Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Three Strikes & You're OUT

                                        The crowd a little after 9

"Demonstrating and striking are strong
local traditions in France...The French do
not value consensus and do not negotiate...
the classical sequence is to go on strike first
and then negotiate."
~ H Rochefort & P Rochefort

My alarm went off at 6:45 this morning. (Just a little aside before I go any further. Consider this: It was 12:45 am on the east coast and 9:45 pm on the west coast, and I was getting up before most of you had even gone to bed. Thanks a lot.)

At any rate, I got up and got ready so that we could get to the Louvre way before it opened. We wanted to get our tickets and get in line before the crowds hit. Mission accomplished. We took the Metro, arrived by 8:30, got our tickets, had coffee and were in line by 8:45 or so. I walked up the the iron gate to ask if we were in the correct line and noticed ONE x-ray scanner beyond the gate. Great.

"I have tickets," I said to the female guard who was standing on our side of the gate." Do I stand here or there? (I pointed to the line of 50 or so people that Mike had joined.)

"Gobbledy-gook. Gobbledy gook." She pointed and pushed me towards the end of the now-growing line. For once we had picked the correct option.

"It should be opening soon," Mike said to me a few minutes after I got back in line. "It's good we got here when we did. Look at all the people." The line was continuing to grow and now snaked around the rotunda. The security gate opened about a foot and a rather large guard rushed out and headed for the end of the line. He pushed the end out of the rotunda and down the main entrance hall of the "mall."

"What time is it?" I was getting tired of standing.

"A little after 9," Mike replied. "I guess their clocks are a little slower than ours."

"Eez zee French work et-teak," the man in front of us said. "Zay open en zare time." At 9:20, the same man walked up to the security guard and talked to her for a few seconds. When he got back, he told us, "Zay vil open at 10:15. Zay air halfing a shgen-air-al azzemblee."

"General assembly?" It dawned on us that he meant a meeting. "Oh, a staff meeting."

"Oui. Steff mee-ten."

     The crowd a little after 9:30

At this point, we were a little irritated that they hadn't mentioned the "general assembly" when we were talking to one of the workers yesterday. (Actually, I was really irritated because I had gotten up and ready so early. I digress.....) We continued to stand. The line continued to grow. The noise level increased by tenfold. Security ran around like proverbial chickens with their heads cut off, moving signs from one location to another and back again. Every few minutes, the iron gate opened about a foot and then slammed shut. People kept walking up to the front of the line to see what was going on.

By 10 am, and I was hot, irritated and cranky. A lady and her two children tried to stand in front of me.

"Excuse me," I said trying to remain calm, "but the end of the line is down that hall." She ignored me. I raised my voice. "I know you can understand me. You are not cutting in this line." She didn't look at me. I stuck my leg out in front of her and gently pushed her out of the way with my shoulder. "Go to the back."

She tried to stand behind us, but that couple stepped in front of her, too. I glared at her, and she ignored my look. Finally, about three people back, she and the kids cut in front of two couple who were too busy texting to notice.

People continued to come up to the front to see what was going on. By 10:20, everyone was buzzing with anticipation. A security guard brought out a sign that read, "From This Point, 45 Minutes to Enter." She pushed it down the mall hall. A collective sigh of relief went up from people in front of us.

"Pardon. Gobbledy-gook. Gobbledy-gook," a smiling old lady said to me. She showed me her ticket. "Gobbledy-gook." She pointed next to me.

"Non. Go to the end of the line. Back there." I waved my hand. "Back there. Way down the hall." The smile gone from her face, she shrugged and walked toward the hall. I noticed a man, his wife and three kids standing just beyond the stanchion near us. They edged closer. I gave him my now-famous stink-eye, and he stared back. I won the staring contest.  His friend, though, tried to move in front of me, and I shoulder-butted him out of the way.

Trying to figure out what's going on

"GO TO THE BACK OF THE LINE," I said. "You are NOT CUTTING IN FRONT OF ME."  He and the group stood back a bit.

By 10:30, people were starting to push. Someone else had cut in line behind us, and they pushed up to get more room for themselves. Others walked through the line and tried to get up to the iron gates.

"The end of the line is down the hall," we told people. "You cannot cut." Disgusted with those who were trying to get to the front of the line, Mike walked up there and started telling them to go to the back. A tall man who was about 10 ahead of us in line stood there and helped him.

"They're having a meeting, and it's running late. Go to the end of the line." The two of them were pointing and gesturing while clearing out the area next to the gate. Someone poked me on the shoulder, and I turned to see the smiling old woman from before.

"Gobbledy-gook. Gobbledy-gook." She showed me her entrance ticket.

"You are NOT CUTTING IN THIS LINE. GO TO THE BACK." I was not happy.

                 Mike keeping or-dair

I was hot, tired, and more than cranky.  I get very antsy in crowds, and pushing and shoving make me very nervous. My blood pressure was not at a good level, and I was doing all I could to keep from screaming when I felt someone poke me on the shoulder again.  I whipped around to see the man I shoved standing there.

"Excuse me, Madam," he said to me.  "Do you speak English?"

"You know G-D well I speak English."

Tell me, Madam," he continued. "How much would it cost for me to buy that coat?" He rubbed the arm of my coat, and I snapped it away.

"WHAT?  WHAT DID YOU ASK ME?"  I was pretty livid.

"How much, Madam?  How much would that coat cost in Paris? " He grinned.  "In Euro, of course."

Gobbledy-gook. Gobbledy-gook." It was my turn to speak a language he didn't understand, and I used the opportunity to say a few choice words in Spanish.  "LEAVE ME ALONE AND GO TO THE BACK OF THE D@MN LINE."

I turned around and said, "Where is my husband?"

The guy in front of me said, "He eez keep-in zee or-dair...unlez zee crow=ed haz mowed heem doone."

At around 11:00, Mike found out that the museum workers were on strike. No one ever announced that to us because, I guess, they were on strike. As we left, we told the people in line (I estimate there were close to 2000 people in the line that snaked through the mall.) that the Louvre was closed because of the strike. I have a feeling some would still be in line tonight had we not told them.

When we got back to the apartment, we found out that the workers walked out to protest the lack of help with the increasingly nasty pickpockets.  You can read about it here.

                "Za Louvre is closed."

We have our tickets, so we'll head back to the Louvre this week sometime, but it won't be tomorrow.  

I'll be on strike.


  1. Gee, your trip sounds like SO much fun!!! And you had to use both your 'stink eye' superpower AND Spanish! better luck next time. Kathy g.

  2. Chris, I LOVE that you gave it back to them!