Sunday, 4 October 2009

Metro Sexual

In Paris, an individual spends around 85 minutes travelling each day, with the majority of this time on passed on public transport. As around 25% of Parisians are single, these daily commutes would seem to offer an ideal opportunity for lonely hearts to meet. Fortunately, two young men are on hand to ensure that cupid travels with them.

Whenever we talk about the project, people always want to know two things; why we do it and whether it works” Timothée Peignier, co-founder of a website called tells me. The site gives individuals who caught a glimpse of a potential future love of their life on public transport the chance to find that person again. The result is a list of touching, but often sad messages from people now desperate to initiate communication but with little hope of succeeding. So does it work?

Honestly, we don’t know” replies Tristan Daeschner, the other co-founder. “In any case we consider this aspect to be part of people’s private lives. Our objective was just to give them the means and the opportunity to meet” he adds.

Je vous ai croisé dans le métro dimanche en fin de matinée. On s’est regardé dans le wagon, en descendant vous m’avez marché sur les pieds et vous m’avez souhaité “bonne chance”. On s’est regardé quand vous êtes descendu, mais moi je suis restée. Je le regrette aujourd’hui..

After placing a message on the website, the individual later receives any replies directly at their given e-mail address. Timothée and Tristan will know the number of replies an individual has received, but the contents of these messages remains a secret.

The service has now been running for a little over 6 months and has spread to other cities around France and Belgium. London and New York should follow soon – once the creators have found a suitable translation for the website name!* However, each time they launch a new city, there are a whole series of cultural and sociological questions to answer. Who takes public transport in these cities and how do people react to each other? As an example, Lyon has taken well to the service, but the inhabitants of Marseille still seem reluctant. “For New York, maybe we'll have to launch” wonders Timothée.

15h30/16h00. Nos regards se sont croisés. Tu as intercepté mon regard et tu m’as fixé droit dans les yeux. J’ai cru que mon coeur allait explosé…..J’aurais du te parler. J’espère te recroiser dans le métro et cette fois je viendrai te voir..

The question that springs to mind is why Parisians, notorious romantics and ‘dragueurs’ should need such a service. A false notion believe the two young men. “People in Paris are as timid as anyone else on public transport” says Tristan. Perhaps it is the fear of being rejected in front of a packed carriage of fellow commuters, or perhaps there is just a simple respect of distance in this crowded environment. Whatever the reason is, it is a service that seems to have found its place in this city.

Why did the two men start the service though? “Obviously we were inspired by other services such as the letters in the free Metro newspaper and the Missed Connections section of Craigslist. We felt though that there was no dedicated web service available for this subject, and as we both work in the internet industry, we thought that we’d launch something in our spare time”. Curiously, they have no plan to earn any money from their service beyond covering the expenses of the site. In fact, one could almost conclude that the two are romantics and are happy to act simply as a free dating agency. They are so inspired by the project that they constantly thinking of ways to improve the concept. A 'live' iPhone service has been postponed because the technology is not yet in place underground, but other spin-offs may soon appear. "We would like to print some of the messages on paper and hand them out on the Metro" says Tristan. "We also thought about getting an actor to read out some of the messages too" he adds.

Beyond the worthy intentions of the site creators, it is the messages themselves that have become the star of the show. They are a poetic account of life in today's big cities, providing a snapshot of brief encounters; two people who shared eye contact and exchanged smiles but who never quite managed to meet and talk. Sprinkled throughout the messages are words of regret, expressing how the scene could have played out differently, and a general despair that the tongue is more discreet than the eyes. However, there are some messages that simply celebrate the beauty of the moment, with the authors not even looking for any kind of follow-up.

Tu mangeais une barquette de mures avec un regard malicieux, cela m’a fait sourire. Tu m’as remarqué et m’as tendu la barquette… Jamais je n’aurais pensé accepter un fruit (defendu) d’une personne encore il y a si peu inconnue. Et pourtant… nous avons partagé cette barquette de mures, le temps d’un instant que j’aurais souhaité plus long. Puis je suis descendue de la rame, sans te donner mon nom, sans te demander le tien. Peut être est ce mieux de garder ce moment partagé si parfait..

For the two creators of, the quality of the messages was more of a pleasant surprise. "We didn't really expect the messages to be so poetic at first" explains Timothée, "but now we want it to be a mark of our service. Visitors to the site can now rate the quality of the messages, and we think that this will help us to encourage more people to use the site". By doing this, they also hope to avoid the slightly seedy side that could have crept in. A few dubious visitors have appeared, but they are quickly identified and warned away.

