Lhen an everyday object moves away, we suddenly see it in its strangeness. On the verge of disappearing, he is experiencing – or not – a moment of transfiguration. I remember the metro ticket. Every day, he would dive into the magnetic reader and come out before the gate opened. Its instantaneous journey foreshadowed the long passage through the basement. It was a small cardboard key, a key immediately expired which then came to haunt the bottom of a pocket in the company of metallic and durable keys. We could also have seen a miniature ballot, a ballot through which we necessarily vote for our journey, whether free or forced.
May these comparisons serve as his tomb.
In Ile-de-France public transport, the ticket is disappearing. It will survive for some time, sold individually, but the smart card is doomed to replace it. Over the decades, this piece of cardboard has evolved. It has changed color and typography. It appeared in 1900 in pink, cream or bistre, depending on the line and social status of the traveler, with a Parisian decoration as a background. Later, with the first-class fare gone, it took on different more egalitarian hues – tan, yellow-orange, jade and mauve – before finishing white with a dark brown stripe. It carried various mentions – “Parisian Metropolitan”, with the instruction “At the exit, throw in the box” – and even entitled itself “weekly work card” in 1941. The astonishing thing is the modesty and the sobriety of these messages. Nothing comparable to banknotes with their symbolic and regal mission.
Above all, the existence of the ticket has become less and less “material”. Initially, a simple rectangle of paper, it was systematically punched. Three thousand five hundred times a day on average, a RATP employee took a tiny part, the size of a confetti. This perforation seems frantic and a little crazy to us today. However, it bears witness to a time when the means of surveillance were less developed than today. The “takeover” was undoubtedly more radical, including for the ticket, but the threat of a global control, still absent.
No more anonymity in basement wanderings
The passage, commented on by the philosopher Gilles Deleuze, from surveillance companies to control companies resulted in these barely perceptible details. Everything then took place quietly, the gestures, punches and percussions of the mechanical world giving way to the discreet hiss of magnetic reading, punctuated by a few sound signals. Today, the more the data is digitized and centralized, the less we physically feel the effects and the less we are asked for initiatives or individual actions. The ticket will have followed this slope before disappearing.
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“I remember the metro ticket”