|Another average walk home from my day. Paris is stranger than fiction. You just can't make this up, folks.|
A few months ago, before I arrived in Paris, I was in Toronto to get my visa so I could be in France for more than three months. When the lady at the embassy gave me my visa, she also gave me a form with some signatures and stamps. "Send this in as soon as you get to France," she said. And she said it in English because it was important.
So upon my arrival in Paris, I sent in the form and figured life moved on.
Oh no. No no non.
I received papers in the mail stating that I was to show up for my next visa appointment. But this time, I was to pay 340 Euro online beforehand and print out the receipt.
Now, it is unpleasant when I know the bill is coming, but it is really unpleasant when it sneaks up on me. Not quite as unpleasant as showing off my ta-tas at the visa office, but we'll get to that.
In addition to the proof-of-payment receipt, I'm to show up at the visa appointment with a whole slew of other paperwork.
So that was February.
At the appointed time, I am herded into the the visa office with the rest of the crowd, who I soon learn has the same appointment time as myself. There is an American girl in front of me, a New Zealand girl behind me and a bilingual guy from Montreal behind her. Together, we form our French Visa Office Alliance.
I would have been so good on Survivor.
In the first room, a lady looks at our paperwork and tells us that our 340 Euro fee has increased 9 Euro so we must now go to the Tabac shop around the corner and purchase a 9 Euro stamp.
If this sounds confusing and inefficient, you're following. It IS confusing and inefficient.
Lucky for me and my new alliance, I did some reconnaissance work beforehand and knew that the Tabac shop was indeed where we were to buy said stamps. So off we went. Ten minutes later, we returned to the lady who ushered us into yellow chairs along with the rest of the parade of stamp holders.
One by one, we are called into the room of blue chairs where we sit and wait. And once that happens, one person at a time is called into Blue Door #1 and comes out of Blue Door #2 a few minutes later and is ushered into Door #3. This person soon comes out of Door #3 to wait until a nurse comes out of Door #4 with an envelope and hands it to the doctor who ushers you through Blue Door #5. From there, we are taken back to the blue chairs to wait until we are called back to the original yellow chairs to wait until we are called through White Door #1.
Confused? Good. You're keeping up.
No one knows what is going on behind any of those doors because no one is told and if they were told, they'd be told in French and 95% of us don't speak French because we all just arrived in Paris. Luckily I have the bilingual Montreal dude in my alliance and ask him questions whenever he is released from a door. Then I convey his information to one of the girls who come out of another door, who passes it onto the next girl if I am behind one of the blue doors.
The whole room has ears perked on our little alliance of English-speaking smarty pantses.
This sounds like grade five antics but we were all afraid of fucking up our visas just because we don't know enough French. And when it comes to visas, everyone gets a little tense.
So if you, dear reader, ever want to live in Paris for more than three months, you'll need a visa and will have to go through the musical chairs exercise. And when you do, this is what happens...
Yellow chair: This is where you sit when they see that you've paid your 349 Euros. You've already won once you're seated here, but they don't tell you that, do they. They call you one by one into the next room of blue chairs. This room is surrounded by blue doors.
Blue Door #1: Behind this door is a nurse who looks at your chart and says, "MacLeod, like the Highlander." Oui, oui. Then she measures your height and weighs you. Thank God I don't know how to judge myself in kilos.
Blue Door #2 is the back door from Blue Door #1 to...
Blue Door #3, which is a little closet where you are told to take off all your jewelry and clothes from the waist up. My conversation with the nurse goes like this after she tells me to get nudie:
Nurse: Oui. Tout.
Me: Zero ici. (Me swirling my hands over my boob area)
Nurse: Zero ici (Her swirling her hands over my boob area)
Me: (In English) Nothing.
Nurse: (In English) Nothing.
Me: Vraiment? (Really?)
Nurse: Vraiment. (Really.)
So I get nudie in the closet. Then on the other side of the closet is another door that another nurse opens whether you're ready or not.
Surprise Blue Door #3B is where you are ushered to the x-ray machine so they can take an x-ray of your chest. This is also where they take away the cardigan you've been carrying in front of your ta-tas. Chin up, arms out, stop giggling nervously, take a breath, snap, grab cardigan, go back to Blue Door #3 to re-cover your ta-tas, then go back out to the...
Blue chair to recover the rest of you. And to whisper what just happened to the chick from New Zealand.
Blue Door #4 opens with a nurse carrying your fresh x-ray to the doctor who brings you through...
Blue Door #5 for an interview. My doctor first asks "Fume?" And I said, "Yes, I'm female." Duh. He laughs and suggests we talk in English because this is important. He starts again. Smoker? Ahhh. No. Whew. He looks at my x-ray and tells me my chest looks great. If I had a dime... He also says I have no scarring from that bout of pneumonia from when I was a kid, which now releases me from the phantom death grip I've carried for 30 years. He listens to my chest and says I sound stressed. "Ya, this revolving door visa experience is stressful." He prescribes leaving as soon as I have my new visa stamp. Later, I prescribed myself a glass of wine just to make sure the stressed flushes out of my system. After the interview with the doctor, I'm handed a prescription for a booster shot and it is back to the...
Blue chair to wait for permission to sit in the original
Yellow chair to wait more for the call through the
White door where a lady takes my pile of paperwork that is more or less pretty much sort of good enough but only because it is Friday and she is in a good mood. And from there, she slaps a new fancy sticker in my passport and tells me I can now go through the next door....
Yield: 4 weeks of anxiety, 3 hours of stress, 2 glasses of wine, 1 prescription for a booster shot, 1 valid visa.