t's May 1st, the French Labor Day, which is celebrated here in diverse fashions. Some--generally the wealthy-- take a four-day weekend. Others--generally union activists-- hold noisy protest demonstrations to show their displeasure with Sarkozy. The Far Right pays hommage to party idol Joan of Arc. And everybody offers the dainty muguet, or lily of the valley, which can be purchased on any street corner from those people whom the French government euphemistically refer to as "itinerant travelers," the bane of the Right. It's an odd paradox (or maybe it's entirely normal) that the only people working on this historically significant holiday are those who hold the lowest ranking in the hierarchy of immigrants.
The French come out with some kooky rules from time to time, and as we sit here five days from the conclusive round of the Presidential elections, this moment is no exception. An edict has just come down from the RATP, the managing body for the capital's public transport system, instructing ticket-checkers to not check tickets during these "tension-filled days leading up to the election." During the last election in 2007 some métro riders were caught hopping the turnstile and things turned nasty and riotous. While the RATP insists this order, which is in place from now until May 6th, has "nothing to do with politics", it seems a bit suspicious. But what do I care? FREE RIDES ON THE METRO FOR EVERYBODY! (Even the itinerant travelers!) This is almost as good as the parking ticket amnesty that typically follows each presidential election, another kooky decree but one for which I wait eagerly every five years.