Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Have you hugged a government worker today?

Last week we had another “journée d’action” (day of action) here in France. Translation: the nation’s unions called on their members to get out in the streets and protest…something.

We have so many strikes here that after a while you don’t even ask why they’re on strike. You’re just so disgusted that they’re doing it again. This time it was apparently to make the president create some kind of stimulus package because folks are feeling the crunch of the financial crisis. Then maybe the whole world should go on strike? My company seems to have fewer lessons due to the crisis but it’s pointless for me to strike.

It seems France is divided into two types of people: those with cushy situations and job security (be it private or public) who go on strike at the drop of a hat if anyone dares to change a punctuation mark in their contract. And the rest of us, who probably secretly want a stable job with perks, but since we don’t have one, can smugly say we’d never go on strike.

The cashier at the supermarket last week fell into the latter category. She was telling anyone who would listen how crazy it was that the train strikes would affect other people’s ability to get to work. I have to agree with her on that one. Plus the school teachers that strike create a big mess for parents who need to take their kids to school and then themselves to work. And the cashier went on to complain about the folks who get so much government aid because they have four kids. All that to say even the French complain about their bloated system.

But to end on a positive note, my own city government came through for me last week. I’d called to ask about the sidewalk near our apartment which had no asphalt and thus after a decent rain always became a muddy mess or created huge puddles. And four days later I was pleased to see that red gravel had been put down, which is much nicer to roll the stroller over after a rainy day. So maybe I’ll have to take back a few of those things I said about civil servants.

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