Living in Paris: Online Help (and Hindrance) for Life's Big Decisions
- Category: C'est Ironique!
- Published on Wednesday, 08 October 2014 00:00
- Written by David Jaggard
Am I Really
Supposed to Be Here?
This is a view from my apartment. It took me a week to get a visa, a month to find a place to live, four months to get a resident card and, three decades later, a year to find an Internet quiz that says it's okay for me to move here.
One of the great things about the Internet is that it facilitates and encourages the dissemination of utter crap. I mean that sincerely: in the old days, before the Information Superhighway, whenever we humorists wanted to find something to ridicule, we had to rely on slow, inefficient, outmoded technologies like talking to people and having actual experiences. Now all we need to do is open Facebook.
Which is where I have been noticing an ever-growing trend for pseudo-psychological “tests” that purport to reveal unknown (and totally meaningless) aspects of the testee’s personality. I’m sure many of my readers have seen them — they have titles like:
“Which Star Wars Character Are You?”
“Which Tupperware Container Are You?”
“Which White Leather Couch Stain Are You?”
“Which Cialis Side Effect Are You?” etc., etc.
Several months ago, in a weak moment, I actually took one of these quizzes on Buzzfeed.com, entitled “What City Should You Actually Live In?” The accompanying image was a silhouette of the Eiffel Tower next to one of the Empire State Building, implying that Paris was on the list of possible answers, so I decided to see if I really “qualify” to live here.
Apparently I don’t — I got Portland, Oregon. Much as I admire a city with a low crime rate and a high microbrewery density, somehow I felt disappointed.
But of course I didn’t take it at all seriously, because the questions were as idiotic as the results. Example: “Pick a Beyoncé.” I didn’t even know, nor was I happy to learn, that there was more than one.
Undaunted, and not quite ready to turn in my French resident card, I tried again a few weeks later with “What European Country Do You Actually Belong In?” and then a few weeks after that with “Which European City Are You?” According to these two scientific evaluations, I belong in Malta and I “am” Rome. As they say, “Click a stupid question, get a stupid answer.”
Finally, last week, a Facebook friend shared a link to something called “16 Signs You Really Should Be Living In Paris.” Figuring that I had nothing to lose but my time, bandwidth and sense of hope for humanity, I gave it a shot.
To my surprise, most of the points on the list were fairly well-conceived. Here are Buzzfeed’s characteristics of a “natural Parisian,” paraphrased and annotated:
1) You can survive without sunlight.
I know people who would interpret this to mean “you can survive without your marijuana plants” and answer no, but I have no such devotion to botany, so this is not a problem for me. The article goes on to explain that Paris has an average of 162 rainy days per year and “only a couple of hours” of daily sunlight in the winter, implying that it’s a dark, damp, depressing place.
I disagree: 162 days is less than half the year and the “couple of hours” refers to sunlight, not daylight. One of the things I love most about Paris is the long days in June and July, when the sky doesn’t get dark until after 10pm.
The Web page links to a weather site called climatemps.com, on which I compared Paris’s statistics to those of other major cities, including London, New York and Shanghai. With five hours average sunlight per day, we get just as much as Shanghai and more than London, although less than New York.
And, I couldn’t help but notice, Paris has exactly the same annual average daylight as every single other city I looked at: 12 hours per day. So nyah-nyah-nyah! (I realize that this is the equivalent of saying “Paris is a city located on Planet Earth,” but I’ll take my nyahs where I can get them.)
2) But when the sun is out, so are you.
Yes I am. I’m not one of those near-nudist sunbathers who flout the public indecency laws on the eastern tip of Ile Saint Louis, but when the weather’s nice I can often be seen strolling around and taking in the sights. On the eastern tip of Ile Saint Louis.
3) You know how to drink without getting drunk.
All I have to say here is: too much knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Technically, yes, I know how to do that. In fact, I practice this skill every day. I don’t often succeed, but I practice.
4) You don’t drink takeout coffee.
