I was getting ready and putting on my big girl "going to do administrative stuff in France alone" panties when I heard a knock at the door. I KNOW I just shouldn't answer as it's always a Jehovah's Witness (they speak English fyi) or some other shady sort, but I get so curious and I can't stand it so I open the door.
This time it was yet another scammer, at least the 2nd this spring, and he didn't look like the normal crack head door knocker and he had an official looking badge and a teenager with him. They prey on elderly people or expats who don't know any better and claim they are there from the government to inspect the heating or the chimney and either ransack the apartment while you are running around looking for some random piece of paperwork, or convince you to sign a work order and then demand 70 euros. They are aggressive and rude and I never had to deal with them in our last apartment.
I always get nervous when I have to go to the prefecture. It's like going to the DMV if the DMV spoke French and had the power to kick you out of the country and required hours and hours of waiting and oodles of paperwork and contradictory requirements. So when I saw his badge, it made me second guess myself and instead of saying "No thanks" I told him to wait a minute, shut the door and called David. I took my sweet time because I knew I was being stupid, but they normally don't have badges and look like someone you wouldn't want to see in a dark alley, so I was pissed at myself and pissed at him.
When I came back and told him "Vous pouvez retourner ce soir quand mon mari est ici" (you can come back tonight when my husband is here) I saw him snarl his lip like he was about to say he couldn't understand me and I was an idiot, but that wasn't going to get him in the door either, so instead he asked when my husband got home from work, so I did a Parisian shrug and pffted awhile and told him "perhaps 8 PM" because I was trying to think of a fake time and then trying to remember how to say that time in military time and in French. This is why I keep a bat by the front door visible. I think of it as some kind of Brinks home security decal.
When I left fifteen minutes later I could hear the scammer and his sidekick arguing with an upstairs neighbor and it made the whole world look dangerous. In the metro I eyed every person around me suspiciously and hugged my purse like an old granny. I had my whole life in there. My metro/bike pass, my passport, my current titre de sejour, my extension of my titre de sejour since they are always behind six months, 260 euros worth or untraceable stamps to pay for my new titre de sejour and most importantly the keys to my house. Even though we got 35 keys when we moved in, there are only two keys for the door we actually use.
After going through the metal dectectors I found my building, took a number and waited for ten minutes, (not four hours! TEN minutes) bantered with the guy at the desk who asked me what state I was born in "Vermont... it's French. Mont Vert, green mountains and the capital is Montpelier, like the city in France."
"There is a city in Texas also called Paris."
"Yes, it shows up on craigslist when people who don't know how to use the internet are looking for fork lift drivers or trying to sell a car."
"And there is also New Orleans which is also French"
And this is where I lost him because he was being so nice to me and was slapping my 290 euros worth of stamps on my paperwork without counting meticulously them like I was trying to cheat him OR complaining bitterly that I hadn't seperated each and every one to individual stamps so when he said "Nouvelle Orleans" in French and all I could hear was Novelle Lyon and I was wracking my brain trying to think of a city called New Lyon and what if I get kicked out of France for being a typical American who can't speak French and doesn't know geograpy and I'm sweating like a whore in church........and the banter was brought to an abrupt halt.
But then he slapped down my new card, for ten years that looked exactly the same as my last card, except it doesn't say I can work because I'm married, it just says I can work FOR ALL THE PEOPLES. This people and that peoples and those peoples too. Just because. And it expires in 2023 which is so far away I will probably be dead by then.
The only way to celbrate such a thing is to meet my favorite Muslim comedian Tissa who just happened to be in town, for falafel and flaneuring (aimless wandering). And despite the intermittent rain showers, that's what we did. We ended up near Bastille and she remembered that the cafe from Before Sunset was nearby, (the charming Le Pure Café) so we stopped by for a drink. It's super cool and if I only lived closer or still got my hair cut nearby I would stop by more often.