Love Locks in Paris (Again!): The Fake Tradition that Refuses to Die
- Published on Monday, 25 January 2016 00:00
- Written by David Jaggard
Some People Seem to Be
Locked into a Pattern
So you two lovers love Paris. Great. But, David and Kelli, I've got news for you: it's not mutual. (“Love lock” found on the Pont des Arts, January 24, 2016.)
Human cultural history is full of things that can never be killed. The phoenix, The Terminator, Peter Pan, the “Great Wall of China visible from space” story, the mildew behind my toilet... And here in Paris another (and, sadly, non-fictional) item can be added to this list: “love locks” on the Pont des Arts.
I have written three previous articles on this topic, and, for reasons clarified below, never thought I would be writing a fourth. For the benefit of readers who have managed to remain blissfully unaware of this pernicious, persistent phenomenon, here's a short rundown on its rise, fall and re-rise (with links to in-depth explanations of each phase by France's foremost love-lock historian):
I. About six years ago, it became a “thing” for couples visiting Paris to inscribe their names on a padlock and fasten it to the Pont des Arts, a picturesque footbridge in the center of town, as a symbol of their everlasting (as well as pick-proof, tamperproof and, I hope for their sake, shockproof) love.
II. By late 2014, the fad had become so popular that the railings were buried under tons of metal and the bridge was in serious danger of collapse:
III. In the spring of 2015, the city removed, to the dismay of Paris's lovestruck visitors, all the locks from the bridge and replaced, to the even deeper dismay of the city's padlock vendors, the wire mesh railings with clear glass panels to prevent the addition of any new ones:
IV. In early 2016, a handful of assiduous, pheromone-crazed vandals figured out, to the Mariana Trench-like dismay of every Parisian not in a coma, how to keep putting on more locks anyway.
V. In May 2016, a semi-well-known humorist and love-lock historian was arrested on the bridge for disturbing the peace after confronting an American tourist who had just attached another lock. His screams (“Would you tag Notre Dame?! Weld your old license plates to the Eiffel Tower? Why not?! It's so-o-o-o romantic!!!”) were heard echoing through the halls of the Louvre 350 meters away.
Obviously, Part V is a fantasy (so far), but Part IV is not. The new “lock-proof” railings have exposed hinges on the uprights between and behind the panels:
Apparently, sometime around New Year's, some observant, determined, never-say-die kind of lovebird figured out that it was possible, by leaning precariously over the railing, to fix a padlock to the hinge:
This, of course, sparked a new round of the fad, and when I walked over the bridge last week almost every post had a lock on it. Or eight:
Upon seeing this, I experienced, in rapid succession, the five phases of “good grief!” I went from denial (“This can't be true!”) to shock (“Who in their right mind makes such an effort to do something that's obviously unwanted?”) to anxiety (“If there's really that much stupidity in the world, Donald Trump could actually get elected!”) to depression (“It's sad to see the state of mankind. Let alone Republicankind.”)...
And, finally, to acceptance: being a fair-minded, positive kind of person who tries to see the good in everything (example: good for Sarah Palin — she makes Trump seem smart!), I decided to try to imagine a few decent, logical reasons why someone would defy all logic and decency by putting a lock on the Pont des Arts today.
This, of course, takes the form of a:
C'est Ironique Top Ten!
Ten Perfectly Valid, Sensible Reasons Why You Could be Justified in Attaching a “Love Lock” to the Pont des Arts in 2016
1) Someone offered you one billion euros if you would put a lock on the bridge.
2) You knew it was silly, but you were on your honeymoon in Paris, walking across the Pont des Arts under a glorious sunset after a perfect day, when your spouse, who had read about the lock ritual and thought it was cute, suggested it, and the moment just seemed so right that you decided to play along because you're such a sweet, accommodating person and, let's face it, a hopeless romantic, plus you happened to have a tiny padlock in your pocket that you bought at the airport for your carry-on, as well as a marker pen that you had used to fill out your luggage tag, which made it seem like this was somehow meant to be, as though the gods were smiling upon you at that particular magical moment, so you went ahead and put your names on the lock and the lock on the railing, but immediately felt bad and vowed to donate your next three months' salary to UNICEF, along with matching funds for Oxfam and Save the Children, in order to atone for the damage you did to such a beautiful city.
3) Someone offered you one billion euros and a night of really hot sex if you would put a lock on the bridge.
4) While on a solo business trip to Paris, you were walking across the Pont des Arts, by yourself, when a locksmith rushing by in the opposite direction happened to drop a new, open padlock right at your feet. You picked it up, intending to run after the guy and give it back, but accidentally bumped into another man coming up behind you, also in a rush, who happened to be an engraver carrying a stylus. The two of you stumbled around in a tangle of limbs for several seconds, during which the stylus scraped across the surface of the padlock several times and, by sheer coincidence, scratched it with your initials, a heart and the initials of your fiancé(e). Just as you were looking in disbelief at this miracle, a passing barge veered out of control and smashed into the bridge, shaking the walkway and causing you to lurch over the railing where, grabbing desperately at the uprights to avoid falling into the Seine, you accidentally snapped the padlock onto the hinge and simultaneously dropped the key into the water. Cursing your bad luck at not being able to remove the lock so you could show it to your loved one back home when you recounted this incredible story, you walked despondently back to your hotel and went to bed early, alone.
Oh, and when you finally did tell your betrothed what happened (s)he didn't believe it and, thinking that you had lost your mind, broke up with you.
5) Someone offered you one euro and a billion nights of really hot sex if you would put a lock on the bridge.
6) Stop the Top Ten! There aren't any other reasons! There aren't any reasons at all! It's a sappy, selfish, irresponsible thing to do.
I could sort of understand the impulse back when there were thousands of locks on the bridge and guidebooks claimed that it was a “tradition,” but anyone putting a padlock on the Pont des Arts now is like those spammers who try to sell “V1agr@” to people who have set up “no Viagra” e-mail filters specifically because they do not, never did and never will want any goddamn Viagra.
In fairness, I should mention that the City of Paris has yet to post any “no locks” signs on the bridge. Which is strange, because they already have this sign on the Right Bank side:
Note the love lock at the top.
It specifies no loud music, no alcohol and no “disrespecting” the space. Apparently, leaving a torn-up, weather-beaten, graffiti-smeared sign right in front of it for years on end is perfectly respectful.
All they need to do is add a little padlock-in-a-circle-with-a-slash icon. That way the message would get across and, I'd like to hope, no one (or hardly anyone) would put any more lame-brained locks on the long-suffering bridge.
Although, truth be told, I would probably do it myself if someone offered me half a billion euros and half a night of pretty good sex.
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.
© 2015 Paris Updat