Chance encounters with random acts of kindness and chickens on the metro

Friday, July 11, 2008

It's a well-known phenomenon that while riding the metro you will almost certainly come in contact with some bizarre, odd, or otherwise foreign person. This happens daily. Usually, it's a smelly guy in a suit who's late to work, or a couple talking in a language I've never heard before, or a dude who gets off at every stop and yells some indiscernible chant at his fellow-riders as they descend the metal tube.

Today, I sat next to two very normal-looking guys who were transporting a few bags of market produce. I opened up my book, preparing for the long and dull ride to my stop and kept about my business as usual. Just as I was starting to get back into the juicy bits of the story, a loud clucking noise sounded from just next to me and the plastic bags at the feet of my fellow passengers started moving violently about on their own. Everyone, including me, cocked our heads in the direction of my two neighbors who started wrestling with the bags. A few seconds later, a beak and red-colored head peeped out from the bag and let out a loud "Cluck!" Apparently, these guys had picked up more than bananas from the market and were taking some chickens (or maybe they were hens) home (presumably) for dinner tonight. I couldn't help but laugh out loud, and when they saw that I found it amusing, they began laughing with me. I couldn't decipher what they were talking about before or after that because they weren't speaking French (like that would make a difference anyway) or English or any other recognizable language, but I asked them in French if I could take a picture of their fowl, and they happily obliged. Not wanting to impose too much, I snapped two very quick shots and ended up with these:



We laughed a little more at the incident and carried on with what were doing before the distraction - they continued their conversation and I dove back into my book. Then, something happened that is also a well-known reality of metro-riding. A woman came by to beg for money - I, being engrossed in a book, was all but ignored by the woman, but when she spotted the fresh goods being transported by my poultry-carrying friends, she asked them if she could help herself to a banana. One of the guys had already given her a few coins, but the other guy leaned over and pulled off a banana for her. She thanked him a few times and stood by the doors awaiting her stop. A few seconds later, still conversing with each other, the two guys filled an empty sack with a bunch of bananas and a few mangoes and handed it to the woman. She, nor I, nor the girl opposite me could believe the kind gesture we'd just witnessed.

Here, especially, I find myself on an eternal quest to suppress my over-active, highly-sensitive emotions, and it took everything in me to allow only a single tear to fall. It probably sounds silly, trite even, to become teary-eyed over such a natural and daily encounter. But I find more and more that kindness like this is rarely depicted in the streets (or metros) of Paris. My thoughts are that this has something to do with tradition, and even I have become less sympathetic after hearing people (my husband included) paint a malicious and deceitful, mafia-like picture of the poor and homeless population in Paris. It isn't easy for me to say no to someone when I have the means to say yes, but I feel like it's what's expected of me here. After today, though, it seems clearer than ever that I can still fit in as a Parisian without abandoning my humanity.

10 comments

lulu said...

That is crazy that you caught a photo! What a story?! What's next, a cochon on the metro?

I would have been touched as well. That was very thought prevoking.

Evolutionary Revolutionary said...

It's always good to know that people still have humanity left - don't give up on it! You don't have to give to ever beggar on the street, but kindness where kindness it truly needed goes a really long way.

I probably would have cried too!

American in Norway said...

Just found your blog... I am also a Texan living abroad. My friend & I once tried to give a homeless lady a pack of cigerettes & some money when we saw her picking up butts off of the ground (to smoke) in the underground in London. She threw them at us & started yelling. That was a really nice scene through & makes you appreciate random acts of kindness when you see them!

Bluefish said...

This is funny and I also think the men were very generous.

Noelia said...

Random acts of kindness are wonderful to read about.

You know, not only French people don't like to give to beggars, Canadians too. I actually think that not all beggars are needy, specially after having traveled in South America where the poor are really poor and get no help whatsoever from the government.

Liked to stumble upon your blog though. I shall be back!

ellemabelle said...

wowee that's a good one. I have seen people eating a whole rotisserie chicken on the metro (in New York) but I never saw live chickens on the metro! Quelle chance!

christine said...

how incredibly funny. I know what you mean about the metro. I go to France often (American abroad too)& it never ceases to amaze me the weird things that happen.

Georgie from Motherland said...

Ah yes I know what you mean. I live in Cambodia where we are warned not to let the street kids come in your gates or give them food cos they will be back in hoards. I took a while to stop following their advice and start following my heart. They were right though... about the hoards :-)But that's ok. Better to be human and act according to your heart than forget who you are and how you would like to be treated if in their shoes. Chickens on metro - that's even weirder than chickens on back of motos.

Anonymous said...

Makes a change to buskers and beggars. :)

Anonymous said...

That's a lovely story. It also reminded me of my favourite metro experience: kittens! I was even allowed to hold one. Probably not something you wanted to do with the chicken. :-)

TEXAS SARAH. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.