Monday, June 1, 2009

To Bus or Metro

It’s the same ticket that gets you on either one. A rectangular piece of card stock with a magnetic strip down the middle. These days they’re white. For a long time they were purple. I remember nearly fifteen years ago, when I’d first moved to Paris, they were green. I saved the used ones for months and then one night in early December, when all of Paris had been on strike for weeks so the tickets were of no use anyway, I cut all those little used green tickets into the shape of Christmas trees and glued them to a card where I’d printed Seasons Greetings in colors and lines resembling a Paris metro map. I sent out holiday cards to hundreds of friends. A bottle of red wine and at least twice through Ella Wishes you a Swinging Christmas CD to cut and paste all those masterpieces. How clever of me, I thought. People who know Paris’ metro will really get a kick out of my holiday card.

Nobody said a thing.

In those days I only took the metro. I was new to Paris, relatively, and despite the bombings and the petty crime and the filth of the underground, I opted in anyway because I could understand it. The Paris metro map was clear and the routes easy to figure out. So what if it was dark and dirty outside those windows. You could navigate without looking foolish. Without having to ask.

The Parisian bus routes are more cryptic, less obvious. Years went by and the buses passed me with a rush of wind on the street. I never boarded one.

Then one day a new and street-fluent friend threw out the suggestion with know-the-route confidence, “We’ll take the Bus 96.” I pretended it was no big deal. Sure, the bus, we’ll take it. I watched him like a hawk as we stepped up into the bus, inserting his ticket in the slot to stamp itself and spit back out. I followed suit. Once inside the bus, I knew what to do; it was like any bus in any city. But better. You could see all of Paris. Here are you are going about your day-to-day, to the dentist or something, and oh there’s the Louvre we’re passing by. This is something that’s hard to take for granted. I mean, if you’re going to live in the most beautiful city in the world and take the public transport, why on earth wouldn’t you take the one with a view?

So I bought a bus-route guide. And fell in love with the Paris bus.

It’s still a bit tricky; the buses aren’t as straightforward to figure out as the metro. But then you develop your routines, find your favorites. My preferred bus (after the 96, which takes you straight to Montparnasse and then to points south) is the 29. This is also Dee Dee Sue's favorite, btw. A few of the buses on this route used to have an open balcony on the back of the bus. I remember tripping down rue Francs Bourgeois one twilighted summer night, the dark-haired boy with great eyebrows kissed me as we sped between bus stops. He was my first lover in Paris. It wouldn’t have been as romantic in the metro.

No comments:

Post a Comment