In the horn honking competition, Parisians are second only to the Italians, followed by clowns, with Canadian geese and taxis rounding out the field.
Parisian streets are thin. The city planners of the tenth century were a tad short-sighted on where things were going, the people were smaller and le Big Mac wasn’t even a notion, not to mention the plague which wiped out a third of Europe and created a boon for real estate agents. It made the narrow streets of Paris seem as wide as the Seine. Where’d everybody go?
While pedestrians dodge everything, bicycles dodge the scooters that dodge the cabs that dodge the work vans, which weave like drunken looms. It’s survival of the fittest or best dressed or both. There’s a lot of avoiding going on while the drivers are urgent to get off of the streets.
Once a horn starts projecting, get ready for the cascade of a symphony. Sometimes they come in short bursts, sending out messages, like Morse Code. Other times it’s more improvisational, a call-and-response technique like the legendary horns of Davis and Coltrane. Then there are les Dicks, who won’t let up. They lay on their horns as if they were bedding down for cacophonous naps, trying to out-dick each other. Yes, I’m talking about men here. It’s all part of the best of Paris.
Emergency vehicle horns have a clown riding a bicycle quality. I initially thought the trapeze artist had fallen. Parisian drivers don’t appear to give the right of way when they hear an ambulance coming. They have a they knew what they were getting into, they shouldn’t have been at the crosswalk attitude. I saw a woman on the ground after being hit by a bus, life goes on, maybe not hers, but still.
So far, I am still a little shaky on foot, tentatively stepping out into the crosswalk. I’ve been on the receiving end of an angry horn for crossing on the little green man walking light, not so sure if foot traffic has the right of way here. I’m on the look out for a pedestrian horn, one that will make an impression, maybe the sound of the apocalypse or a herd of stampeding buffalo, or an ear splitting air horn favoured by the Coast Guard. Or I could just be careful and enjoy the quirkiness of the centre of the universe.