French Lessons welcomes 2017’s guest contributor: Rachael, our friend and dinner party guest whose evening ended badly. She’d only bid us ‘bonsoir’ when she promptly returned to Bellevue’s gate. A call to the police confirmed that yes, indeed, her car had been towed to Antibes’ pound. Rachael drove our car home that night with plans to deal with her own, impounded vehicle the following morning.
Here Rachael shares her experience retrieving her car from the local fourrière. It is one bit of cultural instruction that French Lessons is delighted to learn secondhand.
I wear a Fitbit and it has a heart rate monitor.
As I didn’t have my first patients in Monaco until 1:00 p.m., I wasn’t too worried about the morning’s timing. I dropped your car off at Bellevue at 10:03 a.m. and ran/jogged/yomped my way to Boulevard Wilson, knowing I could pick up coffee and a croissant en route.
Arriving slightly sweaty but cheerful, I was the ONLY VISITOR at the police station. The tubby police lady behind the glass actually seemed thankful to have company. I cheerfully explained that I had badly parked my car the prior night and the police had taken it, and that I was a little bit sorry – but as it was my first impoundment in 17 years of living in France, I wasn’t too miffed.
The fat lady congratulated me on my near-blemish-free record and demanded the three documents I had been told to bring:
- My driver’s license: check.
- My attestation of insurance: double check. I had two!
- My carte grise . . . . Well, I had the letter that accompanied it, but LIKE ALL NORMAL PEOPLE, I kept my car registration document IN THE CAR ITSELF.
Apparently the police had never come across such a circumstance. (REALLY??) Thus ensued a conversation of bargaining, followed by pleading, followed by conflict resolution at a standard that would’ve made a terrorist hostage negotiator proud.
Finally, instead of her suggestion that I yomp three kilometers to my car, then yomp three kilometers back to the police station with the registration document, and at last yomp that same three kilometers all over again to pick up MY car, the fat controller begrudgingly agreed that I could go to my car once, photograph my carte grise, and send her the proof of its existence from my phone.
The police aren’t good with technology.
No wonder this woman has no friends/customers.
My heart rate was now at 110.
So then I had to find my car. Without a car.
The friendless controller told me to take a bus and ask the driver to direct me to the fourrière. I found the correct bus and paid my Euro. The driver was super friendly, and when I asked for the fourrière, I could see sympathy emanating from him. After a while he motioned for me to come to the front of the bus and advised that I get out at the next stop. When I asked the handsome driver where I needed to go from that stop, he must’ve thought I was completely incapable of following a direction on a straight road. He told me instead to stay on the bus. Another 200 meters on, he stopped illegally on the road and let me off at the door of the fourrière.
What a gent! My heart rate still ran at 110 but for different reasons . . . .
The office at the pound could have won the 2017 award for being the world’s worst looking and most inefficiently functioning flat-pack office, but that would’ve been something positive to say about it. Inside were three women, one a school-leaver whose ineptitude was outstanding, one who shouted instead of spoke, and the third who wore a headset and looked like an air traffic controller – and boy, was she efficient. There also was a pug who snored called Johnny.
My case, unfortunately, went to the school-leaver.
Even though I had shown my documents to the police, I had to regive them to the child so that she could send them to the police. BY FAX.
There was a 20-minute wait whilst the police replied.
My car was so tantalisingly close. Time ticked away. It was now 11.45 a.m. My heart rate had risen to 115.
There was a poster on the wall of the wretched office about heart attacks and the best recovery position, and worryingly, another bit of advice about electrocution.
Finally the police phoned back and gave me the nod. They started to FAX through a form, when the stupid schoolgirl pushed the wrong button. THERE WERE ONLY TWO. The machine stopped mid-transmission.
I had to wait another 15 minutes for the police to fax the form all over again. I suddenly understood why they might worry about electrocution injuries.
Finally I paid a miserable 116 Euros. I would’ve happily paid 200 Euros if I could’ve got my car back more quickly. And I left.
The process had taken two hours and 45 minutes. In both the police office and the city’s pound, I’d been the only customer. Imagine if these places had been busy!
I arrived in Monaco 10 minutes late, but luckily my first patient was 12 minutes late so I got away with it.
The moral of the story: Don’t leave your carte grise in your car, and allow a good half-day in France to show someone three documents.
Postscript: French Lessons expected the moral of Rachael’s story would have involved a vow to refrain from such creative parking in the future. Perhaps the difference in our “lessons learned” simply offers a cultural insight of its own.