Sunday, May 20, 2007

Stand Up and Cheer Us in Our Fight Against the Bureaucrats

I got an e-mail from my sister, Leslie, asking all sorts of questions so I thought the answers might be of interest to everyone. It gives me a chance to vent my frustration. One of these days we shall write about the glories of the Pyrenean spring, the wonderful food at the markets, the pleasures of the French lifestyle. But for now, we will grumble and bitch and moan about the struggles of fighting the good fight against the bureaucrats.

My sister asked about the state of the house and what’s in it. It is not quite vacant. We need lots of things to make it a home. We have only books for entertainment and damn few of those. No music, no internet, no DVD’s. No easy chairs, no rugs, no lamps, no coffee tables to put them on. We bought from Monsieur Lamond a bed, some wardrobe cabinets, a table and six or seven chairs, a couch/futon (which resides upstairs awaiting guests), a washing machine and the halogen lights, and a complimentary a phone book (which Drew and Joan said was a pretty hard thing to get). In other words, we have a few of the basics but we need the comforts of home.

Wednesday, we went with Drew and Joan to Pamiers armed with their good French, where we signed up for telephone service which for some reason also allows us to have cable internet service. French Telecom is the equivalent of the IRS. You can’t ignore them, and you can’t deal with them either. So, here is what we learned. Someone will arrive at some time, we don’t know when, and hook us up. He may need access to the house, and he may not. They will bill us perhaps 55, or maybe 110 Euro for this service. After that mysterious time we can return to Pamiers and get ourselves a telephone and a router box. We’re not sure how we will know when to do that, because they can’t call us, but perhaps it will be obvious. I think we buy the phone and rent the router box and I know they will bill us some amount every month. This murkiness is not due to the translation abilities of Drew and Joan, because our agent spoke passable English, but to the fact that French Telecom must, by law, keep everything very murky.

Afterwards, we had a nice, relaxing lunch outside of Mirepoix. (Remember, kids, one of our first posts shows a map of the area.) Then back to the house to await arrival of the refrigerator and other appliances and to do some cleaning tasks which Joan and Drew jumped right into. Late in the afternoon they headed back home to Provence, vowing their return to see the AFTER version of the house.

Yesterday, Thursday, was a holiday here. We don’t know who or what was being honored, but most everything was closed for the day. That meant we couldn’t get insurance for the truck which sits on the dock in Barcelona. Nancy is in constant contact and paperwork flies across the Atlantic and the Pyrenees to Barcelona with the goal of getting our truck out of bureaucratic hock. We had previously faxed a copy of Nancy’s passport photo to Barcelona as requested, but were now informed they needed every page within the document that is stamped. And don’t attempt to fax it again, we are told, mail it instead. Mysteriously, the license plate left behind the seat and the registration papers from the glove box disappeared. Customs officials will not clear the vehicle without some documentation linking a license plate with the VIN#. We now must call the Grand County Assessor’s office in Moab to see if they can help us with this aspect of our dilemma. Carlos Oto in Barcelona has also informed Nancy that the cost of retrieving the vehicle (should we ever be able to be reunited with old Smokey) will be 577 Euros, a somewhat (SOMEWHAT!!!) higher estimate than the 300-350 Euros quoted by the auto shipping outfit in Houston. They are getting dangerously close to what Smokey is worth.

With no offices or stores open it presented a challenge to get copies and faxes and so it became clear we were not travelling to Barcelona to get the truck. Therefore, with our fingers crossed, and thinking that enterprising Swedes might not be observing the holiday, we turned our attention to the kitchen and we headed to Toulouse and IKEA, where indeed it was open for business. Naturally, with nothing open and nothing else to do on a rainy Thursday, the place had the bulk of the population of southern France furiously shopping away. We got dishes, cups, glasses, wastebaskets, silverware, spoons, spatulas and the like. However, we haven’t a single pot or pan. They are in transport. With our fingers double-crossed, we hope that we won’t be returning to IKEA to replace all the ‘stuff’ we shipped over in old Smokey; that not everything disappeared like the registration and license plate.

The little Citron we rented is the smallest one we have driven yet. I need to do some serious maneuvering to squeeze myself into the little spot intended for the driver. The worst part, of course, is the space they think is adequate for brake, clutch and gas pedals in addition to a pair of size 13 shoes. Also, the space between the brake pedal and the steering wheel is exactly the length of my leg from knee to foot making it difficult to quickly apply the brakes. Nonetheless we were able to get ourselves in the car with our purchases, and head back to Leran where Nancy was able to continue her crusade to free our hostage from its Barcelona prison.

We’d really like to get Smokey out of jail for the obvious reason of having a nice medium size truck to drive, with lots of legroom, but also it has (or did have) in it; clothes, tools, brand new pots and pans from Crate and Barrel, cooking knives, blankets, CD’s, and things we’ve forgotten about and will be surprised to see.

I hope your questions are answered, but if not, you know how to comment.


Anonymous said...

Hi guys...

If you want me to drive up to Moab and retrieve official documents, or whatever, I can do it for you.

I'm not doing anything.


Anonymous said...

Hi! We finally have an an internet connection in our new house. I feel tired and overwhelmed on your behalf. I can't even imagine your exhaustion level when it takes so much energy just to communicate. Nancy, you are going to be some kind of Beaurocratic communicator extraordinaire when you get through all this!! Try to relax and enjoy this journey everyday if you can.
Love, Amy

leslie said...

I've had a bad headcold the last few days and it reminds me of how my brain feels when I am trying to do things in a foreign language. Don't give up, the fog will clear and it will all be part of the wonderful story.

Another thought, why not let Nancy drive?

As Amy said, enjoy the journey, laugh at the mysterious ways and have a glass of rose for me. The phone book is so funny, it is a mystery why they should make them so scarce. It is a mystery why any of us does anything that confounds someone else. Just try to laugh. Leslie-(easy for me to say)

Anonymous said...

Oh Lord! It doesn't sound like you are having much fun! I don't know what the deal is with foreign automotive-associated-data being stolen...when I was in Russia my Texas driver's license and my Neiman Marcus credit card (which I accidentally left in my wallet)
were stolen. What can anyone do with that stuff? It's nuts! All I can think of is that there's some kind of Barcelona "graft/bribery" scam going on. I shall keep my fingers sincerely crossed on your behalf.

I know that some day these "adventures" are going to be part of a best-selling humor book...with pictures by Nancy! Luke will read it the moment it is published!

I think these "beaucratic hassles" are the reason the French have so many great wines...they need to keep drinking to make it through the next day...and the one after that...and so on...and so on! My advice is "...get thee to a winery"!

Bon Chance!

Nancy said...

Leslie: Have you had the pleasure of riding with Doug the backseat driver much? Driving through mid-day traffic in Barcelona alone was more soothing if you get my drift.