New Year’s Special: A Futuristic Retrospective of Parisian Life
- Published on Tuesday, 03 January 2012 18:59
- Written by David Jaggard
Slipping the Grip of the
Hands of Time
Midnight fireworks brought the new year in with a bang. And opened a wormhole to the future…
The end of an old year, the start of a new one… It’s a time for looking back. And a time for looking forward. So, purely in the interest of efficiency, I have decided to do both at once, by examining the major developments affecting life in Paris 50 years from now.
2061: The Year In Review
Construction of the new Eiffel Helitower was completed. Standing adjacent to the original Eiffel Tower, it offers more than a thousand landing pads for nanorotor personal helicopters. Hailed by owners of the increasingly popular autopiloted aircraft, the structure has sparked controversy due to its design: it is the same size and shape as the iconic older tower, only upside down.
A journalist for France’s one remaining newspaper, La Figoration, summed up popular sentiment in an editorial: “The Helitower doesn’t fit in with the Plexiglas and carbon-fiber residential modules lining the Champs de Mars. Why can’t our architects stick to traditional building forms like the Pompidou Center and the Louvre Pyramid?”
Eiffel One, as it is now called, was permanently closed to the public. Every square centimeter of the structure is now used as a mount for transmitters serving the wireless Internet, telephone, televideo and teleholography networks. The last remaining 15 square meters of public space on the lower-level observation platform, which had remained open to small groups of VIP visitors until January, has now been allocated for the first telefreight object beamer, which is scheduled to begin operation in 2062.
The descendants of Dominique Strauss-Kahn reached an agreement on how to differentiate themselves when running for public office. Thirteen of the turn-of-the-century French politician’s estimated 24 sons and daughters are currently pursuing careers in politics. All have different mothers who gave them, apparently out of spite, the first name Dominique, and all adopted the last name Strauss-Kahn after being recognized by their biological father as part of the settlement of a class action suit in 2019.
A mass meeting attended by the entire extended clan of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s progeny, held at the Porte de Versailles Exhibition Center, resulted in the following decision: the second-generation DSKs agreed to adopt the names Dominique Strauss-Kahn IIa, Dominique Strauss-Kahn IIb, IIc, IId, etc., in descending order of age.
The solution posed a problem for DSKs IIf through IIj, who were all born in different hospitals on the same day, November 24, 2016, and had to spend hours digging through decades-old medical records to establish their exact time of birth. As DSK IIg commented, “Pa must’ve run up a hell of a room-service bill on February 24th that year.”
The European Union expanded its membership to 52 nations this month when Kosovo, Kurdistan and Kyrgyzstan joined the free-trade zone. All three countries refused repeated entreaties to adopt the euro. The European single currency continued to trade at low rates against the YRR (yuan-ruble-rupee) Index throughout 2061, leaving little hope for an end to the Great Occidental Depression triggered by the admission of the United States to the Eurozone in 2055.
The last French smoker died on May 8 at the age of 124, exceeding the longevity record set by Jeanne Calment (1875-1997) by nearly two years. Jean V. Toussant, who started regular tobacco consumption when he was 17 years old back in 1954, continued to consume two packs of cigarettes per day right up to the end, importing cartons of Marlboros from North Korea at a cost of nearly €150 per pack.
Toussant attributed his long life to his remarkable resistance to common diseases like colds and flu, developed by standing outdoors for hours every day in all kinds of weather. His final words were, “I also got plenty of fresh air that way, especially after the fossil fuels ban in 2025.”
In an effort to keep up with rapidly increasing passenger numbers, and even more rapidly increasing pickpocket numbers, the RATP Métro authority opened a new Circle Line around central Paris. The former number two and six Métro routes have been united in an oblong ring, with stations extended to form a continuous platform for the entire periphery of the line. Two single unbroken trains of 895 cars each now move clockwise and counterclockwise around the track 24 hours a day, stopping every 90 seconds.
To protest the fact that the new line, like all the other Métro lines since 2018, is entirely automated and driverless, the 10,387 members of the Métro drivers union – all of whom were hired after the completion of the automation program that began in 2011 and have never actually driven a train, but are nonetheless guaranteed a full pension when they retire at age 45 – went on strike. Again. But no one noticed.
The Paris Pickpockets Union, or UPP, one of the largest, wealthiest and most powerful political groups in the country, scored a major victory with the passage of a new law that grants them tax deductions for work-related expenses like fingernail clippers and hand cream and entitles them to half-price tickets on all Parisian public transport.
A spokesperson for the union welcomed the new measure, explaining, “After all, we represent more than half of all the users of the Paris bus, RER and Métro systems. We don’t just take public transport to get to our place of work – public transport is our place of work, so it’s only logical that we should get a break on the cost. Who knows? Some of us might even start buying tickets!”
Once again this year, as in 2060, 2059, 2058 and every year dating back to the end of the Gallic Wars in 51 B.C.E., nothing happened in Paris in August.
Modeled on the historic Vélib’, Autolib’ and Helilib’ bike, car and personal helicopter sharing programs, the city of Paris introduced Robolib’, a robot-share system for the benefit of residents who can’t afford the expense of owning and maintaining a domestic robot.
Available for a nominal monthly subscription, the life-like human-sized androids can be rented for periods of up to six hours to perform housework, babysitting, food preparation, and all of the usual functions offered by commercially available domestic robots, except the one that the manufacturers euphemistically refer to as “intimate services.”
The automata nevertheless offer a choice of gender, as well as hair color, clothing style and vocal timbre. One of the most convenient features of the new service is that subscribers never have to leave their apartments – ordered online, the robots are able to find any address in the city and return to the nearest recharging station by themselves when their work is done. For missions more than 500 meters from a Robolib’ station, the robots can ride a Vélib’ bicycle to the destination and are programmed to run red lights and yell abuse at other vehicles and pedestrians on the way.
As the summer heat-wave season began drawing to a close in mid-month, meteorologists warned that next year could be even hotter. Seventeen Parisians, 12 of them pickpockets, were killed this year by falling window panes, which shattered due to thermal stress caused by the temperature difference between air-conditioned interiors and outdoor air as hot as 115°F.
The last curb parking space in Paris was declared a national historical monument. It is located in front of the building at 117, rue de Vaugirard, the only street in the city still open to private automobiles. A constant stream of vehicles cruises by around the clock, waiting for the space to open up, and a team of 14 traffic wardens is on hand at all times, ready to write a ticket whenever a car exceeds the 15-minute limit (at €10 per minute) on the meter.
French president Dominique Strauss-Kahn IIe officiated at the inauguration of the new PTFB, the much-awaited Paris Telefreight Beamer platform. However, the trial run did not go according to plan. Instead of disassembling the molecules of a functioning Cartier watch and reassembling them at the reception point 50 kilometers away still showing the correct time, as intended, the beamer transmitted the president’s lip, cheek and tongue studs instead, causing serious, although not life-threatening, injury to his mouth. The president, rendered at least for the moment incapable of speech, is undergoing treatment at Sarkozy Memorial Hospital. When asked what went wrong, the engineer in charge of the demonstration, Nafissatou Sinclair III, said, “I don't know – I was aiming at his zipper.”
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Reader Margo Berdeshevsky writes: "Priceless, timeless, and if I ever stop laughing, I can assert: back to the future has never hurt so bad with its verity. If ever in doubt, now we know what to cry about!"
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© 2012 Paris Update