Saturday, May 18, 2013

Demonstrations, looting, shopping, and heating

There have been lots of protests against same-sex marriage in Paris in recent weeks. Some of the demonstrations are peaceful, others have resulted in some rowdiness with the police or between opposing groups. The government has legalized same-sex marriage now, so it’s mostly water under the bridge, but groups opposed to it are still demonstrating.

This illustrates an important feature of French culture: The French don’t vote for their government officials on the basis of what they promise to do. Instead, they vote for them based on the status of each candidate’s membership in the Old Boys’ Club. Then, once the musical chairs have ended and all the members of the club have been elected to new positions, the French take to the streets and demonstrate in order to have things done their way. Needless to say, it would be vastly more efficient to simply elect people who already intend to do things the way the electorate wants them done … but that would require excluding some of the old boys out of the club, and the French don’t want to do that, as they like to maintain an aristocracy of sorts. Besides, I think they enjoy demonstrating, even though it usually doesn’t accomplish anything.

There are three demonstrations just today, although I have no idea what they are about, nor am I interested in going to see them. Demonstrations are just a feature of daily life in Paris.

There was also some looting a few days ago after a soccer game involving the Paris Saint Germain team. It turns out that the looters weren’t even interested in soccer, they just took advantage of the game to break into businesses in a few areas and make off with loot. There was substantial looting on the Champs-Élysées, and around the Trocadéro. Thanks to these hoodlums, the government is thinking of simply outlawing PSG celebrations after a game, to prevent these scum from showing up and ruining the day.

Speaking of crowds, there was another big crowd at the Virgin Megastore on the Champs on Monday. The Megastore is being closed because Virgin is going out of business, thanks to inept management. Word of an unannounced 50%-off sale for one day at the store apparently got around, and huge crowds mobbed the store when it open, buying just about everything in sight. Most of the people buying weren’t interested in what they were buying. They were only buying because they wanted to resell their booty for a profit on eBay or elsewhere. I read that it was a madhouse. However, even though I work just down the street from the store, I didn’t notice any unusual activity. I guess the madhouse was inside the store. By the end of the day, just about everything but the kitchen sink had been sold, which I suppose was the objective.

Right now it’s about 16° C outside (60° F), and slightly overcast, which happens to be a type of weather that I rather like. The only problem is that the building heat was turned off a few days ago, so it’s cold in the apartment. The French turn on heating and (rarely) cooling based on the calendar, not the actual weather; and the calendar says that it should be warm outside at this time of year, so the heat is off. I’ll have to buy a little space heater to stay warm.

It’s rather odd: in winter, the building is overheated, so I pay both for fuel oil for the overheating, and for electricity for the A/C that I have to use to keep the apartment cool. But now, in spring, it’s cold, so I have to buy a space heater to keep the apartment warm because the building heat has been turned off. Doesn’t anyone ever look at a thermometer outside before making these decisions?

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