Let’s hope not. . . at least in the context of this blog. It is Thanksgiving morning as I write this; just another day here in France. A little while I go I saw the postman–on a motorcycle, his yellow jacket a splash of colour in the gray light–make his way up my street. My family in Washington will all be together this evening cooking dinner, they’ll Skype me which I’m looking forward to even though it will be the early hours here and I might be a bit groggy. I could have gone into Montpellier to a Thanksgiving dinner at the French American Center, but it was one of those things that are difficult to decide upon. You go back and forth, do you or don’t you and finally decide to do nothing. So I’ll have a glass of wine, or two, and that will be that.
This title of this post though isn’t really about Thanksgiving. A few weeks ago, I bought a car. At the time it seemed like a huge milestone in my French adventure. Joe was with me. I bought it from a lovely couple in Carcassonne and, after the papers were signed, Joe and I had dinner to celebrate. Cassoulet in the castle. So far, so good, but since I want this blog to truly reflect my year in France–both the ups and the downs, I need now to write about the latter. French bureaucracy is notoriously difficult. I guess any bureaucracy is, but difficulties are compounded in a foreign language. After taking the car for a little test drive, we sat in the lovely couple’s kitchen going over the paperwork while I used my iPad to try to transfer money from my bank in the States to their French bank via an intermediary exchange service. My eyes glaze (d) over: financial transactions have never been my strength. Possibly, probably, I was a bit pre-occupied. I vaguely recall an explanation that the title of the car, the cerfificat d ‘immatriculation, was in a relative’s name–a relative who had apparently tried to swindle the lovely couple out of money. I did not hear, or wasn’t really paying attention, to how the car ended up in their hands. All I heard were assurances that everything was in order. Later–even though I’d yet to arrange for a money transfer–we drove the car away, paperwork included. Rather trusting of the sellers, I thought.
After some delay, I eventually managed to transfer the money. I also got the car insured. A French speaking friend here in Montpeyroux offered to take me to the mairie to help with the registration process–I’m agitatedly scratching my arms, even as I write this. For the sake of brevity, I won’t even go into the issues about trying to establish my address. I’ll just say I was unsuccessful at the first attempt, but left the mairie with instructions, in French, on the necessary paperwork to provide. Sheafs. One little snag: the registration fee had to be paid by personal check–cash or credit cards not accepted. Since I don’t yet have a French bank account (another bureaucratic hurdle) my French speaking friend suggested that I give her the money and she would write the check.
This morning, Thanksgiving–turkey day seems more appropriate–my friend called to say she’d had a sleepless night over the whole thing. She was uncomfortable with the idea that the car had once belonged to the swindling relative whose name was still on the certificat d’immatriculation. What if the swindling relative decided she wanted to reclaim the car, to say it had been stolen? Quelle horreur! You, she said, could be in big trouble. We were supposed to meet at the mairie to complete the process, but she now felt uncomfortable about writing the check and didn’t want to be involved. At this point, I’d barely downed my first cup of coffee. I made another pot, sent off an e-mail to the lovely people in Carcassonne to say that I needed some clarification (an understatement) on the swindling relative’s relationship to the car. I got an immediate and apologetic response and an assurance that they would help me resolve things. So. They have the money. I have the car. And the swindling relative? Apparently she’s back in the United States, probably fixing Thanksgiving dinner and, hopefully, not concerned about laying claims to a small, slightly dented Ford parked somewhere in France. Stay tuned. Happy Thanksgiving!