Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Life in Hell—Another Visit to the Préfecture

I wasn’t going to do this. I was going to write a nice post about the impending vacation season and it’s effect on my neighborhood. But I can’t. I must vent. My frustration level has reached an alarming level and if I don’t do something soon I will simply dissolve into a mushy, pulpy mess, or more likely, explode and spatter all over the walls. As you may have guessed by now, I’ve had another morning at the Préfecture. For those of you who are not aware, the Préfecture is the home of the French Immigration Service. This is where you have to go to deal with your carte de séjour, the French equivalent of a Green Card. I thought I was ready this time. I got all my papers together. I even got new pictures taken, even though I had already done all this back in December, when I was obliged to descend into the depths of bureaucratic hell because I didn’t have my current address on my carte de séjour (see my previous post, My Beautiful Préfecture).

What has happened since then to push me to return to that evil place? Quite simply, nothing. I still haven’t received my new carte de séjour. And I realized that my recipicé, the piece of paper they gave me back in December that authorized my existence until I received my new card, expired in March. Filled with dread, I called the Préfecture. Sure enough, they couldn't tell me anything because the telephone information service had been suspended indefinitely. I was informed that I must come in person, even just to ask a question. Filled with even more dread, I gathered my papers last night and put them in a bag next to the door. After a very bad night’s sleep, I charged out into the morning rush hour feeling relatively hopeful, since I had gotten an early start. I triumphantly arrived at the Préfecture at opening time, only to realize that I had left my bag of papers at home. At 9am, a long line was already winding out the entrance. I decided to dash home and get my papers—after all, sometimes you actually have a shorter wait if you come a little later after the 9 to 5-ers have left. I dashed back to the Préfecture, papers in hand. Usually there is a little machine that doles out numbers so you know where you stand in the line. The machine was not working. Actually it said “service fermé.” Surely, an error, I thought. I know the service is open. The machine must be broken. I then waited in line at the accueil, which actually means “welcome”—a serious misnomer since I can’t imagine anyone less welcoming than the harpy that was behind the window this morning.

Said harpy informed me that the service was indeed closed, that they only dole out 150 tickets each morning because otherwise “we would all be here until midnight,” and when I gasped in horror, snapped out a few more spiteful phrases and told me to get there by 9am next time. O alas, and double alas, if she only knew that I actually was there at 9am this morning! If only I had taken a number before running back to get my papers! But then again, how in the name of God’s Green Earth was I supposed to know that they had suddenly decided only to take 150 tickets?? This certainly was not the case every other time I ventured into the Dark Realm. Mouth still hanging open, I noticed that there was not so much as a sign on the window explaining the new procedure. And of course no one had said anything when I called. And God forbid anyone should think of posting a little notice on their uninformative website.

I know that there have been, in the name of streamlining the system, cuts in personnel and I know that now less people are supposed to do more work at places like the Préfecture. But shouldn’t these kinds of reforms go along with a little reorganization? I’m no genius, but Christ, even a 5-year-old could figure out a more efficient way to get people through this dismal process. I could understand (sort of), if we were in a third-world nation, but this is France, for heaven’s sake. Land of philosophers and scientists. If they can get their brains around Decartes, why oh why can’t they realize that they would save everyone on both sides of the window an enormous amount of time and energy if they would just make appointments over the telephone, or post the lists of necessary papers to bring on their website? Would it be so hard to install one of those voice message systems (“if you still haven’t received your paperwork, and you are ready to commit a violent act, press 2”) telling people of procedural changes? What gives?! Fer cryin’ out loud, what, exactly, gives?!!


Ange said...

C'est ubuesque! I feel your pain, having gone through the Prefecture process this spring. Better luck tomorrow!

Starman said...

Now,you're just being ridiculous expecting logic from the French.

I feel your pain! The French way of doing things is the main reason I have decided I could never live here.

amelie said...

You sound like you need a bottle of red wine. If I were in Paris, I would personally deliver one to you. I hate hate hate the préfecture... almost as much as I hate the French Consulate in New York.

Margie Rynn said...

Thank you all for your solidarity. We should start a support group: "Victims of Irrational Bureaucracy." I couldn't bring myself to get down to the Préfecture this morning by 8am to get a good spot in line (reminded me too much of my acting days when me and hundreds of other actors would freeze our butts outside waiting for an audition to start), and I'm leaving on vacation on Monday, so it will simply have to wait for the rentrée. I'll be a rebel and survive with a carte de séjour sporting the wrong address. HA!

Anonymous said...

When I visited the préfecture last, I had to arrive at 4 am to get a ticket. The system is completely broken.