I was recently asked to compile a list of the top ten things that irritated me about life in Paris. As you may well understand by now, many things irritate me, from small things to grand things. I am always surprised when I look back at my entries because they all seem to be full of the minor things that I no longer remember. Instead, I only remember the good things and the horrible things. Perhaps it’s just my writing style, and then later psychological state. Who knows? Anyway, the song, “I Love You So Much That I Hate You,” by Gloria Swanson is an oddly fitting anthem for my Parisian life because I do love Paris so much, but, at the same time, I hate it so much. It’s kind of like the puppy you were excited to get, but soon became fatigued of its irritating and varied behaviors, but you still can’t help but love it, and curse it to the Devil behind its back. Let’s get started, shall we?
3. Big Headphones:
The latest trend amongst teenagers, and those who still thing that they are in their youth is big headphones connected to tiny iPods. Seriously, the bigger the headphones, the better they are. Every school-aged teenager on the Metro, pull their headphones out each time they find a seat. You are only cool if they are half the size of your head and shiny. Black, puffy ones are for geeks. I find these irritating for the inconvenience of them. Why in the world would you want to carry around a five pound pair of headphones, when you can have a convenient pair of sound canceling earbuds which can provide you with the same if not better sound quality?
2. Debit Cards & Their Readers:
American debit cards and European debit cards are similar beasts, yet incredibly different. American cards have a magnetic strip on them that is easy to rip identities off of. European cards, on the other hand, have a chip implanted within the plastic. While this discrepancy is frustrating, ours are not impossible to use. All stores have a machine to swipe your card, but, they are backwards! Every time I go to swipe my well-loved debit card, the machine likes to say, “Carte Non Lue” (Card Not Read). Every time this happens, the cashier looks at me like I’m a retarded immigrant until I swipe it correctly, sign my name, and hurry away in shame.
3. Not Having The BBC:
This may not sound as grievous as it truly is if you have not experienced the comedic glory that is the BBC. The British Broadcasting Corporation has some of the most original and hilarious comedies on television today. Back home, I had BBC America, but here all I get is BBC World News, which seems concerned only with the closing of Guantanamo Bay and Manchester United losing their shirt contract with AIG. I need some good, thought-provoking laughs, but it is lacking. Reruns on DVD are fine, but, I want something new. I’ve only seen one episode of Gavin & Stacy and I am horribly behind on Doctor Who and Little Britain. What am I to do?
Paris recently launched a new bicycle campaign. The French love bicycles as much as wine and bread and a good rancid cheese. These bicycles are everywhere and they are free, so as soon as they can get their hands on them, the Parisians are wheeling madly through the streets paying no particular attention to pedestrians, or other, much more powerful vehicles, or laws. A particular irritation is their love of driving down the already laughably skinny sidewalks. It’s just a matter of time until somebody is killed, and I fear that it will be me.
5. Rushing, Rushing, But Going Nowhere:
Parisians are very fast walkers, you could almost call their walking style a light jog, always looking hassled and late, they do this run/walk everywhere, on the sidewalks, in the Metro Stations, at the museums, at stores. Always rushing past you, looking back at you wondering why you’re not keeping pace. Then, they are perfectly happy just to wait when they finally reach their destination whether it be lunch, a meeting, or the train. Especially in the Metro’s they break into full sprints to get to the docks, even when there are four minutes until the next train. They run to the spot they want to wait at, and then stop, perfectly happy.
6. The Deathly Skinny Sidewalks:
On almost every sidewalk in Paris, two people cannot pass each other. Both people need to turn their shoulders at an angle just to pass each other. It’s especially horrifying when the person forgets or refuses to do this gesture, because you are then either thrown into a pole or into the road where you will most likely be run over by a bike or a garbage truck.
7. Midnight Screaming Matches:
Every night that I can remember, there have been people outside my window, screaming their heads off for no apparent reason. It seems that only half of the time they are screaming actual words, the rest of the time, it just sounds like really bad Opera or some kind of war. You can watch them, they stand outside one building and scream a whole bunch, walk to the next building, scream some more, walk to the next building and scream some more. Soon, they will be gone, but another screamer will take their place within an hour. You eventually learn to ignore it, but when you’re not expecting it, it’s rather jarring.
8. Sunday Shut Down:
As you may remember from a previous post, everything shuts down in Paris on Sundays. This is especially horrifying if you have no food, because you probably won’t be able to find any. Museums and churches stay open, but any shop that isn’t a chain (and even then, most chain stores shut down on Sundays) is bolted shut with layers of industrial-strength steel over their windows. I find this particularly irritating when I am used to being able to shop 24/7 back home at the grocery store and variety of superstores. Well, except for Hobby Lobby which closes all the time for reasons I will not discuss here, lest I offend some of my readers.
9. Sardine System Of Transportation:
The French have no concept of the personal bubble. They are perfectly fine sitting or standing so close to you that you can feel their blood pumping. This is especially prevalent on the busy Metro lines. Many times, there is no space, but they make it. They shove and push, look angry and generally find a place on the train, most of the time greatly inconveniencing another passenger. It’s painful, awkward, and very irritating. If just one of the people had head lice or herpes, by the time you’re off that train, you’ve got it to. There’s no choice in the matter.
My number one annoyance about all of Paris is something that many people enjoy. I HATE those stupid little boutiques with a passion. There is no such thing as a superstore here. You don’t one-stop-shop anywhere in Paris, and I am having serious withdrawal symptoms. I want to go to Target and look at shirts, then a movie, then gardening tools, then luggage, then blenders, then children’s pajamas, then dog bowls, then frames, and then cottage cheese. Here, you’d have to go to nine different stores! It’s impossible and I really hate it. When I get back home, I’m just going to go into the Targets and Walmarts and experience them again. I won’t go to K-Mart because I hate it there.
So, those are top ten things on my mind that are driving me insane as of 1:49 AM on January 25, 2009. There’s a man outside my window screaming at me and I just realized that it’s Sunday tomorrow and I have almost no food. Joy…