Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Speak softly and walk a big malamute

Being a deer

The bureaucratic steeplechase 

The week began badly.

I visited the Sous-Prefecture office first thing on Monday morning to transfer the car’s registration into my name. I had all the correct documents with me – the old registration papers aka carte-grise (it’s on grey paper), the transfer paper from the former owner, sale docket, all my ID paperwork, and a completed form requesting the new carte-grise

Of the three service windows, only one takes personal registration enquiries, and most of the people assembled ahead of me were waiting on that window. The waiting area had room for six people, the rest of us spilling out into a foyer with an automatic sliding door that threatened to break an arm every time it shuddered against a queuing elbow.

After an hour of waiting, it was my turn. I presented the request form first and then the supporting paperwork. Mme Fonctionnaire looked at the old carte grise and the sale document and promptly declared that my car didn’t exist – not even “computer says no”. She sat back in her chair, crossed her arms and gave me a challenging stare. I said that it was a French car, never registered anywhere else. I indicated the other documents (including passport), but she simply pulled them further away from me without looking at any of them. After some to-ing and fro-ing she finally turned over the carte grise showing her the last stamp for a French technical check (less than a year old). She was unimpressed. I asked her what was wrong and to write it down for me. She refused “Je vous explique!”. Madame’s final edict (which I repeated back to her for confirmation) was that she wanted the car registered in the UK,  then un-registered in the UK and then re-registered in France. Madness. Goodbye.

The assessment from everyone I’ve spoken to since is that she simply didn’t want to fill in an extra field or document saying the sale took place outside France, and so made something up to get rid of the fumbling foreigner in front of her. Anyway, a battle that still has to be won .

Today was a great improvement.

I went to see the local assurance agent as my car’s cover note was about to expire. I was a bit apprehensive that yesterday’s failure might carry through to yet another. I’d not met the ladies at this office before, Brent having acted as my agent via telephone to get the cover note. After four weeks of gathering insurance history from three countries, I didn’t want to fail at the finishing post for my carte verte (yes, it’s green paper!)

This time I had a secret weapon: a little hairy angel by my side.

Angel on the shoulder

With said hairy angel sitting obediently by my chair, daintily nibbling on shreds of schmacko, Mme Agent was positively hypnotised,  my annual premium dropping more the longer Munson entertained her. When I pointed silently at the ceiling sit! and then at the floor drop!, there was a sharp intake of breath and outflow of admiration. One year’s insurance for the car. Done.

Reviewing my heroic quests for the week, I can see a 100% correlation between success and having Munson flutter his big brown eyes at whoever I’m dealing with. Clearly I need to get him into a bank and prefecture office.

On the way back to our quiet valley, I stopped in at Leclerc for some groceries and a celebratory bag of prunes. I couldn’t rely on bureaucracy to give me the shits today.


  1. Behold The Power of Mal!

    SERIOUSLY, this entire saga is enough to make one want to drink lots of ADULT beverages!

  2. Anita9:47 am

    Sounds a bit like the Circumlocution Office. (A precursor to 'Computer says NO")