Today is the first Tuesday of the month, and you know what that means. . .?! It’s the day the international members of the By Invitation Only group attack our “assignment.” Each of us takes the topic, this time out it’s the Challenge (or challenges) in our lives and whether, I’m assuming, we’ve conquered them or are still struggling. Please click above where you will be taken by our leader, Marsha Harris, to all the brilliant musings on the subject.
Not long before my now Reason-For-Living-In-France (MRFLIF) and I were to be married, my mother told him: “I think it’s important you know something about Tish. Her favorite day of the week is always ‘tomorrow’.” Bless her heart.
It’s not that I have a problem with time per se. I’m never late for appointments for example. However, when something unpleasant presents itself and I should deal with it immediately I feel if I wait (and wait, and wait) it will just go away. MRFLIF refers to this as my ostrich approach to life and has pointed out on numerous occasions that I only exacerbate potentially difficult or mildly annoying situations. He tends to be right which in itself is annoying.
You’d think I would learn. I’ve had plenty of life lessons in this regard. But I never do. Case in point: On my last trip returning from Chicago to Paris in November, the Air France ticket person asked me why I only had a one-way ticket. Deep breath, think zen, I replied: “What are you talking about?”
“You have a one-way ticket to France,” she said, rather unpleasantly I thought. “I beg your pardon, if you look carefully you will see this is a return ticket to France. The other half of the ticket was Paris/Chicago; I’m returning home.”
“How am I supposed to know that?” she countered. “Look at the
damn ticket,” I said.
“I’m sorry” [Ed. Note: clearly she wasn’t], she said, “but I’m afraid you will either have to show us your French Carte de Residence or buy the other half of your ticket back to the United States.”
“Never, never in all the years I’ve been traveling back-and-forth from France and the United States has anyone — on either side of the ocean I might add — ever asked to see my Carte de Residence,” I explained (maybe that’s not a good choice of verbs).
“Well, now we are,” she said.
“I don’t have it with me,” I said.
“In that case, either buy the other half of your ticket or stay in the States until someone sends us your Carte,” she said.
“Yes,” she said, “we are totally serious.”
The denouement: I offered my French driver’s license, the head agent called someone at Air France in New York who was required to give her name which was then written on something or other so that she would be responsible for the rule-breaking that allowed me to board the plane and technically assured no one in Chicago could be blamed if my story backfired.
You’d think this story would be over wouldn’t you? Mais non.
When I got back home I dug out my Carte de Residence from my “French wallet” and discovered — quelle surprise — that I’d missed the renewal date, by four years (!)
No one hasever asked to see the card, therefore it didn’t occur to me to look at it. My first thought was, “Now I’m going to have to listen to another lecture from MRFLIF.” Sure enough, he didn’t disappoint. Then, ever the optimist, he said: “Look at it this way, maybe you will be deported at the expense of the French government which would include a ride to the airport in a police van. Then you could come back and visit me on a tourist visa.”
It didn’t turn out quite that way.
The French government did not take into account the 27 years of our marriage, of which most of that time I was totally legal in the country. No. Instead we had to “pretend” that I was applying for the first time for residence and we had to prove that I have lived in France for 10 years, illegally I guess. We had to produce 10 years of documentation with my name on everything that substantiated the fact I’ve lived in the country without leaving “for three consecutive years” — bizarre, but true — our marriage documents, my passport, and a sworn statement that everything I said on the multi-page accompanying questionnaire was true.
Among the questions on the form were two I found fascinating and felt they probably wouldn’t lead to a positive assessment of one’s right to remain in France:
1.) Do you live in a polygamous marriage? Oui/Non
2.) Have you been deported — actually it said “invited to leave” — the country for any reason? Oui/Non
When I left last Sunday to return to Chicago, my “dossier” was still under consideration at the prefecture. The woman at the window for “Les Etranges” who was probably in her 60s told me she had never seen a case like mine. Her boss told me there would be a fine.
My old Carte de Resisdence is with me just in case with the hope no one asks to see it and if they do they won’t be able to translate the expiration date. This time I’m flying American Airlines. My rationale is that maybe American Airlines personnel don’t speak French.