[Paris is a city of light and charm.]
It was our first day in the City of Light. Getting there involved subjecting ourselves to a subtle form of modern torture. We were taking a “red-eye” from JFK to Paris. We flew American Airlines because we’re addicted to air miles. I won’t tell you how many miles I’ve accrued, but I will say that I earned every one of them. My intent is not to dis American Airlines in this blog, but I can’t help but convey how long and endless and really awful the flight was. The food was fine, considering it was airline fare. But, for a trans-Atlantic flight, most everything was woefully below par. The screens for the in-flight movie were not viewable unless one wanted to combine eye-strain with minor neck injuries.
At the end of the nearly seven hour flight, I thought I needed a massage on 22nd Street. My legs hurt, my back hurt and there was not enough leg room to raise a knee to tie a shoe lace or stretch a muscle in the lumbar region.
But, I digress.
After a two-hour taxi ride to our hotel near St. Sulpice, I was ready for one thing. A two-hour nap. After a three-hour nap, we pulled ourselves together and headed to see some places we loved in the Latin Quarter. I wanted to climb to the bell towers of Notre Dame, but the line (in a blazing sun) put me off.
I can’t take the heat and the direct sun. I’m Irish.
So, we headed over to Shakespeare & Company Bookstore, which is a must stop for me. I love the place. But, I didn’t need another book to carry on our journey, so I opted for a beer instead.
And this is where the story begins.
It was a street full of foot traffic.
[It all took place on a busy street, just like this.]
We chose to sit facing the street just off the Rue St Michel. It’s busy and touristy. As we sat in the shade, I noticed there was a homeless man sleeping on a foam pad surrounded by a few pieces of luggage. I can’t say he was truly homeless, but I noticed all the signs. We sat for forty minutes, reluctant to go back to the hotel and too tired to explore much more of the Latin Quarter.
I watched the man who slept. He was in the middle of a busy sidewalk.
Another line of thought came to me. I had heard of the deranged people who drove trucks into crowds and even went on stabbing rampaged. I wondered about the SWAT patrols and where they were hiding out. Then I spotted three well protected (but not heavily armed) police wander by.
A few minutes later, three more SWAT members (two female and one male) approached the sleeping guy on the sidewalk in front of me.
I was prepared for violence that would later be seen on YouTube. They prodded the guy to determine if he was alive, dead, drunk, stoned or flying on some other drug. I was prepared to not like what I was about to see.
Instead, the three officers, finally roused the man and got him to his feet. I was sure they were going to cart him away…
But, they helped him walk to a spot by a street lamp. Out of the way of the amount of foot traffic. They dragged his belongings to his side. He lay back and fell asleep.
The officers walked away. No hassles. No arrests. No clubbing.
I wondered about the man’s life and what brought him to this busy sidewalk. Then I felt grateful that he was in Paris, where no one used clubs or made him vanish into the bright light of the afternoon.
And all this happened within sight of this:
[Notre Dame Cathedral]