If you pay attention as you bus around Paris, you will see signs with the words <<Je monte, je valide>>. It means that when you get on <<monte>> a bus (or train or metro), you validate your ticket. It’s an admonition, not a suggestion. It is actually possible to get on a bus and “forget” to validate your ticket. The metro has gates that won’t open until you slip in a working ticket. On the bus it’s more of an honor system. There are two locations of validation machines; in the front next to the driver and in the middle entrance/exit. The machine time stamps your ticket and returns it to you. Hang on to it.
So why are people motivated to stamp their tickets if it’s fairly easy to “forget” to validate it? Are there any real consequences of forgetting? Well, I had heard about ticket inspectors but I had never, ever, in many, many years ever seen an example of one–that is until my excursion out to Montmartre in July of this year.
I was enjoying the delights of above ground travel on bus line 30. The route is relatively far away from the river and therefore away from the hotbed of tourist destinations (until you get to Montmartre itself). I was sharing the bus with more women and children than during my usual excursions. Bus line 30 travels through the neighborhoods of the 8th and 9th arrondissements which look more ordinary than typical postcard images of Paris
About two stops before my final destination I noticed a group of people with white shirts and black pants who boarded the bus at the back and started checking tickets. Wow! I was sort of thrilled because I absolutely had a valid ticket and I was a foreigner and could show off my ability to ride the bus. My inspector wasn’t impressed with me. He went about inspecting tickets of the many women with their children. Children under 4 years old ride for free and I was wondering how the inspector might question a suspect child about his or her age. It felt a bit like street theatre to me. I was hoping for a flash mob to break out into “She’s Got a Ticket to Ride”. I could hold up my validated ticket and sing along, n’est pas?