Nous sommes montés dans la même rame et déjà (un peu) inséparables nous nous sommes assis côte à côte. Je te sentais tout près et je ne pourrais expliquer la raison pour laquelle je me suis sentie si attirée et en sécurité. J’ai fermé les yeux, imaginé que je penchais ma tête pour la poser sur ton épaule, et que tu me disais “Pourquoi ne nous sommes pas rencontrés plus tôt?”… à moins que ce moment soit vraiment arrivé…Puis est venu le moment pour moi de descendre, j’espèrais que tu me suivrais… Mon regret est de ne pas m’être retournée pour croiser ton regard une dernière fois, pour te montrer que je n’avais pas réellement envie de m’éloigner.

So if you are looking for love, are there any particular parts of the city in which you should travel? "We haven't noticed any patterns so far" says Tristan Daeschner. "Of course, the Line 1 and Montparnasse and Saint Lazare, the busiest places, have seen the most encounters, but it seems that this kind of thing can happen anywhere at anytime". And is there any particular age or sex? "Not at all" says Timothée Peignier. "It can be man looking to contact a woman, a woman looking for a man, a man who wants to find another man he saw, and we even had quite a mature lady who was looking to contact a young girl she'd seen on the Metro. She said that it was a sentiment she'd never had before". Perhaps proof then that anything is possible on public transport in Paris!

*Literally ‘crossed in the metro’ as it stands. If you can think of a word that implies a fleeting, wordless encounter, make your suggestion in the comments below and I’ll pass it on to them!

Secondly, a quick mention about the the logo (see above) and website, excellent work by a young designer called Lorena Foucher. The logo was transformed into a sticker which the two site creators stuck to the end of the Metro maps in the carriages as a means of promoting their service. Many people noticed the stickers and several connected to the site specifically to request copies, which they then themselves later placed on their journeys. This communication is about the closest that the two co-founders have got to their users so far, but they are still hopeful that they will soon receive news of a happy reunion!

Tristan Daeschner and Timothée Peignier from


Gina V said...

"eyes-contact"...better than "crossed-eyes"!!

Rispa Frances said...

I think it is very appropriate that a service like this would originate in the 'City of love'. It seems absolutely right that the the 25% who are single, should be hooked up!!

Sar@h said...

Je découvre … C'est rigolo !

Zut point de métro dans a ville … Tant pis !

ArtSparker said...

A fellow blogger in France has linked to an illustrator in Brooklyn who is depicting similar messages from Craig's List

Starman said...

AS you should be aware, there is a very strict "rule" when using public transportation in Paris (and several other French cities) do not make eye contact with another passenger. And you certainly NEVER are rude enough to strike up a conversation.

Adam said...

Artsparker: Thanks for the link. I didn't know 'Missed Connections' on Craigslist before meeting these guys, but I've looked at it since and for me it doesn't have the same poetry at all. I guess if you were really looking for someone you'd leave a message on all of the available services, but croisedanslemetro seems to be just a little more artistic and romantic. Is it because the messages are in French?

Starman: I think you are missing a subtlety here. Yes, you never strike up a conversation with a stranger on the Metro, but the eye contact game is completely different. It is not direct, but a friend once told me how she played it - catch someone's eye, then look away. If that person then looks back at you again straight afterwards, a connection has been made. In general though most Parisiennes like to be looked at, but will rarely look themselves!

PeterParis said...

Interesting; I'm impressed by all that you find!

The contact in the metro is often more than an eye contact, especially on "my" overcrowded line 13! :-)

Starman said...

Actually,I was missing something, I wasn't aware of the eye-contact game. Very interesting.

Cergie said...

"Métrosexuel" a une autre signification, tu le sais bien sûr, c'est une personne qui s'habille bien, qui aime soigner son apparence et cela n'a aucun rapport avec ses préférences sexuelles hétéro ou homo. Mon fils aîné est métrosexuel. Cela vient de métropole et non de métropolitain
Je ne sais si dans le journal Libération on trouve toujours les fameux messages de personnes à la recherche de personnes croisées.
Le métro c'est un lieu de rencontre aléatoire comme le web mais sur le web en principe nous avons tous une adresse...

Cergie said...

Sur le web il est possible cependant de disparaitre un jour sans laisser d'adresse ou même de la supprimer sans autre forme de procés.

Nathalie H.D. said...

I've just spent fifteen minutes browsing through a number of your older posts. Loved this one and those one about wild plants and also la Porte Maillot.

nico said...

Very happy to find this, however, I had a similar situation today on an Air France bus 4 coming from CDG to Gare de Lyon, the girl continued to Montparnasse. How can I classify this on the site? Wish there was more options rather than just the subway lines.

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