Friday, June 20, 2014

Quelle surprise -- la grève strikes again!

The only thing surprising about the latest train strike French train strike (la grève) now into its second week is that I missed it. I managed to time trips to France to coincide with the previous two. Here's how, in 52 Loaves, I describe the one that almost torpedoed my mission to restore the lost tradition of baking bread at a Norman abbey:

The scene at the train station reminded me of stories of the eve of the Occupation, when panicked Parisians packed rail stations and streets, desperate to escape ahead of the approaching Nazis. On this night, however, those of us who jammed Gare Saint-Lazare were merely trying to get out of town before the transit workers went on strike.

When I think about that night, coming after a long day of travel from Morocco, I see a scene, in black and white, of women in long skirts, heels, and nylons, carrying chic suitcases, scurrying toward their huge, steam-belching locomotives as the clock ticks down to the strike deadline. I see men in fedoras and pin-striped suits kissing their wives goodbye, not sure when or if they’ll ever see them again. And I see -- and this is the only even remotely accurate part -- I see an exhausted, sick American, sitting on the platform, slumped against a wall, nibbling on a piece of crust, quietly taking in the scene, waiting for his levain, the rest of his clothes, and his train.
 My next trip to France, a couple of years later, was cut short by another strike, which I barely evaded in a similar fashion, and now the train workers are on strike again. For what reason, you might ask? The right to retire at the age of -- wait, not 60, not even 58 -- but, for many, age 50, a benefit workers fear will be lost if the government succeeds with its overhaul of the antiquated structure. Don't get me wrong -- I love the French trains, which whisk you across the country at almost 200 miles per hour, but the train workers -- they'd last about 2 weeks at Amtrak.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.