So you're a citizen. Great. Grand. Good for you. I'm a recent arrival, and if there's one thing that moving to a new country has taught me, it is that there is no incident in life more humbling than trying to get your visa in a suburb drowning in immigrants. Paris is a dream compared to my first experience.
Let me set the scene for you. It’s six am, and six degrees outside the ***CENSORED*** Préfecture and a short, white, (pompous, demanding, impatient), American girl is standing in line behind roughly two hundred African immigrants and their hordes of screaming babies. I had, in short, landed in the tenth level of hell with a sign on my forehead reading “loves emotional torture”.
I prepared myself for the long day of listening to unhappy infants and disgruntled parents, clutching my documents against my chest as if they contained the last known whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa. I was lucky that day. For once the saturated line was peopled with French speakers, and we inched our way towards the gate to watch the show that of comprised people being rejected one by one and then having a grownup version of a tantrum.
Two hours later my fingers had turned into Popsicles that my neighbor wanted to bite off since he just got rejected at filter point number one. My turn. I felt just like Atreyu approaching the deadly pair of sphinx statues prepared to burn me into oblivion. Except, my version had two five-foot-nine cops in uniforms almost as rigid as they were. Time to turn on the charm!
Me: My my my, don’t you look like a manly man with your little tuft of furry French hair sticking out under your tight navy uniform. I know you’re going to hate me by default, but can you ditch that rod-up-your-a**-frown for just a moment and… um... stamp this? Hmmm?? Pretty please? With a… cherry.. on … top? Do you have cherries here?
Cop-Sphinxes: (No response.)
I take this to mean I’ve been denied.
Me: How about 20$ and a bl*w job?
Cop-Sphinx number one handcuffs me.
Crap. It didn't work for Allen, I don't know why I thought it would work for me.
After smashing my head into the concrete a few times, I find the will to live and get in line to take a number to get in the line for the second waiting room where I will consequently take (yet another) number to wait in a different line before getting to talk to a very depressed human being.
Three hours and seven dead co-waiters later, I get to leave the first line in the series of lines and I am number 144! No one ever saw such a beautiful number. If I were another number, I’d want to have sex with this number. This number was a freaking Miracle with a capital “M”. Why you ask?? Because the woman, who most assuredly hates her life, announced that no one after number 144 will be seen today.
On cue, ten babies start wailing, five men rip up their tickets ferociously, and the people who don’t speak French begin milling around hoping to sneak upstairs to the forbidden room where the magic happens. Several baby-mamas form a multicolored huddle that made you dizzy if you looked at them for too long and start rattling off insults in the general direction of I-hate-my-life lady.
One and a half more hours later, my left leg was completely numb and the little desire I had left to go on breathing was fading away when... "144 (B*tch! Get your a** up here before I call 145!!!)" was screeched out by a portly woman with bright red hair and sky-blue eye shadow obviously meant to camouflage the fact that her eyes look like they were trying to escape from her face.
I leaped into action and immediately fell back to the ground, on account of the leg, then proceeded to hobble over to her desk hoping that my crippled status would inspire some pity.
Me: HELLO (I say too loudly, because you must). I'm married to a French man and therefore have all of the rights of a French citizen. Please stamp this?
Madame crazy-eyes Announcer: CLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAR THE PAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSAAAAAAAAAAAGEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE... THE PASSAGE MUST REMAIN CLEAR INCASE OF A FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRRRREEEEEEEEE!!!! She howled at the non-french speakers.
She said “fire” looking directly at me as if she wanted me to spontaneously combust.
Me: I'm going to start your head on fire right after I pop your eye out with that stamper...
Me: Hi. I'm here to get this stamped. Will you stamp it for me please?
Stamp-wielding Hag: Here. (gives me a different number)
I took the number like it was a countdown to my death and sat down next to a man with a funny hat who smelled like soup. I began wondering if the best way to kill myself would be to slit my wrist and write "I Hate You" on the sticky floor as the life drains out of my veins, or tape a photo of the Minister of Immigration with a bull’s-eye on his head to my chest and jump off the roof. Just as I was reaching for a knife, they called my new number. My time had come.
After only seven excruciating hours, I was declared ‘legal’ for another six months.