Thursday, December 17, 2009

Snow day

Today, to my great surprise, a genuine snow storm hit Paris. I heard about it on the radio before I bothered looking out the window, and then hastily changed clothes to jeans and sneakers, the better to brave the elements and the slippery sidewalks.

I waited almost a half an hour on the frigid train platform, waiting for the train from Saint Lazare whose ETA kept jumping back by five or ten minutes while I wasn't watching the information screen. Paris today was caught in a mass-transit perfect storm: the RER A commuter train had been on strike for a week, with only one train out of two during rush hour and none the rest of the day. Métro drivers had just gone on strike as well, in solidarity with their RER colleagues, I assumed, or perhaps to finish up last-minute Christmas shopping (online or on foot, one assumes). Every other mode of transport was halted or thrown severely off-schedule by the snow. The roads were even worse for car commuters: my boss sent an e-mail at around 1 o'clock to let us know that after advancing approximately 10 kilometers in three hours, he gave up and returned home, where he would be taking the day off.

I'd made plans to go for a run at lunch, but as I picked my way down the slushy steps from the Saint-Germain-en-Laye RER station I decided I was nuts. Sure, I used to run through snow and sub-zero temperatures in Boston, but I was older and wiser now, right? But once inside my warm, nearly deserted office, I said hello to my colleague and running partner, one of the few people who'd managed to make the trek this morning.

"So, at lunch, what are you doing?" he asked.

"Uhm, I dunno... I mean, it isn't too reasonable to run, is it?"

"I don't know," he said with a dare in his voice. I remembered that he's Breton, and born to laugh at the elements.

"Well, when I used to live in Boston I ran in snow all the time..." I decided. "If you're crazy enough, then I'm crazy enough."

"Let's go, then!"

Two hours later, our footprints were among the very first through the freshly fallen snow in the Forêt de Saint Germain. A hawk swooped through the trees above us, and a small flock of bullfinches settled like leaves on the ground. It was real snow, several inches deep even on the path, not the slushy gray soup of Paris' streets that shrug off winter as if it were an insult. The snow brought with it the still, velvet silence that I used to love in snow-covered Massachusetts forests.

The snow stopped falling in the afternoon, and the streets were left wet and bare. I left work at five o'clock, climbed aboard a sluggish RER that was resentfully crawling its way back underground. The Métro line 2 was late and packed with people, and I held onto my backpack tight and tried to make myself as small as possible under my big winter hat. As I crossed the square between our apartment and the Métro station, I smiled at a mother and daughter scraping up icy snowballs from the corners of flowerbeds and hurling them at each other, doubled over with laughter.


paola said...

Ah, a fellow runner!! I have been recovering from the flu and so it's been a good week since I last ran. But the temperatures have plummeted since then too and I was wondering if it was at all sane to run in near freezing temperatures, especially since the dirt tracks out in the fields where i run are probably iced over now.

You have inspired me.

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

@Paola - cool! Man, I wish you were local, because I'm looking for female running partner. I like my colleagues who run with me, but they're guys, and so I can't really discuss things (especially kids!) the same way, you know? I bring up shoe shopping and I've lost them... :)

Ice scares me ever since my fall back in June (on a perfectly dry summer road, go figure), but in the forest the icy patches usually crunch instead of slip, so I'm less worried about them. The temperature in and of itself doesn't bother me, although I do need a hat and gloves.

vitamine d said...

I like snow days.Its like magic.It is like someone waved a wand and turned that dreary rain to fluffy bits of fun. The sight of snow brings a momentary feeling of wonder and then…Oh, no! Snow.Wet boots and wet gloves.Cars to sweep off and sidewalks to shovel.School delays or even closings. While all of those things are pretty much inevitable,you can manage them a better if you are already prepared for snowy days at home.Keep sharing.

paola said...

Well, I was going to go for a run today, but guess what?, it snowed here last night and we had around -5 out this morning, so, it's rock solid. Maybe I need to hang up my running gear as it isn't going to warm up fast.

Oh, yeah, it would be great to be running partners!! I run alone except for the occasional run with hubby, but someone has to stay home with the kids.

caramama said...

I can't believe you ran in the snow! Good for you!

"the still, velvet silence" that is the perfect description. :-)

We got about 2 feet of snow in DC. It's insane.

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