There are people with newspapers scattered around the city, usually at metro stops, usually outside if the weather permits and sometimes even when it does not, and this is most of the bloody time. On these non-permissive weather days, they are dressed in green and orange space suits provided by their patron paper – usually Métro or 24Heures - and endure the wind chill and the snow and hail in order to: hand out their newspapers. Some of them are temping, only passing through. For others, it is a permanent work station. For the camelots of L'Itinéraire, it is nothing short of salvation. But for all, it means integration, for to be standing in the traffic pouring in and out of the metro station, passing out information, is to be a drop in the city’s mighty human ocean.
I take my paper from a senior with one front tooth and a face as wrinkled as a prune. He stands before the entrance of my station and is the man of 24Heures, the more frivolous of the two main papers. A few steps behind him, just inside the station, stands his rival, the man of Métro, a gentle youth with sad eyes and a feathery moustache. Both men raise and wave the paper, the senior with exasperation, the youth with quiet resignation.
It is not easy to distribute the paper. The stacks of it are thick and tall and most people don’t seem to want it. The paper is unwieldy and the metro trains are crowded. There is too much information. People stare at the ground and walk by hurriedly, thinking perhaps that they must save the trees. And like trees they do stand, the old man and the young man, constant in the chilly human weather, waving their arms in a gesture of offering.
Until recently, I had a policy: I would only take one paper because I didn’t read it, and I chose the old man because he was the more wrinkled of the two. But my logic was wrong: if I did not read the paper, I could take as many as I pleased, as many as there were trees bearing this fruit in and around the city’s metro stations. I could accept all offerings and offer them, in turn, to the stations' recycling bins.
If you do take the paper, you will notice that it is like a handshake, a nod in each other’s direction. It is a labour lightened and a little purpose given - also to oneself. It is news, too, of some sort, albeit often of the strange variety.
Take the paper. Take two. Take three. Take the paper, toss it, and then take some more at some other station. Reduce the stacks, shake the hands, and let the day's work be done. Take the paper.