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The Paris Roller Coaster Ride

Thursday afternoon, my daughter and I waited more than three hours on hard chairs at the Préfecture de Police on the Ile de la Cité to renew her Carte de Séjour. I was armed with every document you could possibly think of they would want to see in a big briefcase that weighed about 10 pounds.

It was the third renewal, after repeated pleading with the administration to permit her to have a 10-year Carte de Résident — given that she has been a resident of France since before her 9th birthday, was schooled in France through to a Baccalaureate degree, is perfectly bilingual, and of course, culturally half French. But face it, she is an immigrant like her mother, and we bear the burden of being foreigners in a French land.

At 5:30 p.m. the room had emptied except for ourselves and one or two others. They called us over to see a clerk who said we’d have to come again in the morning, as for them, it was time to go home. Ah, the life of a “fonctionnaire” (civil servant). They go home to their families and friends with not a care in the world, while we hit an emotional low point realizing how our lives are held in the palms of their hands.

The next morning, bright and early at 8 a.m. we bussed over to the Préfecture once again only to come upon a line to enter that circled all the way to the Seine — more than 100 meters; about the length of an American football field. A new low point was achieved.

I will now admit that we did a terrible thing by French standards: we cut the line. Our appointment letter had written on it “prioritaire” (priority) and we took that literally to mean we could jump ahead of the rest (with self-appointed self-righteousness) and within minutes, we entered the security check and scurried over to “Escalier E” (stairwell E).

The clerk was friendly and sweet for which we were immediate thankful (they aren’t normally and can be very unpredictable). Without a word, she handed my daughter the documents to sign declaring that she was getting her Carte de Résident(!) at which point we were overwhelmed with joy. I broke into a river of tears and almost leapt across the desk to kiss the woman to thank her!

Okay, now we’re on that crest again, both of us with residency status, getting ready for the big World Cup match when France and Italy butt balls and feet and heads on the soccer field. You can be sure that with our Cartes de Résident in our pockets, we were rooting for the home team.

Sunday night there was barely a soul not watching the final match. On the Ile Saint-Louis, one restaurant had moved all its tables to the middle of the street (with no regard for traffic) and set up a small TV on the other sidewalk so everyone could simultaneously watch and dine. You didn’t need to watch the game to know what was happening…you could hear the reactions coming from the cafés and apartments to know if a score had been made and for which team.

Mid game, we crossed rue Saint Antoine to discover not one single car in sight all the way from Place de la Bastille to rue Vieille du Temple — a first! At the A.O.C. café where my daughter’s boyfriend works (at the corner of rue du Bourg Tibourg and rue du Roi de Sicile), there were hundreds of people catching the game on two TV’s — strangely mostly made up of the women of the Marais, who were more emotionally hooked and rowdier than the men, chanting vulgarities, scr

eaming at the screen, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer!

Meanwhile the French team was losing. Legendary player Zinedine Zidane was excluded from the match for striking an Italian player with his head. The game ended with a score of 5 to 3 about 10:45 p.m., the sun had just set, and a rejected lot of Parisians, including we “permanent residents,” headed home reaching a new low on the roller coaster ride we call life in France.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. Be sure to join us tomorrow for Parler Paris Après Midi! 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at La Pierre du Marais. Visit /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for details.

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