I have lived in France for awhile now. One of the things I discovered during my adaptation phase was this: folks who hold administrative positions are keenly easy to spurt out “No” when, with a little effort, they could have said “Maybe” and, sometimes should have down right spurted out “Yes” in the first place.
Across the years, when we’ve debated on the topic of French administrative services and how they ain’t what they used to be, a number of people confirmed they’ve had similar experiences. And boy, have we debated this topic!
An example, you ask? Okay, here goes:
Once upon a time, when I lived in Paris and was gainfully employed (bankers usually LOVE dealing with GAINFULLY employed clients), I went to the bank to deposit some hard-earned cash.
Now, for some background details:
Yes, it was the branch office where I’d opened my account (three years earlier).
Yes, I was stylishly dressed as an on-the-go-dynamic “entrepreneuse”
(Yes, that word exists and as a French-speaking woman, I will use the correct feminine term for “entrepreneur“whilst I relate about “moi“… me, that is…lol). And finally: No, I was not going to withdraw any money.
So back to my story.
I headed to my bank with a good book. Why the book? There are no longer several “tellers” to receive clients in French banks. There’s only one, or maybe two all-purpose windows. So, waiting in a long line, has inevitably become the thing to do at one’s local bank. Thus the book.
After waiting over fifteen minutes, it was finally my turn.
“Hello, I’d like to make a deposit but I’m afraid I don’t have my account number.”
As I saw the beginnings of an arched eyebrow, I quickly added, ” But I do have a piece of identity.”
“No, I’m sorry, I’ll need your account number.”
“So,…even though I opened my account at this branch,…”
Here’s where I slowed down the rhythm to allow this young lady, hopefully, to think while working.
“…I have my identity card,…”
After whipping out my card, I fanned my nice neat pile of multicolored bills, hoping her pupils would dilate in greed at the sight of them.
…..I want to put this onto my account,…”
Here, again, I paused. because I wanted to be sure she was with me.
Our eyes locked, I began slowly to nod my head and she nodded along with me as I finished speaking.
“…I don’t want to take money from my account,…I only want to make a deposit,… and you can not help me… by finding… my account number, is that right?”
“No, I’ll need your account number to make the deposit.”
Even here, she was unable to say “Yes, that’s right.”
“Right. Okay, thank you very much.”
Notice, I did not burst out in protest over her most illogical position. Instead, I went into my Acting 101 role. Stepping away from the window, I walked slowly, ever so slowly towards the exit, fumbling in my bag, pretending to look for something. It felt like all eyes were riveted upon me as if waiting for something. Then…
“Um, excuse me?”
I did not turn around, she was going to have to work for this.
“Madame? S’il vous plait ?”
Ah, she’s added Madam and a “please”, that’s more like it.
“Yes…?” I turned back, but did not head for her window.
“You said ‘You opened your account at this branch’?”
I took one step towards her. “Yes…?”
You have a piece of identity with you?”
Two steps closer. “Yes…?”
“And, you wish to put money onto your account?”
I was close enough by now to whip out my neat pile of bills once more. I waggled them, discretely, in front of her.
By this time, some bemused clients, began to chuckle.
“Oh… then, just a minute please…”
She rounded the corner to the director’s office then came back, asked for my identity card and all was settled in a matter of minutes.
But, the odd practice of routinely saying NO before YES marked me. And so, I’ve attempted to get rid of it by setting the experience down in a poem.
Be kind reader, it’s a work in progress.