Confusion Corner: Underground culture shock
October 28, 2011
There are many great cultural crossroads on and around our beloved, verdant campus. The two mighty nations of Old Campus and New Campus do trade via the sketchy path between the woods. There is, of course, Wawa, the veritable demilitarized zone between the warring nations of Twamptia, the United Fratdom and the Socialist People’s Republic of the Police.
My point is that there exist spaces on campus where, no matter where you are in college life, you find yourself in the close company of a wide array of people from very different walks of life. Sometimes these places are the most tiring; but more often than not they are the funniest.
In Paris, where I’m currently writing this, one of these mixing spaces rises above the rest as a cultural milieu where you are guaranteed to see something interesting. A place where people of all walks of life come together that is very similar to our wooded pathways. Or, maybe I should say, one space sinks beneath the rest. For in Paris, it is the Metro.
The Paris Metro is older than time itself. Approximately. On the Seventh Day God rested, and then he thought, “How are the Parisians going to get around?” So he created the Paris Metro. And God saw that this was chill.
The Metro is the place where you will be crammed liked sardines snout-to-snout with the Louis Vuitton model with six dogs in her purse (five of them barking,) the immigrant who hasn’t yet learned the importance of bathing and the insane homeless man who’s screaming that the potato sacks on his feet know nothing of Neitzche’s views on death. Nothing.
If you’re like me and the largest “cities” you’ve ever lived in are the field where the Civil War began and the sleepy town of Wiliamsburg where once, a long time ago, there was some significance to DoG Street and the surrounding buildings0, the Metro can be the sum of all your big-city fears. It’s the epitome of urbanization. It’s a giant steel tapeworm hurtling through the man-made bowels of the old city, snapping its doors open and close at seemingly random intervals, utterly disinterested about whether your backpack, fingers or junk were in between them.
I’ve witnessed strange things on the Metro. I’ve seen violin virtuosos stand in the middle of a crowded car and play for spare change. I’ve seen drunken teenagers get into fistfights over whether some speech-slurred insult constituted some great injury to his honor (in France, it always does). I’ve seen people robbed and others arrested. All within the small metal box of a Metro car.
But if you want to observe the great comedy that is life, there’s no better place to do so than on the Metro. Riding the train every day to class, to the store, to just about everywhere you want to go, you get very good at pointedly avoiding eye contact. I now can tell you exactly where to look based on where you do not want to look. It takes some practice. I can predict exactly when a hot girl will not sit by me on the little flip-down chairs and with equal accuracy predict when the sweat-drenched fat guy will.
People talk about the cafe culture in Paris, about how you can sit outside for hours and drink coffee and watch people. It’s completely true. But so what? If the cafes are the heart of Paris, the Metro is the colon. And let me tell you something about Paris’s colon: It’s the shit.
__Jason Rogers is a Confusion Corners columnist and finds himself missing the late night Wawa crowd while braving the Parisian tunnels.__