I spend a lot of my time on public transportation and pathetic though it may be, it's one of my primary windows onto popular culture. The Métro is where I pick up Direct Matin, a daily newspaper sort of like the Washington Post Express, and where I peruse the ads for movies, vacations, and grocery store specials that line the passageways between lines. I check out what books other riders are reading, and sometimes I eavesdrop just to see if I can understand what's being said. Turns out, it's tough to learn a foreign language from listening to either one side of a cellphone conversation or a bunch of giggling teenage girls.
The métro is also its only little commercial engine with newstands, coffee shops, photobooths, the occasional souvenir shop, and vending machines dispensing sodas, snacks, and condoms. (For 2 euros, you can get a Coke, a two-pack of Twix, or 4 condoms.) I've never actually seen someone sidle up to the condom distributor, but then I don't tend to ride the train at what I imagine are the opportunity hours of 10pm to 2 am. Nothing to be ashamed about, though, right? Just good public health practice.