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You’re finally in Paris. Or perhaps you’ve lived here for years. Either way, open your eyes.
Having lived here for roughly thirty years, I realized how much of Paris I no longer see. It took a visitor to make me aware of how much I’ve been missing. For example, this friend is a plant person. When we went to the Jardin du Luxembourg, she pointed out the plants I would have passed by without a second look. While closely examining some, we saw a hedgehog, waddling along as if he had every right to be there—which he did.
Perhaps it’s just me but I tend to not look up in the air. It’s an old Parisian habit to watch where you’re walking. Parisians know the risks of taking an unwary step. Doggie Doo! I’d better warn you right now that there is a serious risk this article will veer off—despite my efforts to keep it under control (and I can feel the keyboard shaking like the joystick of an anti-aircraft fire-struck jet fighter, under my panicked fingertips)—onto the subject of doggie doo. Well, let’s hope I can regain control soon, but I think it’s better if I give in and address the subject.
Doggie Doo. Ask any old timers. It used to be catastrophic. The sidewalks were covered with it. There were sixteen tons of it every day. Most was removed by pedestrians stepping in it—or on it. Doggie “gifts” would stick to shoes and would subsequently be removed by either scraping it into the gutters…or unknowingly taking it home and removing it on doormats or carpeting. This used to be a daily part of Parisian life. I am speaking from experience.
Plus there was an average of almost two people a day hospitalized because of doo-related slips and falls. I have the feeling the numbers would have been much higher, because, after all, who wants to admit they broke their ankle because of dog pooh? It’s much too undignified, and let’s not forget, the French are proud.
The rumor was that so little was done about this situation because dog owners—at least the irresponsible ones—tended to vote for Chirac (then mayor of Paris). They would have voted against him if there had been fines for letting their puppies do their stuff. Chirac’s solution to the problem: “merde”orcycles. He had a fleet of motorcycles especially equipped with motorized rotary brushes that swept the streets and sidewalks of Paris, vigilant to the presence of pooh. The drivers approached the offending menace, pulled a lever that descended the brushes onto the target, and then with a rev of the engine, the brushes did their work.
I guess French technology just wasn’t up to the task. The brushes tended to smear the dookie all over the sidewalk, making a larger mess. The rotary action of the brushes created friction, which, as you know, creates heat, which created hot doggie doo. Not such a good idea! This was the best the mayor could do, until they were replaced by a different fleet of motorcycles—moto-crotttes or Chiraclettes—equipped with vacuum cleaner-like attachments which minimized spreading the stuff around or heating it up.
To digress: The person who invented the term “Chiraclette” should be automatically installed as the head of the Académie Française and be nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature. Chirac was of course the mayor who started this great social innovation and at the end of the word you find -“lette”, which is the same as the ending for the French word for bicycle—“bicyclette.” At the same time the word Chiraclette can be decomposed differently – into “chier” (to pooh) and “raclette” (a scraper), so you have the mayor’s bicycle and a shit scraper!
Fortunately, Parisians elected a new mayor who had the revolutionary idea of making people take responsibility for their dogs. Fines are now imposed for dog walkers who don’t clean up after their pooches. I’ll be darned if it hasn’t worked—at least for the most part. There are still plenty of irresponsible pet owners in Paris, so if you don’t keep your eyes open—and occasionally down—you still run the risk of stepping in doo.
Amazingly, I’ve managed to avoid the pooh for well over a year now, whereas before, in the period of motorized cleanup, I could rarely go a week with clean shoes. Which reminds me of a French joke: Why do they call it “merde”? Because that’s what you say when you step in it!
Anyway. Now every day in Paris I see dog walkers with their little plastic bags, picking up after the doggies. I want to tell them how proud I am of them, that even if it’s not very pleasant to do, they’re taking responsibility for their chosen lifestyle as pet owners, and I want to shake their hands… well, maybe not, especially when they’re holding their little plastic bags. Maybe just give them a pat on the back.
Ah, I think I’ve finally gotten control of the keyboard again. Now where was I? Oh, yes: Open your eyes! There are such wonderful things to see in Paris!
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- City Segway Tours are great for seeing Paris in a different light. You’ll see more, have more fun, and not feel tired at the end of it. These are highly recommended and truly a great thing to do during your stay.
- Fat Tire Bike Tours are another great way to see the city. You’ll get the company of an expert guide, the use of a super-comfortable bike, great tips and advice about what to do while in town and an exciting, informative and educational experience.