No seriously, it really is today, or at least the folks on whom all the national media rely for its reporting, Meteo France. And without the pros, the forecasts quickly deteriorated this morning on France Culture; at 7 the newscaster predicted ‘temps intemperate’; by 8, host Ali Baddou was announcing, “Il fait beau.’ (Notwithstanding that the guest of the morning, former foreign minister Hubert Védrine, pointed out rightly: “Why do the forecasters always say ‘il fait beau’ when it’s hot?’ and thus quite possibly insufferable. Je suis 100 percent d’accord! Here in southwest France by the way, at 10 a.m., il fait beau, et pas encore trop chaud ni lourd; mais ca va arrive.) In fact it wasn’t the only strike-enforced irruption to the morning routine; at 7:13, when he would usually sum up the front pages of the major newspapers, Baddou began, “Actually, no papers this morning as the delivery-persons are on strike”; thank G-d for Internet editions.
But before you start thinking this is going to degenerate into an American free-market capitalist’s mocking of the French penchant for striking, let me back up: At first — arriving here in France seven years ago — I thought it was amusing that single bus lines would go on strike; and that when the Poste went on strike, it didn’t necessarily mean they didn’t show up for work, but that if you showed up to mail something, they didn’t let you in. When the FNAC — a national record chain — went on strike, I thought it was heartening that compared to the States, where, no doubt against the Constitution, they often don’t even let picketers get within a block of of the targeted store, here the employees set up a table at the entrance which they blocked. But the best was a McDonald’s on the Grands Boulevards, which was not just struck but occupied by its employees for a year. In six years in Paris, the closest I came to being really inconvenienced by a strike was when I waited in vain for a subway to a show, not realizing it was one of the lines on strike; and when, checking out the Rodin Museum to find out whether it would be affected by the Museum guard stike and thus I’d be unable to bring visitors there, I discovered this understanding notice on the locked door: “Museum closed by strike. To those that are visiting Paris for the first time, sorry.”
However, here in the country, when the train workers decide to go on strike, as they seem to be doing every week, the consequences are grave for those of us without our own wheels.
Last month I wrote about how it’s hard for me to visit the neighboring village of Le Buisson because, as it’s also the village with the nearest veterinarians, I associate it with the death of my cat Hopey. Well, during the most severe time for her and trying time for me, the train workers made it harder for us by striking for several days because they’re peeved that President Sarkozy — implicitly supported by the French who voted for him — wants them to work 41 years instead of 40 to be eligible for full retirement pension. He’s not being capricious; the cash register is empty! I, on the other hand, thanks to the caprices of the spoiled me-me-me train workers, was left stranded with a dying cat and no way to get her to the vet. I don’t begrudge Hopey the money I had to spend to take cabs back and forth almost 20 kilometers, but for the train-workers — who once again struck yesterday and will again next week — I say give a thought to how others are affected by your crusade.