Saturday, 10 September 2011

How About Free?

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ How About Free? ~

How About Free?, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.
BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!

The weirdest day, but after a pretty averagely boring trip into the Big P, I actually arrived at work with a huge smile on my face (ok, a somewhat warm feeling about life, the universe and the economic powers that be).

I come out at Miromesnil (pron: 'Me-row-may-kneel', kinda, but whatever you do, DON'T say '...mezz-nil' at the end = Tourist Loser ;~S)

So anyway, there I was, making my way up the escalator and into the big wide world of work, when I heard... music. That's right, the miserable old RATP (Paris public transport company) were having a party!

I got a free orange juice thrust into my hand and a microphone shoved under my nose, as the camera rolled (seriously)! Of course, it was an internal promotional effort, trying desperately to make up for the fact that most people hate the system, and especially the loathed 'Controllers', but I took the orange nonetheless.

What was funny about the interviewer was that every third question was 'So you're happy?', if you can call that a question. It was like:

RATP Interviewer: "So do you like the event?"
Me: "Sure."
RATP: "What do you like best?"
Me: "The music."
RATP: "So you're happy?"
Me: "Yeah, I suppose so."
RATP: "Are you enjoying your free coffee."
Me: "Sure."
RATP: "Would you like to see more events like this?"
Me: "Why not? It makes a nice change to see metro employees actually smiling."
RATP: "So you're happy?"

OK, they couldn't really do much with someone on camera saying, "Well it makes a change from the usual miserable service you provide...", but the heavily leading closed question was a bit weak I thought.

But I took the coffee nonetheless. Actually, I don't (necessarily) hate those people in their little green uniforms at all, and fully accept the possibility that the rumours that they are human beings too are founded in some sort of reality. The main reason they are hated is that so many people don't pay for their tickets, or try and get away without paying, and, unfortunately for them, get caught fairly frequently by the very same little green meanies.

The approach taken by the RATP is completely different to London, for example. In London, there's a dude standing by the ticket barriers watching everyone go through. And for some reason no-one jumps over them (the barriers or the dudes). Simple, elegant and effective.

Here in Paris, you can jump over just about every metro station's turnstyles, and there doesn't seem to be anyone watching you do it. On the other hand, hundreds of people are paid to lurk around dark corners where you're not expecting them and jump out and 'control' you, especially when you don't happen to possess a ticket, even for the best possible reasons.

The trouble is, they're pretty inflexible, and actually get a bonus for each person they catch, whence the hate.

But to cut a long story short, today was pleasantly different, and I have to admit I also took the free RATP bonbons, the free RATP maps, the free RATP pen and I'm waiting with caffeinated breath even as I type to win an iPad 2 in the RATP competition I entered. I guess you're getting a pretty good personality profile of me drawn up by this stage, but I was feeling rather pleased with myself whatever anyone else thought.

Not only that, but when I finally surfaced, having tried to scrounge at least a second freebie of everything (yep, your character assassination was spot on), I was greeted at the top of the stairs by... hoards of people trying to give me more free stuff!!!

Imagine my surprise and delight upon having not one, not two, not three, but four free publications to savour. Now I can keep up to date with all my favourite suicide bombings and sordid sex scandals in a host of different rehashes of the same syndicated press release; heaven! And to cap it all, a rather aromatic young lady offering me a completely unusable little coffee filter thingy from 'Carte Noire' (I haven't got the right machine) but I took it nonetheless. Forcing me to requalify my day as 'good', as opposed to 'weird'; an extremely bonne journée, in fact. And it cost me nothing to say so either - even better!
© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

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