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Patience is Addictive

If you’ve read my Paris packing recommendations in the Resource Guide, you know that patience — and heaps of it — is essential for a successful stay in Paris. Patience is a good idea no matter where you’re travelling, but in Paris it’s sometimes the one thing that makes or ruins your day (or if you’re particularly prone to high blood pressure, your entire vacation).

After eleven years of practicing patience, I still make huffing noises behind people who stand on the left on escalators, make sure to position myself in front of all of the little old ladies and parents with strollers when the bus arrives at the stop, and occasionally grind off a layer of tooth enamel when a “two-day delivery” still hasn’t shown up after two weeks. But in general, I’ve learned to be patient. I’m fanatic about having something to read on me for the metro, the doctor’s office, and the line at the post office. I don’t mind if my banker is a half hour late as long as I have a good book. I’m almost annoyed when people show up on time for appointments.  In fact, I’m starting to think that maybe I’m too patient.

Case One

Last week I had a meeting scheduled with the PR manager at the Moulin Rouge cabaret. When the front desk called upstairs, no one answered so he told me to wait in the lobby bar. It was 2pm, so I figured she was late returning from lunch. So I went to the bar. Stared at the posters. Had a look at the souvenir boutique. Peeked into the theatre where boxes of Champagne were being delivered for that night’s show. After about 15 minutes I say down on one of the red velour chairs and started dozing (I had been up a bit late). At about 2:25pm the thought crossed my mind to go back and ask the front desk clerk to call again, but then a young woman poked her head in the bar and asked if I was Heather. It was the PR office assistant who was sent to “see if the American has arrived yet”. The front desk guy had totally forgotten about me. Luckily, I only needed five minutes to ask my questions and get a press kit, because her next appointment was there at 2:30pm on the dot.

Case Two

When I moved from the south of France back to Paris three years ago, I waited about a year to finally send in the paperwork to update the address on my ten-year residency card (technically you’re supposed to do this within 8 days of moving). It required calling the Prefecture and requesting the forms, then filling them out, adding two passport-sized photos, and proof of the new address (like a phone bill). I sent it all in and was told my new card would be ready in about three weeks. I also have a vague recollection that they told me I’d receive a letter stating when I could come pick it up.

A year passed and I didn’t hear anything. But delays at the Prefecture de Police are legendary (it took me thirteen months for my card to be ready the first time I got it), so I wasn’t concerned. After 18 months I started thinking I should probably call, but I lost the number and would have to go to my local station (behind my apartment) to ask for it again. But the only time I think of doing this is when I’m walking the dogs past the station, and dogs aren’t allowed in, so I didn’t stop by until last week. I was sure that they were going to tell me they had lost the dossier I sent in and ask me to redo it. But no…I call a few days later and they don’t sound at ALL shocked when I say I sent in the paperwork almost two years ago. “Come pick it up between 9am and 4pm.” “It’s ready?” I asked, just to be sure. “It’s here, Madame.” Wow.

So I wait another few days because there are always huge lines at the Prefecture de Police (right across from the flower market where I meet my tour clients). I got there this morning at 9:15am. There were no lines. I went through security, over to building F, and there was still no line. I gave the woman at the desk my old card, she went into the back and brought out my file. I signed and received my shiny new card with my Paris address. I’ surprised it didn’t have to be dusted off. I was out of the building by 9:25am, so shocked at all the free time I had until my 11am appointment that I went to check out the sales at Galeries Lafayette.

Either I’m too patient, or — gasp! — the French are getting more efficient. 😉


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