Fun in the Paris Suburbs, Part I

Back in 2006 or so, my friend Tanguy and I wanted to go to this new retro fighting game arcade that had opened up in the suburbs. I had never been to the suburbs of Paris, and was given a bit of schooling in that regard: Completely contrary to how most of the U.S. works, most of the suburbs are generally understood to be the “dangerous” parts of town, which is why real estate was cheap enough that someone could open a super specific type of arcade there. So we had to take a real-style old train out there, miles from paris, beyond where the Metro could reach.

We didn’t have great directions to the place, which was about two miles from the station, and wandered around for some time, past ancient military barracks-style housing that made me feel like I was inside Call of Duty II. It was very much a different place from Paris proper, and it was visually obvious that their definition of a suburb was closer to our definition of a low income district.

It was an overcast day, and Tanguy and I were walking on the sidewalk going east, vaguely paying attention to where we were going, but mostly heading straight down a main street from the station. Then, suddenly, on the north side of the street to our left, there appeared an impossibly pretty girl. She was coming toward us about to cross over to our side of the street, stepping effervescently off the curb as she did so. We both noticed her at the same time, and found it impossible not to look, both our heads snapped to attention like a group of kittens following a laser pointer. We were just then passing a bus stop, crowded with people waiting for transport.

The girl turned toward us, smiled sweetly, and waved as she crossed the street.

The both of us felt like the sun was shining just on us, for a moment – we were both immediately, egotistically convinced that she was waving at our respective selves. We were so comically enraptured that we kept walking with our heads turned toward her, waiting for the next sign of her affection, or some further indication of our merit. And with perfect comic timing, at the exact same moment, I stumbled over a cement block in the road, and Tanguy plowed straight into a five-year-old child, right in front of the crowd of bus-awaiting onlookers. We stumbled about like slapstick pros, arms and legs flailing as we re-calibrated our gyros and stood up again.

We recovered, righted the (thankfully unharmed) child, apologized to basically everyone, and felt flustered and foolish when we realized that — of course — the pretty girl was waving at her elderly relative, directly behind us, who was waiting for the bus herself.

For the next two blocks of our journey, we nearly hyperventilated with laughter. Our logic had simply shut off completely. We were powerless before our own hubris. The city of love, indeed!!