Welcome to France?

My brain is so fried that I don’t even know where to begin.

This is not the first time I’ve had to go to the Centre de Réception des Étrangers, but it was certainly the worst.

I showed up with my dog around 8:30AM to meet a crowd of people already standing and sitting in a line that reached out of the alley of 19-21 rue Truffaut. Lovely. Well, I had no choice. I got in line and soon made friends with a Canadian girl standing next to me.

By 10AM we had gotten much closer to the door, but it may have just been an illusion created by the bizarre fact that the people at the head of the line figured that standing closer together would somehow be beneficial. The sun started to peer out from behind the neighbouring building. I joked that at some point it would go behind the tree and we would have shade again. We didn’t think we would actually be out there long enough for that to happen. But we were, and it did.

While we were in the sun, the line got more and more cramped, and at some point I could no longer sit on the ground at all, or protect my dog-in-a-bag from getting smushed. I had to keep her in her bag and hold it for the last 2 hours because there was no way I could bend over to pick up the straps if the line started to move.

My Canadian friend finally decided to circulate a petition, asking that something be done about this situation. Not just today, but in the future, for all Étrangers. Because this is ridiculous. We got at least 2 pages of signatures that I’m aware of, and she intends to send copies to various places. We exchanged information to keep in touch and I’m looking forward to raising a little hell about this. She told me it was on the news a long time ago, but nothing changed. She told me last time she was here there was a pregnant woman who passed out due to the heat. We learned that the center that normally handles one of these residency issues had closed and now this center handles it in addition to what they were already handling.

This is all insanity. It’s 2013 and it doesn’t take much thought or effort to get organized. If they can’t take appointments, they can at least schedule groups of people at staggered times. They can at least take a list of names so that people can come back later and not stand around for 5 hours. There are numerous solutions to this. Something needs to be done. This cannot be how France greets those who are trying to become citizens, by telling them to wait outside in a crowd for hours on end, at least once a year during this process…. with no offer of water, no available restroom, not even chairs or protection from the elements. They treat us like animals. And then people begin to behave like animals, pushing and shoving, trying to get themselves in front of others. As we reached the front of the line, we heard more and more arguments between people in line and people who were trying to cut. One woman got called out several times as she tried again and again to cut to the front of the line. To make sure I and my new group of friends got in before others who had weaseled their way in front of us, we had to link arms and squeeze ourselves through after our spokeswoman make sure the man in charge knew that we were together and that we came before the people trying to make it through the door. I thought my dog would pop, squeezing through the crowd.

Once inside, we got to sit down and wait for our numbers to be called, which came about much faster. Though once upstairs, Mme. Grumpy-pants, after asking me for my ID and papers, told me dogs weren’t allowed. I said I just stood in line for 5 hours outside, and I have nobody with me. She gave me the “I don’t care” look, and some related words, and then walked away. I grumbled loudly, picked up my doggy-bag and went to the front desk. The nice man there agreed to watch her for me as I went back upstairs. Screw you, lady, your bad mood isn’t going to ruin my entire day that easily. I know you think that’s part of your job description, but I’m going to make sure you do the other part. So I waited, and watched as she just chatted it up in another adjoining room. I noticed there were only 3 out of a possible 12 people manning the desks here. She eventually came back, bringing with her a guy in a blue shirt I’d seen and heard outside earlier. She complained about the dog (why do you hate dogs? She was in a bag, is she preventing you from doing your job?) and he asked if I had a dog. I said, yes, downstairs. He seemed fine with that, and left. Ha. Do your job now, Mme. Grumpy-pants. And she did. We spoke little, and in a few minutes I thanked her and left with my récipicée.

On the way out I squeezed past the dozens of people still in line outside in the sun….

Something’s got to change.

Watch me rant on YouTube!

2 comments

  1. Stuey98

    I assume that now that you have your recipisse and a valid visa, then you are good to go for 12 months. No carte de sejour needed, or long lineups at the Prefecture… is that right? At least, that is what I read online last night.
    I also followed the tales of a few other ‘frustrated’ expats, so rest assured, you are not alone with problems dealing with the French System.
    I think all govt bureaus and civil service, in general, tend to be impersonal and seem to delight in working to rule, (I’m thinking of the DMV here), but perhaps the French have become masters at it. It’s incredible that an industry that is supposed to be devoted to servicing people can so inept at it.
    If it is any consolation, you can go to Google Earth and at 19-21 Rue Truffaut, you will see the lineup in the alley beside the school.
    It would appear that it goes on all day, every day.
    I hope you will continue to encourage your friend to follow through with submitting the petition. Perhaps she can also suggest some of the ideas you mentioned to improve waiting conditions. They obviously require some help in thinking beyond their next break.
    Two Ideas for Future Videos
    I like the suggestion of one of your video’s commenters (baddogonline) of doing a video spotlighting the plight of ‘Etrangers’ attempting to get their recipisse or CDJ at the prefecture. I’m sure many of those ‘enslaved’ souls in the alley would be happy to be interviewed in an attempt to make the situation better for others. Who knows, a well done video, along with the petition, could go ‘Viral’, as they say, and force the bureaucrats to take notice. 🙂
    The poet, Robert W Service wrote – ‘Be Master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out, it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.
    Another video idea I had – ‘What is it about France, and particularly Paris, that sparked the ‘Dreameroftheday’s’ passion to set up shop there?
    Just curious. 🙂

    • thedreamer

      I like the idea of making a video… I should suggest that to my Canadian friend. We could do it in connection with the petition. I definitely have to check out Google maps. An overhead photo – perfect! Must have been taken on a weekday between 8am and 4pm. lol
      As for my own plight, my récipicée is good until September 26, when I have to go back in to request my titre de sejour again. That’s what expires this week. I thought I’d make an appointment, renew that, and then be on my way to LA in August. But their darn website said the next available appointment was in September, and no matter what I tried or who we talked to, they won’t budge it. So I have to be in France for this meeting unless I want to screw it all up and risk starting the process from scratch. Thanks, France. Thanks.

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