While the French are very good at…well, let’s take ‘making stuff’ as one example (pastries, alcohol, atomic bombs), they’re not really so good at, well, selling it. Adding to the paradox are the gleeful tourists who will nevertheless fork over wads of euros for some genuine bought in France articles (often made in Taiwan though). It’s no wonder they havent’t learned their lesson yet. My most recent experience came from todays’ shopping expedition (yes, even almost broke, I can still manage to shop – probably because I never have to buy petrol or cigarettes). Laden down with an armful of fun new autumn wardrobe articles, I politely asked the lady at the cash desk if I could lay them down on an unused side of the counter and keep browsing.
‘No. You can’t. You’ll need to hang onto them. Sorry’
(Personally I think the tacked on ‘sorry’ came in response to the ‘what reality did I just step into ?’ look I gave her).
Normally I’m used to being chased about the store with offers to liberate my puchasing hands if they spot me not weeping profusely and still actually clutching to a saleable article after exiting the change rooms. Once the hands are free, more unbought goods will magically be attracted to them. It’s one of the first basic principles of female shopping. Paris is the fashion capital of the world. EVERY SHOP SHOULD KNOW THIS RULE. Still, stopped me overspending, so I guess I can only be grateful. It’s very difficult to pick things off clothes racks when you’re already drowning under your current selection.
Which brings me to this mornings twilight zone event. My boyfriend decided to start hopping about at around 7am insisting I call our local Tribunal Office today to get an update on my French Nationality dossier, which I’d handed in sometime back in April. I don’t know what put this particular bee in his bonnet, but he was all set to call them himself if I didn’t. Not being able to adequately convince him (because I hadn't had coffee yet) of the sheer futility of attempting to converse with these people (who are not from Earth) I assured him I’d do it myself. I'm perverse like that.
Me : ‘Hi, I’m calling about my French Nationality certificate. I know you can’t transfer me to the person in that office, but I thought you might be able to give me a general idea of how long they might take to process. It’s been quite a while now’
TO : Oh, yes, they can take a long time, up to a year sometimes !
Me : ‘Gee, that IS a long time. Still, thanks for letting me know. Bye !’
Ok, sorry. This is only my fantasy daydream of how this conversation SHOULD have gone if I was not swallowed into the alternate hell-reality that is French administration (note, what follows is a very condensed version)
Me : ‘Hi, I was wondering if you could help, it’s about an application for French nationality I made a while back, I was just wondering how long it usually takes,’
TO : No, sorry, I can’t help you. You’ll need to come in and speak to the person responsable
Me : Um, yes, I realise you can’t put me through to that person by phone, but I only have the one small question – I just wanted to know how long the process generally takes.
TO : I can't put you through to that person by phone. I can’t help you, you’ll need to come in yourself.
Me : Ok, the thing is, it’s quite a long way for me to go there, and to then have to take a number and wait 45 minutes just so I can ask ONE question seems a little bit stupid to me. No offense. Do you know anyone ELSE who can help me ?
TO : Possibly xxxx. You can reach them at xxxx
Me : Right, and they’ll be able to tell me how long I can expect to wait for my paperwork
TO : (what ? Are you stupid ? tone) oh, no way. They have absolutely no idea about that sort of thing. They don’t deal with that stuff at all.
Me : o-kaaaay
TO : (pause) Was that your question ?
Me ; Well, yes.
TO : Well the length of time it takes is HUGELY variable, where you’re from etc, any delay is quite normal
Me : Is longer than 6 months normal ?
TO : Sure, it can even take up to a year.
Woohoo ! I tricked an admin helpdesk person into GIVING ME INFORMATION. Within 5 minutes too. I must be getting the hang of things !!
Note: If anyone is asking naively...'Hey, I thought she was French? What's all this about?'
a) so am I
b) Because I am only a half blood creature born outside of France, and even though I have a passport, and can work here, and pay taxes, and get social security and unemployment, I can't get a simple ID card without going through several thousand hoops. And even though a passport is just as good, you can bet that one day someone will make my life difficult because I don't have an ID card. I'm also fed up with carrying my passport around in my wallet, mostly because it'd be a pain to have to pay for a replacement if it got stolen.