France as a country, and not just a concept, is getting further and further away from me. It’s been well over 6 weeks since I left Lyon and took up sweatpants in the US.
But I’m not entirely free from France. Every now and then, I receive an email entitled “Urgent” from my Trusted Colleague. He is the unlucky friend sedentary enough to be actually possessed of a permanent address in Lyon, and thus has the doubtful pleasure of receiving all my forwarded mail, sorting it, and scanning and emailing me whatever he deems important.
So whenever I start to reminisce and nostalgically taste the best buttery croissants in the world under my tongue or see the Saone river from between the red rooftops of Lyon…
I am reminded by the email in my inbox that France hasn’t forgotten me.
Or at least, not the French health insurance system, nor Orange France Telecom (my favorite
evening conversational partner when the internet line was down yet again Internet service provider), nor my previous workplace, which obviously still has not realized I have left Lyon, in spite of the mountain of papers I had to sign in order for them to let me leave, and my leaving them a very definite American address to send any relevant mail to.
To date, Trusted Colleague has sorted through:
-certificates of employment (stamped, sealed, and claiming Ms. Me was with the Organization for X number of months, during which time He exercised the function of … and you wonder why the Organization didn’t want my grammar-obsessed self around)
-detailed medical bills. I know what you’re thinking. I trust Trusted Colleague a lot, right? Well, first of all, I had no idea the bills were going to be that detailed. And second of all, I kind of do. After all, he had assured me he was scanning my documents with closed eyes. But then when I complained to him about the useless work certificate which makes me a man, he replied: “I also noticed your sex change in that one, but I thought it might be related to all the medical receipts I keep receiving, so I kept silent”.
-Other bills. Lots of them. Apparently I paid for the pleasure of someone disconnecting my electricity and gas. My ISP also sent me a final bill, which I could not pay from the US, since I no longer have a French checkbook, I can’t go to a French post office, and the online billing account was connected to my ISP, who had deleted it, because I was no longer a customer. Thank goodness Orange actually turned out to have a semi-functional beta version of customer chat and I only needed to call France twice to get someone to listen to my credit card number long enough to get the bill paid.
Actually getting my mail forwarded was a typical French experience for me – the part were I was expecting the most administrative obstacles turned out to be the simplest, and the part where I didn’t imagine any obstacles could exist turned out to be fraught with them. Many but simple online forms and 10 minutes on my computer were enough to make Trusted Colleague the designated victim.
But then I got some registered mail and had to write TC an authorization to pick it up instead of me. I googled “authorization to pick up registered mail” desperately for an hour before it dawned on me that I would have to make up the document myself. I could buy, for the modest sum of 2 euros, thousands of other kinds of authorizations. Hospitalized and in need of an authorization from the chief doctor to leave for a few hours? Easy one. Looking for an authorization for someone else to take your child to the pool? The internet is literally swimming in them. Need to ask the mayor authorization to sell lilies of the valley in the street on May 1? You’re covered.
But something so simple as an authorization to pick up registered mail was, I suppose, waiting to be crafted by a foreigner like me.
It turned out to be a master product, very effective, so if you ever need one, I’ll be happy to help. You’re on your own finding a Trusted Colleague, though. The kind that will cheerily sort through your departure junk, and send important letters in envelopes which explode in silver stars the moment you open them – you won’t find those in google searches.