PARIS - In "Full Time," a French movie released this year in the United States, the main character is tormented by paralysis - not her own, but Paris's. The grand French capital and its much less grand suburbs are gripped by strikes that play havoc with public transit and turn roadways into oceans of idling cars. Julie, the young working mother at the center of the action, sprints through streets, thumbs rides on highways and squeezes into packed buses, but still she is delayed, deflated and defeated. Immobility bears down on her like France's famous high-speed train, the TGV. (Not that it's moving, either.)
If only she'd hopped on a rental scooter! Paris has had thousands of them for the past five years, and, man, do they move. Even with a top speed of 12 mph, they zip along streets and sidewalks, startling pedestrians and, all too often, colliding with them. As I was crossing the street near the Place de la Bastille the other day, one streaked out of nowhere and passed in a blur maybe six inches from me. I felt like tumbleweed set spinning in a Road Runner cartoon.