My first Transit Strike in Paris

I’m reminded of a few lines in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Hedwig is commenting about the day after his sex change operation.

“I woke up the next morning
And I was bleeding down there.
My first day as a woman
And it was already that time of the month”

It’s my first week as a Parisian and I have my first major transit strike. I woke up this morning with some dread. My friend Jim in California called and let me know that it was supposed to be 0 degrees outside. I’m looking at freezing weather and a 11 km walk. How bad could it really be?

The journey begins

Transit strike, no busses today
I had planned my route in advance, I wanted a simple journey that I recognized. I also wanted to avoid too many busy intersections. So, I set off with almost a straight shot from my apartment on the far east side of Paris to the Yahoo! office on the far west side of Paris. Yes, I’m walking across the city.

This sounds daunting for a California boy. Heck, we get into a car to drive around the corner. It would take a day to walk across San Diego and a week to walk across Los Angeles. Well, two days walking and 5 days recovering. But Paris is a much smaller, dense city and it’s not really that bad. My walk is going to be about 7 miles. I can do this.

Should I stay or should I go?

I keep walking by metro stops and watching people exit them. I know the busses have stopped, but have the trains really stopped? I rode one last night well after the announced stopping time.

I have to say, there were two reasons why I didn’t go down into the metro to see if the trains were running.

  1. I wanted to really experience my first transit strike. Taking a metro would have been cheating.
  2. I was afraid I’d have to climb steps to get out of the metro station after the fruitless journey.

I think #2 was more a deciding factor. I needed to save my legs and the back of my mind knew that if the metros were running, the streets would not have been full.

Why don’t I have a bike?

Paris traffic during transit strike
Paris recently introduced 20,000 bikes to be used for free. Unfortunately you need a pass to use them and the procedure to get one is unbelievably stupid. I wont’ go into it now, but lets just say that I don’t have a velib pass yet.

However, there were plenty of bikes available and plenty of people using them. I did see some Velib stations in the center of Paris that were full and people were not able to return their bikes to the docking stations. They waited in line for someone to leave with one of the docked bikes.

mmm…. Chocolate

I celebrated my first transit strike with a Pain Chocolate, or croissant filled with chocolate. It was damn good. I washed it down with a coffee while walking, no time to rest for the weary.

Starbucks

Transit strike, no busses today
Thank god for Starbucks. I really needed a huge cup of hot coffee after walking for two hours. I didn’t want a cute little cup of espresso. I wanted a gallon of black death, with cream and sugar of course. While waiting for my coffee, I noticed the most god awful outfit on a mannequin. I don’t even think the Gotti brats would be seen wearing something this tacky.

Final Result

It took me 2 ½ hours to walk to work. I felt fine, it was all flat land. I could do this again, although a 5 hour commute to work is pretty crazy. I’m going to buy a scooter tonight to make it much easier. I’m not going to carry my laptop home and I’m going to thank Heidi again for sending me some super comfy and warm socks from Alaska.

Tacky even in Paris

a real flea market findI had a good day today, I went shopping. Not for normal stuff, mind you. I went shopping for those special things that make a home a home. For instance, for about $7.50 I bought an enormously tacky water pitcher from Morocco that features a naked woman as the handle. To make it even finer, there is a big ass hole on her ass, as if she is going to shit water when you tip the fucker!

I also bought a simple painting of a hard boiled egg for about $4 and paid too much for a little desk calendar, about $30. But I liked the calendar and it was the first thing I saw that I liked.

I went to the flea market in the south edge of Paris (Porte de Vanves). It’s where you walk down the streets and the merchandise gets worse and worse as you go along. By the end of the street, you have people cleaning out their closets and selling broken shoes, spare handbags, underwear, and asstd. detritus. Then, it’s not over, you cross the street and voila, an assortment of bad art, cheaper treasures, and kitchen stuff. I bought the pitcher and painting in the last area.

flea market treasuresI then took a bus to another bus and walked about 2 miles to the apartment. What do you think was on the way home? Another flea market! can you believe the luck? I found this old photo of a really, really ugly guy wearing his skivvies in the park. I was going to buy it, but didn’t feel like haggling over it with the junkie selilng the goods. Numbers are difficult to get your head around in French. Ten, twenty, thirty, fourty, fifty, sixty, sixty plus ten, four times twenty, four times twenty plus ten, one hundred… So, here’s the gist of my bargaining.

  • Me: “Yo, crack head. how much for this ugly photo”
  • Crackhead: “40 cents”
  • Me: (thinking he said 4 euros “Uggh, too much. How about 1 euro?”
  • Crackhead: “WTF?”

Ted on the bridge after a long day of flea market shopping
I went to a cafe after the first flea market and had a cafe au lait and croissant for breakfast. the waiter was from Algiers and wanted to see the beautiful water pitcher. I thought he was saying I had mud on my face under my eye. Finally I figured out what he was saying and motioning and he admired it’s beauty and told me of its origin. Frankly, I just assumed it was from Tijuana.

Yahoo! Accessibility

Next week is going to be a big week for me and accessibility on Yahoo! There’s a lot going on, I don’t know how it will all go down.

Avatar for Ted Drake

1. I am going to Bangalore, India to discuss accessibility at the annual Front End Engineers conference. I’ve wanted to visit India for a long time and I’m looking forward to the chance. I’m also going to Paris and Munich for other Yahoo! business.

2. The Yahoo! Accessibility Stakeholders Group, of which I am a member, is hosting a global campaign to fix alt attributes across the network. Alt attributes are the snippets of text that appear when an image is not displayed. They are critical for those using a screen reader. Using alt attributes correctly seems to be the most basic element of making a site accessible, unfortunately they are also easily forgotten.

3. Yahoo! Avatars has added the Accessibility Stakeholders Group icon to the clothing options for your avatar (http://avatars.yahoo.com) This nifty logo replaces the normal Y in the logo with a braille version.

I’ll post more as the trip and campaign progress.