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Had a run in with a fonctionnaire today...

and I lost.

Fonctionnaire: A state servant or employee; government official, civil servant; local government officer or official.  (Collins French/English dictionary)

There is something to be said for the people who can manipulate a fonctionnaire into doing what you want them to do, erm... I mean make them do what they are supposed to be doing.   I being an American am not completely convinced that a fonctionnaire does anything at all except look grumpy all the time and talk to you like you're the complete idiot and not them.

Anyway, I had to make a visit to the Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie (CPAM) this morning.  This would be the equivalent of a Social Security office as far as I know. This is the first time I've had to make a visit like this before.  I arrive and there are about 40 people ahead of me. The office had been open for 22 minutes according to my watch. I was mystified as I looked down at my ticket with the number 38 on it and quickly bee-lined it to a seat that was open  in the back corner.   

I sat and waited. and waited. and waited. 1.5 hours of waiting as ONE PERSON worked the crowd.  I glanced around the room and started to see agitation grow on the faces of the people around me. I plugged my iPod in and relaxed to Mike Mills by Air. "I will not get let this situation get to me", I told myself.

Finally after nearly 2 hours of waiting they were serving number 37.

I put away my iPod and waited patiently for 38 to flash on their number screen. 


& Waited...

30 minutes later, my number rang through.

I calmly walked up to the desk I had been summoned to and began to explain my situation.  A bit of mis-communication on the part of their office and perhaps on my part but I was sure I followed their instructions to the T. But before I could go into the details of the mis-communication I was shooed away (hand flick and everything!) and told to wait for her colleague.  Told to wait AGAIN.

I slumped down into a chair facing the woman who would decide my fate. And she was on the phone talking in hushed voices. I suspect it was with her husband or child. 

I wait.

and wait.

and wait...

And finally she hangs up the phone and looks at me. And gives me a condescending hand wave to tell me to approach.

I quickly explain my situation and she looks at me like I'm speaking Korean to her.  I ask if everything was ok? And she looks at my dossier and then at me and then again at my dossier and finally says that she's can't process this without the missing forms.

Missing forms? 

"Quelle fichiers?" I ask politely. And then she drops a verbal bomb on me as she goes on and on about  how she doesn't have time to deal with this and that if I would have listen to her colleague explain this to me on the phone that I would have known what I was supposed to bring and that what they do in their office is REAL WORK and that having to explain to me face to face like this is a complete waste of her time. 

I had to sit on my hands so that I wouldn't smack that fucking smug look on her face.

I was frozen in my seat. The blood rushing to my cheeks.  I pulled my dossier together and placed it back in my bag, stood up and clicked my heels Dorthy-style and walked right out completely mortified.

They should have taught you in French class how to deal with these putain fonctionnaires but alas, they do not.

I wonder if I would have said Je vous en prie a few more times or if I would have smiled a bit less; would that have changed the outcome of todays visit?  I don' t know.  It is seriously that touch-n-go with these fonctionnaires.  I have yet to have had a good experience with a bureau de fonction publique.  But I know that it does happen

So, still after living in France for 2 years, I feel myself going throughculture shock today.  The initial sting of this today's encounter at the CPAM has pretty much worn off now.  I guess I  just have to remember that this is part of what it's like living with the French and all their idiosyncrasies.

Fonctionnaire: 1

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