'Juste a temps' is probably not a commonly used Parisian phrase because (at least from my modest observations) Parisians are never rushed and punctuality is considered to be just a waste of wrinkle-lines. So naturally, "just in time" doesn't make sense in a place where you can't be late. But Parisians seem to invoke a JIT philosophy to many things even though, they would probably be the first to deny any sort of pre-meditative approach to life.
Over my past two days, I've observed JIT in Paris in many forms:
- The city's fantastic bicycle renting system (like many in Europe where one can rent and drop of a bike at multiple locations all over the city) works on a JIT philosophy in multiple ways. First, no one relies on a map to locate where stations exist. When you need a station you will find it. Precision of location, like precision of time, is superfluous. Second, the bike to parking spot ratio seems to be fairly tight - meaning that if you are parking your bike at another location across the Seine you depend on someone else also taking a bike out and liberating a parking spot for you. So the system depends on a fairly equal ratio of bike renters to available bikes. But if there are many more bikes than spots, then people will have trouble returning their bike, and in the opposite scenario, renter-enthusiasts would have difficulty finding an available bike. So how come this seemingly delicate, impossible-to-perfect ratio persistently seems to equate? Always a bike available, always a spot to park? I don't know how the Parisians did it, but it's great. It's another version of this JIT that seems to pervade Paris, you'll get what you need just when you need it, probably not a minute sooner, and don't push it, but infallibly you will get what you need.
- Another example of perfectly efficient availability was around the Tuileries Palace fountain. Parisians treat this as a beach, relaxing on the reclining chairs, reading, playing with miniature sailboats, eating ice cream, sipping cafe and catching up with friends. Finding chairs at this highly coveted location should have been like trying to find a parking spot in Manhattan. Hardly. The moment my girlfriend and I begun searching for chairs, we found them. And when people vacated their leisure spots, others gracefully, without any sense of urgency, naturally occupied these spots. It was a very elegant game of silent musical chairs where everyone always managed to find their chair, JIT.
So, yes I'm on vacation and probably seeing everything in rose-coloured lunettes, and my experiences could be cast as being the product of just plain luck, or the product of my relaxed, laissez-faire attitude. Probably a hint of luck and a splash of positive attitude, but it's amazing what happens when you just let it.