Europe France Paris Travel

Métro Stories #2

Paris metroIt was almost lunch hour and a petite elderly woman stepped into the métro at Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau. The carriage was a little crowded but not enough for people to stand up from their strapontins (fold-down seats) to make more room for travellers. The woman grabbed hold of the pole before the train was set in motion.

An African man stood up and quietly offered her his seat. The frail Madame took it graciously and decided to let her gratitude resound in the carriage.

Toujours les Africains (Always the Africans)”, she began.“Nobody else gives up their seat but you. Where has politeness gone…” And she continued with a torrent of praise and compliments.

With a demure stance, the man lowered his eyes and said nothing. But she was keen to follow up her appreciation with a hint of political correctness.

“Il ne faut pas le dire mais je le pense.” (One shouldn’t really say it but I think it)

I looked at the man in question. He seemed rather humbled and he may have been blushing under his dark skin.

The following day at Opéra station, in the mid hours of the morning, I saw the same scene replay with a young African man and a monsieur in a business suit. The latter expressed his gratitude with more than just a glance and a mere merci. He made eye contact with the young guy, offered him a genuine smile and followed it up with “Vous êtes très gentil”.

That evening, I was on my way to dinner at La Closerie des Lilas, one of the fabled literary restaurants in Montparnasse. The métro at Odéon was very crowded so I moved further inside. A girl about twelve years old stood up and offered me her seat. I declined politely. Surely someone older could benefit from sitting down. I looked around me but she insisted without any prompts from her parents. I felt obliged. Although my feet were aching from walking all day in the heat, I did not have long to travel, and I could have made the five station journey standing up. But she would have none of my objections. So I took the seat, feeling a little overwhelmed. I was unaccustomed to such a kind gesture in Sydney where youth compete for seats with adults on public transport.

When the métro reached Vavin station, I thanked the young mademoiselle in French.

She too was African.


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.