Fridays are for the Prefuckture
It is Friday boys and girls we all know what Friday is for… it’s for Préfuckture visits. Where in Tink gets to use her silent and “free” time to think up catchy lyrics for her newest and greatest hit “If you want a carte de séjour- grab your ankles” (sung to the tune of “If your happy and you know it clap your hands” – yeah I am totally child safe and proof, like 40 proof vodka). You would think having been on the inside and bent consistently over a barrel that the astonishment might wear off; bit it doesn’t. I know it works in THEIR way, but still it is at MY expense. Some how these lovely French bureaucrats can consistently schedule my interviews; they might take two months to get the next one, but lovingly they are always on a Friday. Great way to potentially fuck with the start of my weekends… the French bureaucrats, they think of everything. So after the last experience, I recruited a local; someone who knows the way to work with them, and can say things in the French. In other words someone who doesn’t have a hot head, tourettes of the inconvenient nature and waving arms. For those of you not following the game- that would be not me. Besides, I needed all the support I could get. So I made my friend Jean come with me. I am sure he was happy about it, or at least as happy as I was. Seemingly each one of these visits has the equivalent of 9 layer dip to go through so we start with parking hell. I have to go from work to the central and huge rat maze préfecture in the center of town. Unfortunately this means we have to go in and use the Notre Dame parking garage. We go in, and there is NO space… and they have conveniently shut down the second floor with no warning until you have taken your payment ticket and entered. Great! 15 minutes circling the one lap 50 meter roundabout with MORE cars coming in, in a BIG fambly-mobile. I manage to get out and hijack a parking spot for us, much to the annoyance of the other fambly-mobile. Cue the special happy, happy, joy, joy dance I do for the préfuckture. Through the clearing gates and security checks I go. This would be where my necklace, the pretty blue box one… sets off the detectors. Thank god for small favors, the French might be bureaucratic but they aren’t security retentive. They look me up and down; they stare at the decolatage and let me and my necklace of mass destruction (destruction of my savings balance at least) into the préfuckture. On your marks, get set; GO; there is a race to the titres de séjour room. I get us there in no time. Only after getting there, as I some how pleased the bureaucracy gods and have an afternoon rendez-vousn right after the lunch break- meant things that go by in slow motion with three people sitting in front of you doing nothing. After an hour wait where Jean and I read the poster of court approved interpreters and make up discussions I get called. We sit down with the lady from the French Antigues. Oh my god… the accent was thicker than the attitude and really that was up there. Even Jean had difficulty understanding her. So I played dumb Yankee and spoke to Jean in English. She got huffy asking what was I saying. Then I shut up and Jean negotiated with her. First she tried to tell me I had to go meet with someone at the Foreign Ministry. No, No, No; I already tried to pull those strings, I am in the right place at the right time- go talk to your boss. I have survived the rounds again… I have a contract and if they deny me this time… breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. Jean the lovely man he is convinces the Antiguan lady to go and talk to her boss. When she does that we have to go and sit for another 45 minutes. Then she comes out and yells something that Jean catches, but I miss. Sometimes I am lucid and without paying intentional attention I can understand the French going on around me. It isn’t always just background noise. But that would not be the case when I am stressed the fuck out and sitting in the préfuckture. So Jean turns and says she just asked if you have your check book to pay the fees. I say umm yeah, with a grumbly feeling in my stomach. You know with the sound that the blades of a blender on the PULSE THE FUCK OUT OF HER INNERS speed makes. You remember that great TV game show from the 80s. No Whammy, No Whammy, NO WHAMMY. Well I spun the dealie and I chanted No Whammy, No Whammy, No Whammy, but here came WHAMMY one. I was not clear on much and neither was Jean, but I was going to have to pay 198€ to go to the next interview. I will pause while we all gather our knitting purses. WHAT AM I PAYING FOR?? No one can tell me. I am crazy in that I like to know at least WHY I am paying when I am bent at the hips. It is just some made up name tax and it is some special thing for me. In other words SHUT UP AND PAY. Cause I am special, the short bus with a helmet, kneepads, shin guards and elbow protectors kind of special. I become mute with the shock. After a while of Jean repeating “they are going to give you the carte de séjour, they are going to give it to you” I started to think to myself. Who needs to pay student loans… But the kicker that is on rinse, lather, repeat in my "must hold every thing against everything" mind … Whammy One had an added benefit that turns out I didn’t have to go back to the US back in March. That whole 3000€ I lost, there was no need, I just had to saddle up the money to pay some senseless tax that was 200€. And so the bitterness invades. I know I should let it go, but I haven’t had my special meeting with the Dalai Lama yet so I am pissy. So we leave area one go back to the central inquiries desk to find out where to pay. I go over to cashier lady in another part of the rats maze and get my receipt to go to the other lady and pay up. She chats with me as she goes through the arcane fashion that they take care of things. The lady does not use a computer people… I get paper receipts that are hand written, with of course no info. Anyways after I have paid we learned about another step in the game. Yes whilst singing the latest and greatest hit "If you want a carte de séjour grab your ankles" I am expected to do a complicated waltz step too. Go ahead try waltzing while holding your ankles, I’ll wait. Back to Antiguan lady who now magically comes up with a lighter accent and some English of all things. See the deal is… I have to go to a medical clearance appointment. The kind like what you went through in school only they take your xrays and administer a pregnancy test. Oh I have to do that… ok. HAHAHA you say- THAT is a WHAMMY?? No the WHAMMY is that I have to pay 220€ for that pleasure. So in a matter of three hours I have forked out WITHOUT warning FOUR HUNDRED and NINETEEN EUROS. That is no small change, that was student loan payments, that has no guarantee of reimbursement, so yeah... I balked a bit. This is when that Antiguan accent disappeared and the lady had the audacity to say well you make enough money to pay for this. Sure this has to be one nasty bill for the Senegalese but hey… you think that shit, not say it out loud. Jean grips my thigh to keep me quiet, I clench his to try and stay stable. I leave indentations. The level of astonishment is well beyond me. I don’t know what to do with all this. I mean on one side I am getting my carte de séjour. But any happiness is swiped right out but the whole blood letting and the righteous lady. Dude I can do righteous that doesn’t mean I want it coming back at me. And not when I am a fragile flower at the préfucture. I know it is ironic that with a good outcome I am calling it the préfuckture. I guess it is the bitterness about all of this. The denial of my right to a carte spécial, the HELLACIOUS run around I went through to start the job and the whole 5 month adventure of doing it on my own (international organisatiosn "take care" of you). But this time next week after flashing the tatas to prove I don’t have tuberculosis and peeing in a cup, theoretically, I will do the holy dance with the préfecture people and have a carte de séjour. Supposedly Look back here next Friday to see if I managed to get it all together, or if someone else from the Third World pats my ... no let's hope not.