Here in Paris (and for that matter, France) we are all gearing up for a massive public transportation strike as of this evening. I went through the one in 2003 when I first got here, when I unnecessarily walked all the way from my apartment to work (the metro line I needed was in fact running, but at reduced frequency) but it was so soon after my arrival that it seemed all shiny and new and part of the 'authentic' living-in-Paris experience. I actually was annoyingly bubbly and got a kick out of noticing things I never get the chance to see from inside the metro. My coworkers were not amused when I showed up smiling and flushed at 11 in the morning.
This time, however, the entire country will be affected. This one is a doozy, with all the various public transportation unions united in their efforts to cripple the whole system. The SNCF regional and international trains, as well as all suburban trains into and out of Paris, and the entire metro system and buses will be on strike. The bone of contention is the current government's plan to reform these workers' 'special' retirement plans. As best I understand the situation, anyone at 60 years of age and after 40 years of working may retire with full benefits. The workers of the public transportation systems, however, only have to work for 37 years before they get the same benefits. This is seen as unfair and preferential, so the government plans to reform the law so that everyone is on an equal playing field.
The strike planned for tonight and tomorrow (and possibly beyond) is so massive that most metro lines will have no service whatsoever, most suburban trains will not run, and - imagine this for a moment - all regional trains connecting various parts of the country will come to a screeching halt. Most people I know at work have taken the day off or gotten permission to work from home. At the very least, it might prove to be a positive step in getting telecommuting into the forefront, but I have my doubts. I, of course, not living in the cut-off suburbs (thank goodness) nor having any children to worry about transporting, have agreed to sub for my co-worker, who has both children and an hour and a half commute by suburban train. (Shudder.)
In order to get to work, I sneakily asked Handsome - who has a car - if he had any plans tonight, and if he might be willing to drop me off tomorrow morning somewhere within walking distance to La Defense, the eyesore of a suburb where I work. He of course agreed, but called me earlier in the day to warn me we should get up around 6:30 (quelle horreur) to be on the road no later than 7 so that he can then make it to a freelance job at 9:30 in the city centre.
Getting back home will be a challenge, but I think I will risk the metro line - which is supposed to run at 15% of its normal frequency - to the Arc de Triomphe and walk from there.
I guess I'll actually put some comfortable shoes in my bag.