The strange realities of a never ending strike
Wait, the strikes are still going on in Paris? Yes, why yes they are. What started on December 5th broke a historic record last week. As I was getting my groceries a couple days ago I overheard two women at the check out counter discussing. They said it may continue until February 6th! Today there was a big manifestation.
The strikes are around pension reform and quite complicated, but that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the domino effect of other things that are affected, particularly in Paris.
- Commutes can be killer. The cashier at my local grocery store lives in a Paris suburb. Getting to work is not so fun. I asked the aesthetician how far her commute was and she luckily had a bus from her suburb on the other side of the city. A friend who works in luxury travels 1.5 hr each way by foot to her job so she can attend meetings. The lucky ones live off of lines 1 and 14, the fully automated and driverless lines, but those lines are to be avoided during rush hour.
- Traffic is horrendous. Despite efforts by the city to promote sustainable initiatives, there are a lot more cars on the road, and the majority of them only have one person in them. Uber and other call-your-rides have price surging. A typically 12€ ride can run you 40€+ now.
- Sidewalks are crowded. There are so many more people on the street right now it can be a bit of a zigzaging adventure. To shorten the longer commutes it helps to pick up the pace, but sometimes it’s hard. You also have to pay extra attention to all the electric scooters and bicycles zipping around.
- Opening hours are affected. Depending on where employees live, it can be quite a challenge for some of the smaller shops to open on time. La Poste has been closing two hours early—even during peak Christmas season since the strike. (These updated hours of course are not posted anywhere.) Museums for the most part manage to open, but sometimes in a limited capacity, and most often close early. Thankfully they turn to Twitter to communicate openings.
- Strangers are more likely to talk to each other. Paris is not a city where you tend to have a lot of random conversations with the people you encounter throughout your day. The strike has loosened people up and everyone can bond and relate. I get the sense that employees in the service industry feel a bit more appreciated when a customer cares to ask. I tend to leave by wishing them “Courage!” (good luck).
- You get clear on your priorities. On a typical day in Paris it’s easy for me to dart around to different corners of the city. (Most places are ~30 min on public transportation.) Distances can take much longer to get to without transportation, but I’ve been reminded just how walkable the city. It’s physically impossible to be in too many places at once, so you really get clear on what must be done, and where you need to be. Running a quick errand that’s in a different area of the city is not a close as it once was.
- You get to see a whole new side of the city. During the strikes I’ve walked places I never would have walked before, but have seen so much in the process. I already walked more than the average Parisian, but I’ve gotten to put together some neighborhoods in ways I didn’t fully understand how they connected before, or said to myself, “Oh, that’s where that is!” It’s been a good reminder there’s more exploring I want to do. I got to see many of the illuminated streets, and I’ve collected a lot more Invader points along the way! 👾
- You need to charge batteries more. The more I walk, the more podcasts I take in. It also means I find myself charging my AirPods (and phone) far more frequently than before! I also find myself carrying too much because I always like to have a spare battery pack, book, notebook and things to do as I tend to be out and about for larger chunks of time rather than circling back home between.
- Your step count is through the roof. Winter is definitely hibernation time where it’s easy to want to stay inside and take it easy. This winter my step count is closer to 20k steps than my usual 10k most days. My highest day was 28k (~13 miles!), and I was standing facilitating a workshop most of the day (walking there and back, and later to dinner really did add up!). The good news is walking has lots of benefits, so I can’t help but wonder if there has been some good to our mental health and moving our bodies thanks this endless strike. The entire city is moving in ways they didn’t before…
- It’s tough on business. Many small businesses have been forced to close (remember Christmas 2018 was plagued by gilet jaune protests the month leading up to, and many, many Saturdays afterwards). Many more fear having to close their doors. So let this list be a plea to think about the small businesses, and do what you can to support them.
What have I missed? Share other strange strike realities in the comments.
Even during the strikes I’ve had the joy of showing some wonderful clients around the city on my Navigate Paris tours. I’m grateful for clients who are game for a little adventure themselves. Just yesterday, two clients wrote saying my tour was the highlight of their trip!