chicphoto: sea cat toy boat area of Passy - a shop that specializes in having a selection of second-hand - only worn once on Bastille Day to the Elysée Palace!' - quality clothing made by major Paris names.

How about a little sea cruise with 'Sea Cat?'

Mélanie Leguin has written to tell me that the Dépot-Vente de Passy now has its own Web site. I have checked it out and it is really real, and its 'press' section is interesting for all the favorable comments by Japanese magazines.

Because there are other shops in the same area with quality used clothing for men - no baseball caps, no designer jeans! - I'll add the dépot-vente's address. It is at 14. Rue de la Tour, Paris 16. Métro: Passy. Just a short walk up the hill from the métro station. I remember, because this dépot-vente has been mentioned before in Metropole.

Online Weather Warnings

We have pure winter now and it seems to be going about it will more will than seen for many years. France-Météo's online alert service is very short-term, and its warnings should be taken seriously.

Mainly these warnings will about areas beyond the area of the Ile-de-France. Even though Paris itself is seldom a thrilling weather area, there are occasional gusty winds which can be hard on umbrellas.

If you are curious or need to know more about France's early fall weather, give the Météo-France Web site a hit, for its short-range forecasts. Check out the warning-prone 'Vigilance-Météo' area on the opening page.

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