On a Saturday morning, two weeks before Christmas, the queue doubled back across the cramped space in the local post office. An elderly lady made her way unsteadily to the counter clutching her savings bank card. The clerk pointed towards a cash machine, half hidden behind the waiting line, but the customer wasn’t sure she could manage that. ‘We’ll do it together then’. The queue shuffled to leave a clear passage as the clerk offered a supporting arm and the duo made their way slowly to the cash machine. When it became clear that the customer had no hope of remembering her PIN number the queue shuffled aside again and the clerk led the way back to the counter for an alternative transaction. Rueful smiles were passed along the line and a few people looked at their watches but no one sighed and no one grumbled. Ordinary kindness prevailed.
City living demands patience, tolerance and flexibility. Parisians have a reputation for rudeness and grumbling but they greet shop assistants politely and wait patiently for delayed metro trains. Parisians protest readily and follow rules selectively, they block squares with demonstrations, close roads for parades, cycle on the pavement and skate in the road but they work their way round obstructions, make space for each other with good grace and respect ‘keep off the grass’ signs.
In a densely populated city people have constant opportunities to endanger the safety and wellbeing of those around them. Though the horrific events that make headline news tell us we’re living in dangerous times the vast majority of people, nearly all the time, make safe and careful choices. It’s an everyday marvel that a complex modern city functions at all, doubly so that a place like Paris is such a great place to live or visit. City living can be stressful and isolating but good public space makes room for neighbourliness. There’s hope for the future.
(Click on any photo to view the gallery).
This post was prompted by the Weekly Discover Challenge Hope Gone Viral.
‘While there is good reason to be concerned about the world at this moment in time, there’s also a lot to be hopeful for.’
The first photo was taken in the 11th arrondissement in January, not far from one of the sites of the November terrorist attacks. On a cold day a good humoured, curious crowd was watching a team of ecologists rescue stunned fish from the canal as it was drained for repairs. Shared space, shared interest and neighbourliness in an unlikely setting.
December 22, 2016 at 4:08 pm
Beautiful essay on the better side of city living. Philadelphians are famous for rudeness, too, but in everyday life they treat each other more politely and with more kindness than one would expect from their reputation.
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