Like last December, my Christmas blog posts are interrupted by violent social movements going on all around me. Last year it was the gilets jaunes, this year it’s the unions and general strikers. All I really want to talk about is Christmas: the beautiful lights and decorations, the gaily-decorated department store windows, my modestly-priced holiday gift guide that I’m compiling … But I can’t even get to the department stores because aside from the two automated metro lines, all the other lines are closed.
Yesterday (Thursday) was freezing cold and very damp. Some of my office colleagues walked for one hour and a half to get to work in the morning, and an hour and a half to go back home in the dark and the cold. Today (Friday) it is forecast to rain all day. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m lucky: I can walk to work (or take the number one metro line which is driverless and fully automated.)
Here’s a conversation I had yesterday with a colleague: “But I thought the office had organized a car-pooling scheme. Can’t you find someone who lives near you with a car?”
My colleague, who had walked an hour and a half to work: “Yes, that’s my boss who set up the car-pool thing,” (the Human Resources and Communications Department Director)
“Yeah, so, is there someone who lives near you with a car?”
“I don’t know, that information is confidential, and I don’t want to ask my boss.”
????? Geez, I thought to myself, for the Communications department, they don’t seem to be very communicative.
It’s true that the French have never taken to the carpool concept – called covoiturage in French – preferring to drive to work alone so they can brood and glower in the solitary comfort of their car.
Below is an article in The New York Times explaining the situation, I’m too fed up to talk about it. I’m exhausted by the constant whining of the French: moan, moan, moan because they might have to work beyond 62 years of age. Moan moan moan because they haven’t put money aside in a separate retirement savings account, unlike Canadians who contribute throughout their entire working lives to an RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan), in existence since 1957. And why don’t many French people put money aside? Because they depend on the government to do everything for them, and expect their work pensions to be sufficient. The worst are the transportation strikers: some of them get to retire at 55 years of age with a nice pension. Those are the ones who are protesting the hardest, egged on by their Communist union leaders. Yes, the biggest trade union here called the CGT (Confédération générale du travail) still has links with the PCF (French Communist Party), even though they say they don’t.
Friday evening – here’s what annoys me the most: not only do the unions and protesters inconvenience an entire country by making people walk everywhere (in the freezing cold and rain), but they turn off the escalators in all of the metro stations on the number one line. Tonight after work, I had to trudge up 45 steps with a heavy knapsack on my back (wine, food and books for the weekend). I was annoyed.