Recently I was asked to describe a place where I feel content, happy, peaceful. Being the weirdo that I am, I said:
Riding Line 2 of the Paris metro from the terminus at Nation. I have often made this journey when I am in Paris and want to sit down in the A/C, daydream, and people-watch. I go to the terminus so I can get one of the single seats on a waiting empty train. I love the hot-metal-and-good-perfume scent of the metro; I love the deep warning sound for the closing doors; I love the open windows on non-air-conditioned trains. I sit and enjoy a flood of relief up from my feet; my muscles relax and my always-overheated self cools down. The rocking of the train and the rumbling tranquilizes me. (I almost fell asleep once — that never happens in public.) Pulling into each station I have a feeling of happiness and excitement as each name is announced over the PA. The eastern stations on Line 2, particularly, are fraught with history and there is always the sense that adventure could await outside. (Yes, I know some of Line 2’s neighborhoods aren’t the best; I stayed in one. It was fine.) Then the sound goes, the doors close, and the train rumbles off into the dark tunnel, while I settle back in my seat, comfortable and content, joyful to be back in Paris and happily speeding under its streets.
This is perhaps not what the person who asked was quite expecting.
Rush hour, line 2, September 28, 2012
Taken from my single seat on the left, across from a girl about ten years old, who solemnly pulled out a book and read.
Must. Get. Back. To. Paris. Next. Year.
ETA: “I have often… when I’m in Paris” probably sounds snotty, and/or like I’m there every season or something. I wish. But although I have not been there that often, I have done this ride more than once on the last two trips. It’s a great way to chill out for awhile, literally and figuratively, and all for one metro ticket. Also — and this not just on Line 2 — it’s cool to hear how complicated station names are pronounced, like my very favorite, Barbès-Rochechouart.