Friday, January 30, 2009

Score = zero

Well, the massive strike of Thursday is history now, and just about everyone has already forgotten about it. Looks like it wasn't nearly the megaevent that it was supposed to be. The country did not come to a standstill, and the trains still ran (albeit more slowly than usual in some cases). There was indeed a tremendous demonstration in Paris, but that was about it, and the government pretty much ignored the demonstrators.

With my luck running as it usually does, I had to walk through the tail end of this demonstration near the Opera after school. Lots of people had been brought in from the 'burbs and from the provinces in buses, mostly rabid union members who love to be in every demonstration, as far as I can tell. They seemed to be having a good old time, oblivious to the disruptions they were causing in the city and the futility of their actions.

It's still not clear what they were demanding. It probably doesn't matter. I think it was along the lines of more money, fewer working hours, more jobs, lower taxes, and the like. They might as well have demanded that golden toilet seats fall from the sky. But they were able to ditch a day of work, at least.

Around the Opera (the old Opéra Garnier), there were riot police (the CRS, part of the regular municipal police force) blocking the major avenues leading away from the Opera so that the demonstrators wouldn't get any ideas. The police wore their usually attired of body armor, shields, and mental screen barricades mounted on their trucks. Demonstrations rarely get out of hand in Paris, but the police remain prudently ready for anything, as once in a while angry young males at the bottom of the bell curve will start a disturbance. This crowd was tame, though. Most people seemed to be more interesting in laughing, chatting, and smoking cigarettes than in crashing through any barricades.

Of course, it took a long time to get past all this. Demonstrations always seem to happen right between me and the places I want to go. I had to cross this one twice as a result. The Métro was running, but too poorly to be worth using, so I just walked the entire way. The night was clear and chilly and I needed the exercise, although I could have done without the aggravation.

On the way home, seeing the clear sky, I looked for stars. That's usually a waste of time in a big city like Paris, and this night was no exception. I could see the Moon and a very brilliant Venus. All of the other lights that looked like stars turned out to be aircraft. Sometimes the roof of a building is darker than the sky in Paris, thanks to the frequent clouds and mistiness of the sky above the city and the brilliant lights on the ground below. The city itself is very pretty at night.