Time to talk trash. Enough of the finer things in life that have recently occupied our attention. When it comes down to it there are a number of things that make a city livable and Paris has got’em all. What I’m thinking of today is the sound I wake up to each morning, a “scritch-scratch” sound from down on the street. It takes a moment to orient myself, although I have already begun to dream in French. That scratching noise is what makes it so enjoyable to step out onto the sidewalk each day. It’s our green team of cleaners. They come EVERY DAY. They have extremely cute little green vehicles and matching emerald-green overalls. They sweep, pick up cigarette butts, torn bits of paper and, yes, dog poo (so that old saw about poo everywhere in Paris is simply not true). Another team is picking up the garbage or the recycling EVERY DAY. Once it is picked up, folks whisk their garbage cans back inside, tout de suite. This town sparkles, and do I like it.
This enormous public work must cost a lot, but imagine what you could do if you didn’t have to spend millions on snow clearance. I gather that the green guys (and gals – in our old neighbourhood we had one who came to work with full makeup and stylish coiffure) are well paid because they seem so happy. They are always chatting and joking as they work. In some neighbourhoods they have a device that brings water up from the sewers to wash the gutter and send detritus back down again. What happens then?…. Don’t know. Hope it gets cleaned before it goes back in the Seine.
Interestingly, the French have just created a device called the ophone. This story has been big recently, so I won’t go into detail. If you know French people, you know how driven by the olfactory sense they are. My young friend Hadrien is a great example. When you give him a gift, maybe a pair of socks or a book, he thanks you warmly and then smells it. It’s just part of his process. So the French have created an ophone, which you can program to release scent to your correspondent. The group working on this decided, just for the fun of it, to create the scent of 18th c. Paris. What would THAT be? Apparently, “skunked wine, and gingivitis -tinged sputum,” amongst other things we should not mention.Today, the Paris street smell would have to be mostly soap.
I will not be visiting the sewers of Paris – there is such a tour, over in the 7th arrondissement- but I am grateful to the role they play in this pleasant life of Paris. And I hope that no one ever texts me the scent of the 18th century.