February 8, 2008

Race-walking, Paris style

Posted in Daily life tagged , , , , at 2:32 pm by Lauren

I would love to reprogram myself to be at least five minutes early everywhere I go. Instead I try to cram in as much as possible before leaving and then tear through the city to my next destination. I don’t like to be late, and here in Paris, with ample time on my hands, I’ve worked to remedy that very bad habit.

I’ve been moderately successful. I’m usually not late (and if I am, it’s very rare that I’m more than about three minutes late), but I haven’t found my path to the zen-like situation of arriving with time to spare. Instead, I hurtle through streets (and metro) of Paris, my body jerking slightly as I try to urge it to faster forward motion. My timing is very precise. Thirty eight minutes from my door to Adrienne and Natsumi’s school. (Woe to the tourist that gets in my way.) Eleven minutes from my door to the Maubert Mutualite metro. Twenty five minutes will get me to the 15th arrondissement on foot and metro, but 20 minutes will not do. Still, in all of those scenarios, I arrive sweating, having shed my scarf and (sometimes) jacket.

I pride myself on my speed, though most people in Paris seem to take a more moderate pace. Sometimes I’ll find a likely competitor rushing home from work ahead of me, but I generally overtake them. But recently I found myself in an unusual, almost comical situation. I turned the corner quickly, dodging tourists and grocery-laden elderly. A man fell in step next to me. I expected to leave him behind, but when he was still racing alongside me a minute later, I glanced over at him. He was glancing at me, too, as if he were trying to gauge my stamina and speed, waiting to break away and pull ahead. I felt myself in the middle of a perverse race to see who could propel their body forward faster while maintaining a walk. We kept pace for several blocks, and the man looked more and more frantic. Finally he turned his head to me, slowing only slightly, and asked where the nearest metro was. I gave directions, the spell was broken, and I easily beat him to the metro.

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