Locks on the Seine

I was saddened to learn today that Parisian officials have decided to remove the love locks (not to be confused with love handles) from the Pont des Arts spanning the Seine. Several years ago a close friend—I have, in fact, written to advice columns on his behalf—was visiting Paris with girlfriend and on a whim they became one of the early adopters of the lock pledge. This was so early in the New Tradition that he sought the advice of his lawyer. That wise counsel was to retain the key to avoid charges of liability (click on the rail), littering (plop in the river), not to mention the chance that they may need to become early un-adopters. Time passed and my friend found himself locked, not in an embrace, but in a divorce battle, and in order to put closure to the painful decoupling, Simon, for that was his name, traveled solo to Paris, key in hand, thanking God for the sagacity of his lawyer. (The world is ever full of surprises). Imagine his alarm when he discovered after several hours ferreting through padlocks on the bridge that his menage a deux had become a folie a quatre, and, unlocking his Yale, he found himself holding a perfectly conjoined padlock that had been depending on, if not Simon’s relationship, at least his casual disregard should his love turn pear-shaped—the feeling and not necessarily the girl. What to do with this newfound responsibility? Simon walked the city, thinking, the alien lock weighing in his pocket and on his mind. First, he delved into the logic of the love locks. Why a bridge anyway? Is it that women are the left bank and men the right, and here was the span between them? Was it that all relationships are suspended over water with life running by around them? The padlock made a certain amount of sense, locked, it formed an eternal circle—with a flat part like most marriages. But why chained? Didn’t that imply a certain lack of resolve, discipline, or freedom of choice? And was that maxim about setting one free if you loved them more than greeting card drivel? And why a foreign city with the key sinking in the ooze? And most particularly, why chained to a bunch of other couples? Did that many couples have that kind of marriage? If only he could find this sadly mistaken couple and try to undo this misbegotten act. It felt that with every step that steel weight became heavier and heavier. His long and contemplative stroll took him back to where he started. He ended up talking to one of the vendors along the banks, hawking locks. Already there was talk about taking down these myriad tokens of permanence. This poor Gauloise puffer would be out of business. He didn’t sound bothered. “It is ridiculous. They buy one of these, they walk a hundred meters, then click and plop, and then…” He made a very coarse two tone whistle suggestive of more slippery kind of engagement. “They may as well put their fingers on their telephones intelligentes and voila.”
Voila, indeed. It’s one thing to have a bonne idee, but it just might take an Anglo Saxon to make good on it. Simon will be soon launching his smartphone app. There will be Padlocked in Paris. London LoveLock. And for the truly adventurous, Bound in Berlin and Manacled in Munich. It’s going to be managed by those Bitcoin gnomes. But—fair warning—once you’ve registered and your virtual (and weightless) lock is in place it takes the consent of both partners to take it down. In other words you must agree to disagree.