Surviving Paris: The Metro (…And How It Nearly Killed Me)

Like I said in my first post about Surviving Paris: The Arc de Triomphe, Paris is a city that somehow makes me lose all good sense (and any good luck) that I have.

This is me in Paris:


[Please note the beautiful, oversize red purse in both pictures.]

[Please note how happy I look before Sarah’s Parisian Disaster #2.]

The red purse, now affectionately named the purse that almost did me in had been a recent purchase of mine at the weekly market in the charming city of Tours, where I was studying at the time. It was very large, and I thought it very practical for travelling. It stored food, guidebooks, sweaters, water bottles – you name it, the red purse could hold it. Naturally, I brought it on my 3-day trip to Paris.

So, my friend and I, counting our lucky stars after managing not to die during our traffic dodging session at the Arc de Triomphe, had decided that the Metro (subway) was probably a safer mode of transportation for the rest of our sojourn in the city of lights.

Minds made up, we bought weekend Metro passes, and continued to buzz around the city making use of our unlimited rides. I can’t recall exactly where we were or where we were going (the traumatic events that followed surely blurred my memory of the day) but I do remember that we were rushing to catch the next departing Metro to somewhere.

Being the prepared traveller that I am, my nose was in the Rick Steves’ France guidebook, double checking the name of the stop we needed to get off at. Now, please let me advise you that running anywhere while trying to read a book is not a good idea. Running down stairs into a crowded metro station while trying to read a book is even less of a good idea. Running down stairs, nez-in-livreas I was, into a crowded metro station then leaping like a gazelle into the train, is just about at the bottom of the good idea list. Vous comprenez? 

Being a bit more athletic than yours truly, my amie had made it into the packed Metro car without incident. My gazelle-like leap certainly landed my feet into the car, but not much else. Now, let it be known that in 2008 when this happened, the doors on Parisian Metro cars closed very, very forcefully. I would actually watch them as they noisily banged closed, bounced off each other and settled more gently into a closed position just as the car was set into motion. Someone could really get hurt in those doors! I remember thinking to myself. Little did I know, that someone was going to be me…

So, I landed with both feet in the car, but somehow half of my body got stuck in the angry doors. I tried to extract myself from between the doors, but to no avail. Why? Why wouldn’t my skinny little chicken arm slide through the doors and join me safely in the car? Beacause the incredibly large mass that was the purse that almost did me in was hanging off my shoulder and had also got caught in the door, thus preventing me from going anywhere.

It was at this point that my friend started to panic. She grabbed me and started pulling, frantic, mouth agape, eyes wide, stammering, stuttering and shouting some mess of Frenglish gobbledeygook, trying to help me.

All I, on the other hand, could muster, was a stunned (but loud) “This is me, stuck in a door!” (An excellent quote, I must say, had they been my last words).

Just then, the car started to slowly pull away from the platform and I realized that we were slowly but surely headed for a tunnel. The car I was in would soon come within inches of the tunnel wall, at which point one of my limbs and my beautiful red purse (both of which were very dear to me) would probably be ripped clean off of my body. Quelle horreur!!!

I frantically flailed around, struggling to get free, imagining a new, limbless version of myself that somewhat resembled the black knight from Monty Python (“Tis but a scratch! It’s only a flesh wound!”). Finally, seeing my distress and maybe even understanding my friend’s cries for help, a man stepped forward and with his brute strength, managed to pry the doors open wide enough for me to pull my arm and my purse to safety.

Horrified, shocked, stunned, scared as I was, I believe I was able to stammer a merci to the Incredible Hulk man, and spent the rest of the ride convusling with hysterical laughter and getting some extremely strange looks from the Parisians.

So what did I do with the purse that almost did me in? I kept it, of course, as a souvenir of another near-death experience in Paris.

 Paris: 2, Sarah: 0

11 thoughts on “Surviving Paris: The Metro (…And How It Nearly Killed Me)

    • Grazie, Renee! Thanks for reading and commenting, and I hope that you’ll continue to visit Not Just Another “Dolce Vita”. I’m looking foward to reading more of your writing and about your travel adventures as well!

      • Thanks – my first (of only two) pieces so far, involves travel… to lots of places in pursuit of gelato!!! I’d love it if you glanced at it and added a great Italy anecdote about the desserts in Italy!!!! I’ll be sure to catch more of your great posts along the way too!

      • Renee, the pursuit of gelato is certainly a noble one! As a person who can’t go a day without chocolate or sweets, I will try to think up some sort of scrumptious anecdote for you! 🙂

  1. Oh my! This just happened to me! My sister got on and I hesitated between two doors, started into the door she went through and almost made it…almost. Pinned, purse and arm out, door pushing on one ear, I wasn’t sure what to do. My sister tried to come to my recue, and then a lovely big man pulled the door apart and in I staggered. No seats were open, so I stood hanging on for dear life while my sister and I convulsed with laughter. I tried not to catch anyone’s eyes and hoped all who witnessed my near-death ride on the metro would debarked before us.

  2. Oh my goodness! I had this happen to me this morning! I am on a solo trip to paris, and low and behold, as i am stepping onto the metro a lady cuts me off mid stride which causes my left foot and part of my upper left arm( elbow really) to get closed in the door. I was completely terrified! Thank god for the sweet young man for forcefully pulling the doors open so i could get the rest of me in! The full realization of what happened and could have happened without his help is just hitting me! Which caused my search of this kind of thing happening and i came upon your blog! They need to have a failsafe for those seriously angry doors! Thank goodness everyone on here is safe with all limbs and big red purses intact! Thanks for posting this and listening to my story! Happy travels! ~ stephanie

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