I’ve been staying here in Paris for almost a month now and have not written anything about the wonderful moments I’ve experienced along the way. Not once have I written about our trip to Ireland, or Sue and me spending a few days in Aix en Provence visiting the fields of lavender at the peak of their bloom. Neither have I shared about the many people I’ve met, the writing workshops I’ve attended or my 60th birthday celebration at Jules Verne a 5-star restaurant in the Eiffel Tower! But, you have to hear about this.
Sue is still visiting and leaves Paris tomorrow. Yesterday we went to the canals of St. Martin in Paris. It was lovely. We walked, ate and people watched in this eclectic area with, seemingly, every type of culture being together for a Sunday afternoon. We got on the metro (which we do everyday) and headed for my rented apartment near Notre Dame on rue de Bievre. Once sitting, we had seats opposite us open, which is rare. Both of us put our feet up on the edges of the opposite seat (which were gross, old and had peeled paint).
All of a sudden six (6) metro police came over to us and screamed “Penalty, penalty!” We, of course, looked around to see at whom they were yelling. Certainly it couldn’t be two older (not by much) ladies innocently riding the metro laughing about the waitress at lunch who couldn’t remember who ordered what, or when. Yet, here we were surrounded by the French Metro Police hearing that Sue was getting a penalty for having her feet braced up on the edge of the seat.
“What’s going on?” Sue asked, as she was as shocked as I was. Two policewomen were looking down at us as if we had committed murder on the train and were trying to act blameless.
“You!” the one woman said to Sue, “You had your feet up on the seat. Here on the Paris metro that is a penalty.”
“I’m sorry,” Sue said, and kept saying throughout the entire experience. I was thinking to myself that it’s a good thing I don’t drink anymore because it was times like these when I would make more trouble than what was supposedly happening.
“60 Euros!” yelled the female commandant with her sidekick staring down with authority and disgust.
“Are you kidding me?” I said. “Where does it say that?” I was not making the situation any better, even sober. Sue was still in shock and rummaged around in her purse for money.
The lead policewoman said, “Do you put your feet up on furniture outside of the metro?” I didn’t say what was screaming in my head. “Yes, I do!”
“Can I use my credit card?” Sue asked just above a whisper. “Yes.” was the reply of the steely-eyed guard watching me intently so I wouldn’t make any sudden moves. I clearly seemed to be the most dangerous of we two degenerates.
Sue had a credit card, which they tried to use, but for some reason it was denied and wouldn’t go through. “Sue, I have cash,” I said, and without a thought I put my foot up on the edge of the seat to balance myself in order to get my money out.
“Alors! Alors! Do you see that?” screamed the sidekick ecstatic that she was able to prove I was not blameless in all of this. I swear, it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t realize I put my foot up. I always have my feet where they shouldn’t be. Either underneath me when I’m sitting cross-legged at a restaurant or up on something to be more comfortable. That’s all it was.
The two policewomen were incredulous. In perfect English, by the way, Sidekick says, “Are you doing this on purpose? Have you any idea what you just did? “ Clearly, I did not.
By this time everyone on the train, and those who had gotten on at stops during the fiasco, were staring at us and shaking their heads as if it was a shame we knew so little about the rules and regulations of riding the Paris metro. (We missed our stop and I said that out loud which might not have been such a good idea!)
I’ve since Googled to see if there really are any such rules. Funny there are rules that were enforced back in 2015 as far as Parisians being more courteous and kind to fellow passengers but nothing, I tell you, nothing, about feet on the seat. They were having a great time with us and I tell you, if I had still been a drinking woman, my head would not have hit the pillow on the bed in my apartment, that’s for sure.
The policewoman ridiculing me for not knowing not to put my feet up on ANYTHING was getting on my last nerve. “Shut the f… up.” Was so right on the tip of my tongue.
My guard looked at me and shouted, “Penalty!” with a proud satisfaction I’ve never seen from anyone before, especially concerning me. This is where I wanted to say the aforementioned comment that would’ve surely landed both Sue and me somewhere dreadful. Biting my tongue, I doled out 60 Euros cash for each of us, so that we could both pay our penalties for being the heathen women we clearly are. After I paid and we got our receipts, (“Oh thank you so much!”) I sneered at the two of them and said again “You made us miss our stop.” Well, I had to say something. They couldn’t seem to understand that it wasn’t our fault.
Sue was still saying, “I’m sorry” to which I snapped, “Stop saying you’re sorry!”
“Why, are they getting mad?” Sue asked. “I’m sorry.”
We are still confused but laughing about how close we were to me getting us sent to jail. We have since seen multiple offenders of such despicable, flagrant acts of rule breaking. So many people have their feet up on the seats in the metro that Sue and I could make a fortune catching them in the act.
So, if you are taking a trip to Paris, the city of love and light, there is not so much of that underground and there are no second chances. Keep your feet on the floor!
Debra Whittam is the author of “I'm I Going to be Ok?" For any media inquiries or questions please contact: Contact@DebraWhittam.com