I have a secret love for the Prefecture in Paris. So secret, in fact, that I am not quite sure where it exists. But It must exist because I keep on going back for more.
See, the Prefecture of Paris is the “decider” (to put it in the words of W) when it comes to visas. They let you in, they change your status, they make you sign legal documents officially kicking you out. They have the FINAL word.
My first year, I went to the prefecture 3 times, not including the cattle call chest xray government medical evaluation I had to go to.
This year, I had the pleasure of going to the Prefecture 7 times.
And it is a little story that goes like this:
At the beginning of October 2009, I call the Prefecture to apply for my renewal status.
They tell me to get an appointment through their internet site.
I go on the internet site and book myself the earliest available appointment…. It is in December. (Nevermind that my visa expired at the end of October)
December, (1) I go for my appointment.
(Sidenote: The idea of an ‘appointment’ is funny because an appointment at the Prefecture doesn’t give you the right to see someone at a certain time like your printed out paper might lead you to believe. Your appointment just gives you the right to get in line behind all of the other fools with their appointments waiting for judgment.)
So, I go with my papers at the specified time, wait in line for 1 hour. Watch this girl in front of me cry and rant in Russian while someone with better French skills tries to play moderator between her and evil gatekeeper #3. (Gatekeepers are the people you have to show all of your paperwork to in order to make it inside to talk to someone who can actually give you your visa).
The crying Russian leaves, I give the evil gatekeeper #3 my papers. He asks me for more papers that are not on the list. He gives me 4 hours to go around Paris to “get these papers and come back, or take another appointment by internet”…which would be 3 months later.
Why do I care about my visa? I am not quite sure.
I think “screw him” and decide to go on with my day. (I was scheduled to badly teach the English language to 27 delinquent lycéens (high schoolers) in one hour.)
I get to the lycée and the director of the school says to take care of my papers.
I drive around Paris in a taxi to 3 different banks, the gas company and my university to in order to get everything (including 6 bank statements for which my bank charged me 12 euro a piece).
I arrive 20 minutes late (2) and 140 euros poorer (taxi + bank statements) to see the bald and mean postal worker a.k.a. evil gatekeeper #3. I do not tell him that he might have made me lose my job, like I had planned. I SUCK IT UP.
He lets me through to the next level and I wait for another 2 hours in order to be told that I need more papers, also not on the list. And must make an appointment by internet.
(3) Three months later I am again at the metal detectors of the Prefecture. I bring everything back and updated. The gatekeepers don’t trouble me. The guy on the inside (with the power) doesn’t ask for the documents they requested and I was sent away for last time. I keep my mouth shut. He puts my papers through and I must come back again to pick up my visa in 6 weeks.
I come back again to pick up my official renewed card (4). It’s May. I have an appointment, I show my documents. I sign a paper, a man gives me my card. I think I must be severely lacking in sleep or have taken some heavy drugs. The whole procedure takes 15 minutes.
With my official French BAC +5 diploma, I can request an extension of my visa if I do it 4 months in advance. (5) I get the necessary paperwork, pass the metal detectors. Evil baldy post worker/gatekeeper’s buddy, #2 tells me that they are not accepting anyone else and closed 50 minutes ago. I tell her that I checked on the internet to make sure and get their hours right and it says they close at 4:30, not 3:30 like she is implying. She says she is not letting me through but will verify my paperwork so I can come in the next morning. I shut my mouth and let her check. I have to cancel our long weekend plans +hotel + rental car.
I come back the next day and file the paperwork. (6)
3 months later I receive notice to come in on the 7th of October.
I returned last Friday. (7) They make me read and sign a 6 month extension wherein I agree to “definitively leave the territory”. They then take my pretty shiny plastic card that took me 9 months to get and replace it with a flimsy pink and blue paper. I hate them.
But apparently, not. “We only hurt the ones we love”, right? Maybe the Prefecture loves me.
Well, Prefecture I love you too.
I love the gatekeeper/postal worker that cost me 140 Euros and 6 hours of my time so I could be told to get another appointment in 3 months for an unlisted and later unrequested document.
I love the list of unpublished but required paperwork.
I love the hours that aren’t really the hours, and appointments that aren’t really appointments but the right to stand in line.
You have shown me self-restraint I had no idea I had.