The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Seven Minutes at the 34 Bus Stop

"Seven Minutes at the Bus Stop" sounds like a junior high party game, but in this case, I was simply on my way to the office on a Saturday afternoon--doesn't happen often, fortunately--and not being in an especially big hurry to get there, opted for the 34 bus over the Metro. When I got to the stop (on a side street just off the main drag through Villeurbanne) and checked the Saturday timetable, I saw I had about 7 minutes to wait. Fortunately I had my notebook with me, so I decided to simply jot down observations for those 7 minutes. Let's go to the, um, action:

A quick survey of the surroundings: Bryan's Cafe on the corner, decorated with flags of the 32 World Cup nations. Across the street, a prewar apartment building with a sculpture of a bicycle on the balcony. Next to that, "Centre de Sophrologie" [relaxation therapy; I'm not sure exactly what that entails], then a dry cleaners, a Residence Retraite [retirement home], and a sales office for a new apartment building going up nearby. Down the street on Boulevard Emile Zola, I can see La Coupole cafe/restaurant, and next to it Cordonnerie Top'Smell [photo]. "Top'Smell"? I've gotten to the point where I can usually understand French puns or sayings, but I really have no idea what they were even going for there. [A cordonnerie is a small shop that cuts keys, re-soles shoes, makes rubber stamps and other odd services like that. They have a distinctly old-school vibe and seem to all be run by friendly old guys with filthy shop aprons.]

Behind me is a restaurant whose name I cannot read from here, but letters painted on the window proudly proclaim that it has a Salle Climatisee [air-conditioned dining room]. This is a narrow one-way street with cars parallel-parked on both sides, some real beaters of 80s and 90s vintage. An elderly woman waits in the glass-walled lobby of the retirement home, looking up the street for her ride.

A skinny guy, 40s-50s, walks up and asks me if I have a scrap of paper he can have to leave a note at the Grossiste Materiel Coiffure [wholesale beauty supply] shop, which is closed for lunch. I don't want to tear up my notebook so I give him the back page of the IRS Form 1040 Instructions I happen to have with me [Fun fact: If you live overseas you get an automatic extension on your tax return].

A guy on a bike rattles by-- his front mudguard is loose. Several people pass carrying baguettes from the boulangerie around the corner. It is impossible to carry a baguette discreetly.

A young couple walks up to the bus stop. The dude is wearing a T-shirt that says on it in large letters in English: "Mustache Never Dies". This would have made some sense if there was a picture of Chuck Norris or something on it, but there is not. Just the text.

They check the schedule. "1:15?"
"No, it's Saturday, look here. 1:21," she says.
Dude leans against the bus shelter to use it as a windbreak, and lights a cigarette, takes a drag. He looks up. "Ah, merde alors!" The 34 bus has just turned the corner.


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