I don’t drink coffee at all (I’m already high-strung enough as it is), so before I address the actual point here, which is to diss Starbucks in favor of the traditional café français, I’m going to give myself a hasty “yes.”
5) You like walking. It’s how you keep fit.
Walking in Paris is one of my favorite pastimes, and indeed my main form of exercise. That and carrying groceries, mineral water and the weight of my neurotic demons up the four flights of stairs in my elevatorless building.
6) But you can also handle a bike in traffic.
I have to disqualify myself here. I have not yet forgotten how to ride a bicycle, but, due to a lifelong aversion to emergency rooms, I would never dare do it in Paris traffic.
Judging from the Amélie clip illustrating this point on the site, such faintheartedness lessens my chances of ever getting my neck nuzzled by Audrey Tautou, but I’ll just have to live with it.
7) You prefer sidewalk dining even in winter.
The implication is that Parisians like to both sun and stuff their faces simultaneously whenever possible. I like outdoor dining, but not when it’s cold enough to turn my escargots into snailsicles, so I also have to say no to this one.
8) You’re totally fine with public displays of affection.
Yeah, sure. Well, maybe not entirely-absolutely-totally, but enough to say yes.
Seeing strangers engaged in a mutual saliva transfusion generally does not bother me. I say “generally” because once in a while I find myself on a crowded Métro train next to a couple with, shall we say, a heavily imbalanced lust-to-room ratio.
It can be off-putting. As my wife Nancy once said after such an encounter, “I was afraid that if I yawned it would start an orgy.”
9) You tend to lump together list points numbered 9, 10, 11 and 12.
Oh yes — I love doing that! And in this case I come in on the Parisian side of all four points, because I’m an avid reader (number 11, check) and food shopper (number 12, chèque) who’s not afraid of carbohydrates (number 9, pass the baguettes) and has a cynical streak (number 10, my record speaks for itself).
13) You’re comfortable around people and good at making friends.
I am — especially when I have been trying and failing at number 3.
14) But you’re also good at being alone.
I am — especially when I have been trying and failing at both number 3 and number 13.
15) You’re not “too” American.
This quality is difficult to define. Buzzfeed helpfully suggests that it means not embodying any “bad American stereotypes” and showing “interest and passion for other cultures.”
There are people from other cultures who seem to think that simply being born on American soil makes me the ultimate embodiment of every conceivable bad American stereotype. I find this passionately interesting, so I’m going to give myself a “yes” on this one.
16) And, lastly, you could give a **** about this...
Since Paris Update is a family-safe publication (especially since March of this year), I am not going to quote number 16 exactly, but the object of obscenity-laced indifference here is the city’s above-mentioned iconic monument — the one that King Kong would have climbed if he had been in love with Josephine Baker instead of Fay Wray.
Judging from what I’ve seen on TV, the primary function of the Empire State Building is to give New Yorkers a place to meet on top of at noon on New Year’s Day if they’re both still single at age 40.
The Eiffel Tower is worthless for this. Not only are the lines too long, but the top observation platform is so small that the only way to pack in all of Paris’s 40-year-old pact-makers would be to force them to have group sex. Which, come to think of it, would solve their singleness problem. At least for a little while.
In any case, I haven’t been single or 40 for some time now. Therefore, I no longer have any particular use for the structure and qualify on this point as well.
So there we have it. My score: 14 out of 16. At last, an Internet test that corroborates one of my major life choices!
Now I can move on to the quizzes conceived for us natural Parisians on Beusephide.com:
“Which République Métro Exit Are You?”
“Which Aggressive Panhandling Tactic Are You?”
“Which Unenforced Traffic Law Are You?”
“Which Filth-flecked Public Restroom Fixture Are You?”...
Note to readers: David Jaggard’s e-book Quorum of One: Satire 1998-2011 is now available on Amazon as well as iTunes, iBookstore, Nook, Reader Store, Kobo, Copia and many other distributors.
Click here to read all of this week’s new articles on the Paris Update home page.
Click here for more C’est Ironique! columns.
© 2014 Paris Update