Meet our writers

 







Humor December 2014

Ernie's World

Paris, City of Light...and Tourists

By Ernie Witham

So the only way to see the Mona Lisa up close is to wedge yourself into the mob and wiggle yourself forward. You can catch glimpses of it between heads and upheld iPhones, which is fun. But there is a certain point of no return where you are committed to moving forward because to turn around is suicide.

“Here are some seats,” my wife said.

We smiled and stretched out our legs. The train to Paris can be somewhat crowded in the morning. Today we lucked out.

“Attention,” a voice over the loudspeaker said, followed by a slur of nasal-sounding words. Everyone on the train jumped up and headed for the doors.

“What?” I asked my wife, who knows some French.

“I think they want us to leave.”

“That much I got.”

“And something about ‘a côte de’, which means next to us.”

Everyone was running, so we did too. There was another train. It was totally full. People were hanging out of the doors.

“We’ll never fit,” I said, as a dozen people behind me pushed forward. Suddenly, I was in and nose-to-nose with another guy. “Bone jour,” I said. “Qu’este ce que c’est happening, Dude?” Before he could comment on my mastery of the language I was pushed even further into the mass of bodies. The doors closed.

“Is that you behind me?” I asked my wife.

“No, I’m over here.”

“Right. Well then how do you say is ‘that a baguette or are you just glad to see me?’ ”

The train lurched forward. Fortunately, there was no room to fall. My nose itched. And my right foot felt like it was facing backwards. The train stopped. More people got on. I managed to free one arm and grab the only spot on the pole without a hand on it as we lurched forward again.

“The next stop is ours,” my wife said. I pictured myself at a rock concert, being hefted above the crowd and passed along hand-over-hand to the door and then tossed out. But I didn’t need to worry, the entire mass of us got off, untangled arms, legs, bags and baby carriages and headed for the escalator.

“I sure hope the Louvre isn’t this crowded,” I said. Musee du Louvre used to be a palace. It is one of the largest museums in the world. Even so, looking at a line that seemed like it stretched into Belgium, I wondered if we would ever get in.

My wife smiled. “We have two-day passes.”

And just like that we were inside the glass pyramid! People without the pass looked at us as we walked right by. I tried to look like a celebrity. I even signed someone’s museum guide. They yelled something in a foreign language.

“Where should we go first?” my wife asked. I pointed at a small picture on the wall. “The Mona Lisa? Are you crazy? That’s going to be a zoo.”

“I think if we head right there while all these other people are milling about, we’ll beat them to it. Besides, how crowded can it be?”

Fast forward 15 minutes: “Holy merde!” The Mona Lisa was a postage stamp on the far wall. In front of it were enough people to start a new country.

“I’ll wait here,” my wife said. “Have fun, but do not fall down. Footprints are really hard to get out of clothing.”

There are very few turnstiles in France. Not many roped off aisles. Heck, a lot of the streets do not even have lanes. So the only way to see the Mona Lisa up close is to wedge yourself into the mob and wiggle yourself forward. You can catch glimpses of it between heads and upheld iPhones, which is fun. But there is a certain point of no return where you are committed to moving forward because to turn around is suicide.

“Pardon. Desolé. Pardon Desolé. Say, aren’t you the guy from the train with the baguette?”

Scientists will tell you that the tighter the mass the more heat it generates. I would have to agree. But the sweat actually helps you to keep sliding forward. You do have to watch out for aggressive grandmothers and eager art students, but eventually you can make it to the front, where they allow you to take 150 photos before you are directed to the side and away.

“What’s next,” my wife asked, as she rubbed at a Samsung Galaxy imprint on my forehead.

“Venus de Milo. Before it gets crowded.”

She looked around. “Can I get on your shoulders?”

 

Meet Ernie