Month: January 2011

Just walk it

It’s easy to move. With that slogan and these  road sign arrows, you are encouraged to walk to your destination. There are plenty of these signs all over town letting you know how far you are from this square or that train station. Now doesn’t that seem like a brilliantly simple way to convey the message to move more! But… will you in fact move more?

So it is only a 15 minute walk to get to St Michel from here. Great. You probably already knew that, but seeing it might help you realise it too. Say you do indeed want to go and get a drink at St Michel (very few people, after all, have any other business there). So a 15 minute walk. But, if you think about it, how else would you get there? By vélib? By métro? Perhaps you have a scooter or a car? And do the alternatives involve so much less movement?

Cycling is definitely moving; it’s just faster than walking. The métro involves enough walking to make anyone consider just walking there if it’s not too far. The car means getting the vehicle, crawling through traffic and then walking to that wine bar from the -usually underground- parking. Not a great option, unless you need to carry stuff (in this example that would most likely only be you, on the way back). And then there’s the scooter. Yes, super fast and you will not be using those calories to burn. But not everyone has a scooter, or the guts to drive one. The rest of us will be moving ourselves, sign or no sign.

So is the sign superfluous? For any actual trip I think it is, but ironically enough, by being so specific the signs are useless in the actual information they give. But the format (St Michel is 15 minutes that way) can work well as a lingering image in the back of your head. Maybe you will move more. When you are considering getting to the Lafayette sale tomorrow on your lunch break, maybe you will think – I can walk that. It’s only 10 minutes. The signs will have worked some magic. Allow me to add though, that in the interest of this campaign, I hope it does not rain tomorrow.


How long has it been?

Strolling around in Honfleur (Normandy) this weekend, I stumbled across the kind of sign you used to see everywhere along the coast – “film rolls, disposable camera’s and batteries”. Of course. Wait. Really? Film rolls? I was thrown into a flashback with those Canadian kids in the Libération of a few days ago trying to figure out what a floppy disk is good for. Of course they do not know, why should they?

But I remember film rolls! Yes son, you actually open up the camera and click that film cartridge in there, like a SIM chip in a mobile phone. You might even have to pull the film across. So I know, as will a lot of people. But you can not help but wonder, who still needs film? I’m sure you are thinking that some people do, but would not the type of person who takes black and white pictures of old fishermen have a collection of special made-for-Leica Fuji film in his Crumpler? Yes, I would think so.

Staring at the sign, I took a picture of it with my filmless camera – you know, to laugh at it when I get home. But I did feel a mounting urge to go in. On the one hand to see if he really does have the film. And on the other, to see if they have Boney M. on tape as well, or Jacques Chirac, président T-shirts, or a 70s D-day landing commemoration postcard, or something handmade in Europe (I know, I know). Of course, if he did have any of that stuff, it would  be increasingly challenging not blurt out something silly in his time capsule. Although: who is playing who here? The realisation struck. His sign is not a remnant. It’s in an impeccable state! Better just move along silently. Something fishy going on around here.