This April in Paris, it's dangerous to keep gazing up at those chestnuts in blossom as you move through the streets.Better keep you eyes on the ground.
If you wanted to get over to Hermes today to drop $400 for a handbag and then stroll a few more blocks to invest half that amount in lunch at Maxim's, you would have been zigzagging all the way through growing mounds of refuse and garbage.
You would also have had to detour around a demonstration near the Champs-Elysees. Factory workers invaded the boulevard of elegance to demand radical reforms such as a 40-hour work-week and $2 an hour minimum wage.
This April, songwriters to the contrary notwithstanding, Paris is awash in garbage and discontent as well as those green chestnut leaves and the French capital's usual glorious spring beauty.
Tuesday was the fifth day the Senegalese, Malians, North Africans and other immigrant workers who are France's garbagemen did not show up for work. They are striking for a new salary schedule that would probably add 3 per cent to their $90 a week salary.
Paris streets are rapidly becoming small hills and valleys of neatly bundled garbage bags, about one-fourth the size of standard American garbage bags. (Veterans of the Great Garbage Strike of 1969 in New York, like your correspondent, inevitably remark on the modest European scale of refuse-bundling here when compared with those great black body bags of the Vietnam era that overflowed Manhattan's streets for several weeks.)
But with each passing day, those neat little Parisian bundles of Camembert scraps and empty vin rouge bottles give off a more assertive bouquet, with plenty of "nose" and a very identifiable vintage. Chateau-Garbage, 1977, is not very amusing.
Soldiers began picking up some of the 12,000 tons of garbage Tuesday afternoon, and the government will send in 500 trucks Wednesday manned by the military if the strike continues.