Saturday, June 18, 2011

I come to save snails, not to eat them

I was walking home through the snooty Sixteenth for a change, on a day that was becoming increasingly warm despite heavy rains the night before, and I happened across a fleet of snails trying to cross the asphalt sidewalk in front of me. There were a dozen of them or so, all moving at a snail’s pace (of course). The asphalt was dry and extremely hot, and I became concerned that these snails would not make it to safety before dehydrating, as they depend upon their snail-slime when moving, and the supply of that is in turn closely related to their hydration.

So I hit upon an idea. I went to the first supermarket I could find and bought a jug of water. Then I returned to the spot with the many snails and poured some water around them on the sidewalk in order to provide a non-dehydrating path to safety. A man passing by suggested that they might drown, however, which seemed plausible (my knowledge of snail respiration being rather limited), and he commented that it might be easier to just carry them to safety. Additionally he suggested that a nearby planter might be the source of the snails, as well as their salvation. The planter was about a meter off the ground, and it was hard to imagine how the snails could have made the trip from the planter to the pavement, but it was the only place nearby that might have harbored snails, as far as I could tell.

So this man and I picked up some snails and carefully put them in the planter. Some of the snails had their shells broken, but they were not squished, which would be consistent with a fall from the planter onto the pavement. Perhaps they tried to escape flooding in the planter during the rain (?) and were unable to hold on to the sheer, textured concrete wall of the planter. Anyway, I returned all the snails I found, including the ones with broken shells, although I wasn't optimistic about the future of the latter. I then poured the remaining water around the planter so that it might remain moist for the snails benefit.

I don't know how many ultimately survived. But just leaving them to die on the hot asphalt was out of the question. I was surprised that anyone offered to help, but perhaps the man who helped simply thought he was humoring a psychotic or something. French people are usually very diffident, and are not the type to lend helping hands to strangers.

I don't know the species of snail that I found. They looked a lot like the kind that end up on people's plates at some restaurants. These, hopefully, will lead a happy and unmolested life, if they survived the encounter with the hot asphalt.

(By the way, sidewalks in Paris are paved with asphalt, not concrete. The roadway is usually asphalt, too, although cobblestones are still quite common in Paris, thanks to their easy maintenance and superior wear characteristics.)

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