I'm a 'down below' kind of commuter. In fact, I spend an hour of my day sat in a metal tube on wheels, hurtling through tunnels far below Paris. This is kind of new to me, and a bit odd.
I'm not sure how I feel about commuting underground. I don't take the Metro, I take the RER (fewer stops, faster) and it is an unusual way to travel.
Firstly, no matter what the weather outside, it is always boiling hot in the RER. Hotter even than the Metro. People either take their coats off and hold them all bundled up in their arms or they keep them on and sweat. Which leads me to my second point...
The RER stinks. I'm not sure if it's because the tunnels are close to the sewers, because of the food stalls down there, because of the train fumes or just because of the people sweating their rocks off. I'm guessing that it's all that, plus the added benefit of poor ventilation. It's a unique smell. Like fetid cheese left in a bag in the sun. Narsty, is what it is.
But then there are things that I love about this commute. I love going underground, surrounded by traditional Parisian Haussman-style buildings and coming back up again in the middle of the modernity that is the outer reaches of La Defense. I also love that this only takes me twenty-thirty minutes.
I like the people with high-vis jackets and gloves that make sure everyone is on and the doors are shut - giving a necessary shove where a door (or a passenger) needs it. It's an amazing use of manpower to have them lining the platforms of every station - but hey,maybe they're serving some kind of weird community service order? Anyway, they seem to do it with good spirit, even if they do all have the facial expression of hardened French 'service' industry professionals.
I also like the fact that you get a free newspaper in the morning and a different one in the evening. Keeps me up to date, informed and tells me where the next strike in the system is going to be - ah yes, the season of strikes is almost upon us....
And I really love the fact that while everyone else is staring at their shoes, bored to bits, I'm happily singing along (in my head, obviously) to American Boy on my iPod.
Oh yes, I'm still stuck with that song.