(asked by Nancy from Connecticut)
We must distinguish a few different things here.
First, there is waiting in line, and then there’s getting on the bus/metro/train/etc.
So, French people can’t just wait patiently in line, especially Parisians.
This for two reasons:
-First, waiting patiently in line, in most French people’s mind is admitting you have no personality, you’re part of the flock, and you’re a sheep. If you have personality, you just can’t wait patiently in line, only brainless and brainwashed people do such a thing.
Same thing goes with cutting the lines. When somebody is cutting a line, they don’t feel that they’re being disrespectful to other people. They feel that they’re asserting their personality. They’re showing the whole world that they’re not a sheep; and most importantly, they’re showing that they’re fighting the Man. They’re showing that the Man can’t make them do whatever it wants. Right now, they’re just cutting a line, but in the French person’s mind, this act shows the Man that tomorrow they could start a revolution just as easily, so the Man should be afraid.
-The second reason, which applies mostly to Parisians, has nothing to do with the Man, and everything to do with you. See, Parisians are better than you. Don’t take it personally, they’re better than anybody. And they have more important things to do than you have. And they have less time to spare than you. Because they’re more important.
Usually, when the confrontation happens between a Parisian and a tourist, things go pretty smoothly, as the tourist won’t understand what’s happening and won’t know what to do, and the Parisian will be long gone (at the cash register or in the taxi) before the tourist realizes what just happened. Especially because the Parisian wouldn’t have had any qualm about cutting the line in front of the tourist as it’s common knowledge that even the least important thing a Parisian has to do will be more important than the most important thing a tourist will have to do. And don’t get the Parisian started with time, it’s also common knowledge that tourists have all the time in the world (after all, they’re on vacation) and that Parisians are always in a rush, always.
When it gets interesting is when we’re dealing with two Parisians having this perspective on things. As they’re both more important than the other one, it leads to some very entertaining scenes at times.
It’s even funnier when the Parisian is confronted to an event on which he has no control.
Last week, a very important Parisian (he had an expensive car, a suit and tie, and he was overweight, very important, indeed) wanted to drive through that small street. But there was a delivery truck delivering something.
As the important Parisian was more important than the delivery, he decided to go in the street nonetheless. Of course, like any Parisian driver, he started honking as soon as his car stopped. (Parisian drivers don’t use their brains with they drive, it’s all about Pavlovian conditioning, and when they’re stopped by anything other than a red light, they’ll honk until their car moves again)
Then the delivery guys/movers couldn’t help but make fun of him. The important Parisian was of course offended that his importance was mocked in such a way. Ensued a very colored dialogue between the movers and the important Parisian who, instead of just pulling back and going another way insisted on going that way and demanded that the truck be moved, provoking the hilarity the movers, and myself.
And what about getting on the metro, the bus, the train, etc.
First, let’s note that concerning taxis, the same rules as the ones about waiting in line apply.
But why do people rush when a public transport arrive?
First, there’s always the important Parisian (even if he rarely takes public transportation) that thinks you should let him go first, after all he’s more important than you.
Then you have old people that lived through the War, and yes, it could be the last bus, you never know, you foolish youngling that never lived through a war.
Then, you have the people that are not fully aware that these vehicles are operated by human beings and that they’ll wait for you to get in or out before leaving.
Then you have the ones that are really sheep. That must never be underestimated.
I think I’ve covered the topic.
Before finishing, I must underline, that this also might have something to do with the Mediterranean spirit, as French people are so much better with waiting in line than any other country from the Mediterranean, in some other countries that will remain nameless (just look at a map if you suck at geography), I wonder how there aren’t fistfights anytime there’s a line involved.