OTIS: An Eiffel Tower Exposé
As I may have mentioned, my recent trip to the Eiffel Tower was long and eventful and involved me climbing up and down the stairs no less than nine times.
Now, I have the superbly toned body of an athlete, provided that the athlete is in the worst shape of his life and his chosen sport is "California Games" for the NES, but I still think those stairs were a little excessive. The Eiffel Tower is too tall. Three or four storeys would be fine.
One of the redeeming features of these hellish stairs is that at every landing, there is a little placard detailing an event in Eiffel Tower history. This means that instead of halting at each landing to pant like a craven weakling, you can halt to read the placard. Any craven-weakling-panting can be easily camouflaged as gasps of stunned amazement at the little Eiffel factoid, which is presented in French, English, and German, and is usually something like "In 1921, a new elevator was installed that could carry 110 people 3/4 of the way to the top of the tower!"
As you can imagine, I grew very familiar with each and every one of these signs, as our rest periods increased from two or three minutes to half an hour or longer breaks, where we sat on the floor, took off our shoes, and really discussed our thoughts and feelings about each placard's meaning, before daring to tackle the next 11 steps. When I returned to America, I missed the companionship of my precious Eiffel Tower trivia so much that I visited Eiffel-Tower.com, where I was overjoyed to find that they make available the text and picture of each sign. No longer need you visit France to learn all about the storied history of the Tower, from its construction in 1889 to its importance in early TV and radio experiments to all the useless goddamn elevators they are always putting in. You can go to the official Eiffel Tower website and do some virtual sightseein'! Or, you can get 1/100 of that same information filtered through my wilful ignorance, which is what you actually will do, as I present
My Favorite Eiffel Tower Signs
And as an added bonus, at the end of the article I'll reveal a long-standing French conspiracy to kill and eat tourists! This is a real X-file, baby!
Sign says: "September 4th at 10:30 a.m., Sarah Bernhardt visits the Eiffel Tower.
"After a stopover at M. Eiffel's private quarters at the top, they go down to the second level to visit the Figaro's workshop where they sign the guest book."
Paul says: I guess having the world's largest phallic symbol must really pay off for M. Eiffel, because he really has this down to a system. First he spends a bunch of time closeted in his private quarters with hot 1890's actress and supermodel Sarah Bernhardt, and then afterwards, as they head downstairs, arm in arm and smoking high-grade weed through long Eiffel Tower-shaped cigarette holders, he asks, "Would you be a dear and sign the guestbook??" Or, as I'm sure he calls it, "the chictionary?" And I don't know what the deal is with the Figaro's Workshop, but it sounds like a high-class opium den to me.
Sign says: "On August 25th at midday, the fire chief Lucien SARINGUET goes to the Eiffel Tower armed with a concealed flag.
"With intense combat continuing at the foot of the tower, he climbs it while being shot at by German soldiers. Like 2 employees of the Naval Museum before him, he was not able to hoist up the flag, though he had been the last one to pull it down after the German invasion June 13th 1940."
Paul says: This is feeble even for the French. I mean, it's great that they tried to make a heroic and patriotic gesture, but this didn't exactly turn out to be a publicity disaster for the Nazis. Here's a few of the mistakes Lucien made:
He went up the tower "armed with a concealed flag". If he had gone with a concealed
GUN, maybe he would have had a chance of actually helping the Allied war effort, as if that were something the French ever cared about.
"...he was not able to hoist up the flag..." He was not able? Why not? If he were shot while trying to fly the flag, he might have a chance at martyrdom. If he were shot and then sang a little song about how little people can make a difference, he might even achieve pathos. But you don't get a lot of points for climbing the tower, surveying the situation, and then saying, "Yeah, this flag isn't going up. Not without a lot more rope than I got." You'd think a real hero could rig something up.
Lucien's failure is made even more bitter by the fact that he was the guy who pulled the flag down after the invasion. You had plenty of resourcefulness when it came to surrendering, didn't you?
This sign, like all the other ones in the Tower, is translated into German, so visiting German tourists can feel embarrassed that France isn't still part of Germany.
Sign says: The sign text was entirely inadequate on this one, so I'm not even going to put it. Along with the picture to the right was some nonsense about the owner of some skating rink visiting the Eiffel Tower or something. Nothing about the GIANT BEAR.
When I saw this sign in the Eiffel Tower, I found some French text at the bottom that had no English or German translation. The word OTIS was mentioned in this text several times. For some reason (perhaps for fear of alarming the English and Germans) no translation was provided. Why?
My girlfriend, trying to calm me, pretended that the passage in question was some ad copy for the OTIS company, which had provided the informational placards. This attempt at damage control was too little, too late. I realized that my girlfriend, who knew French a little too well, was not to be trusted.
Once I was home and out from under the watchful eyes of my narc girlfriend, I went to eiffel-tower.com and tried to do some Babelfish-aided research, to find out what that text really said. To my infinite horror, I found that this text was not reproduced on the website. I knew I was through the looking glass here, people. We weren't in Kansas anymore. And maybe, just maybe, it was the magic hour. But on the other hand, maybe it wasn't. I just didn't know.
I spent the next few days studying the information I had collected, not showering, and snarling garbled threats at anyone who came close to my room, which I dubbed "The Crucible of Truth." There were so many questions to answer: Who is this giant bear? Who is OTIS? and why don't the French want anyone to know?
And now, for the first time, I present to the English public a secret which has been closely guarded by the French-speaking community:
OTIS the giant robotic bear is alive and well and eats tourists in the Eiffel tower!
And, courtesy of Babelfish, here's the revelation in German:
OTIS der riesige Roboterbär ist lebendig und wohl und ißt Touristen im Aufsatz Eiffel!
(I initially threw in the robot part just for fun, but I consider it proven by the fact that Roboterbär is such a cool word.)
If you need more proof, here's a pin that someone sold me the first day I came to Paris:
What's that hanging on the side of the Eiffel Tower? It's a giant bear! Clearly, all Paris knows of and is proud of OTIS, the giant tourist-eating robotic bear.
Still not convinced? Fine, go to the Eiffel Tower and get eaten by the giant bear yourself, fool.