Friday, April 22, 2011

Metro Oddities part III: 3 safety tips on Paris trains + bonus I'm an old hag story

photo credit flickr: Estro
Back in the states I was, for lack of a better word, badass. I took a kickboxing/karate class five times a week. I did push ups. I crunched my innards until they looked like an ice-cube tray. I was a buff little karate-chopping midget.

I was also twenty-three years old and got out of work by five at the latest. Now I'm a wrinkling, asthmatic wod of flabbery, who can't seem to stop working before 2am and hasn't felt running shoes on her feet in a coon's age. (Bonus points if you can tell me how long that is, because I've no idea. Sounds long though doesn't it?)

My life has become a series a of getting out of and sitting back down into chairs. When I move, a percussion concerto of cracking joints remind me that I'd probably throw my back out if I added sit-ups to my morning routine. I'm officially settling into frumpy-old-hag mode.

Honestly, I think my only current defense option is a manicure. By the by, I hate breaking a nail.

All of these defense deficiencies made the events a few months ago much more terrifying.

Standing at the platform of the RER I wondered how late and/or early the train would be. It was a typical night, I had worked a twelve-hour day and my brains had turned into soup. There were a few scattered women flipping mags or typing on phones. None of us much concerned with our surroundings.

Somehow, despite the sloshing lack of intellect, I noticed a suspicious character lurking in the doorway of the arriving train. He sported a hoodie in ninety-degree weather. Obvi up to no good. We crossed paths as I climbed into the car. I could almost hear the Dirty Harry pan flute and harmonica.

He eyed my purse like it was the holy grail. When he finally managed to pull his eyes off my bag I tried to give him my signature, "Touch this and I'll ... Well, we both know I'm not capable of doing anything about it, but I'll be madder than an expat waiting in line at the prefecture."

By some miracle, I seemed to have intimidated hoodie-thug. He averted his eyes and I felt I was in the clear for the moment.

Key words being: for the moment.

About ten seconds later the buzzer began warning us all, and he bolted through the corridor, grabbing the bag of the girl right in front of me. RIGHT IN FRONT. She made a sound like he'd just stepped on her tail, and his attempt failed, he fled the train.

The other women and I checked on the almost-victim, she was OK, no harm done, just a bit shaken. But it got me to thinking... could've been me. Why wasn't it?

Here are three tips to help you avoid this situation:

1) Check yoself, befo you wreck yoself.
We all get distracted in the metro. It's boring, it's loud, it's hot, and if you follow my husband's instructions "don't look at anyone or talk to anyone", you're not going to see these "bad guys". He's partially right. Don't talk to anyone. Don't stare anyone down, you whore, but don't be oblivious either.

2) Got passengers?
Don't get on an empty train late at night. It sounds obvious, but really, don't. People get hurt in empty trains at night, it's just a fact of living in a big city, so be smart and ride the train early when it's full of sweaty and/or smelly people. Your nose will hate you, but your ass will be secure.

3) Sit bitch.
Don't sit near the doors. It's an invitation to get your purse nabbed and freak you out so badly you yelp like a puppy. Sitting in the middle and around other people is the safest place to be on the train.

Ride safely people!


  1. Oh gosh, so true! Sometimes, when I think about the dumb stuff we did (like getting on nearly empty trains in less than lovely quartiers super late at night) it just makes me shake my head. Thankfully, the worse that ever happened to me was a persistent fellow who continued to propose marriage to me up around gare du nord! :)

  2. Very good advice. I just moved here from LA, and even though I have lived in NY, I've had to adjust to train travel again. My wallet got lifted once on a crowded train - I didn't trust my instincts. BTW, I sort of met you last night at the meet up. We said goodbye to each other. Love your blog - hilarious!

  3. I get so angry when I hear about people like that! It's so horrible, he would have really upset the poor woman he went for, and for what? I just wish everyone could be good to each other. I will definitely bear your tips in mind next time I train it anywhere.

    I really enjoyed reading your blog this evening, keep up the good work :)

  4. @Amanda - Sadly I don't think we realize it until we get bothered, then the light comes on lol. Marriage proposals is better than being attacked I suppose! lol

    @Susan - I can't believe I've never been stolen from actually. I must be the most naive/retarded person ever to ride a train, which is partly why I wrote the post: to remind myself not to be so stupid. Sorry to hear you were victimized :( Fool me once, right?! Yeah I think I remember you! What's your twitter handle again? Thanks for the kind words!

    @French: thanks for the encouragement, I've been on a blogging dry spell for a while. I too wish everyone's intentions were as good as my own in those situations -- but alas, that's life in the city. (We can't all be from rural wisconsin.)


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