My life in France is busy. I’ve been putting off picking up my free pass to Pont du Gard for years. Anyone who can prove they live in the Gard can get one.
My friend and neighbor, Rich, said I’d murmured about it long enough. He would accompany me to the Mairie and translate so I could get the pass. He was going to ask for one for himself and Paula, too.
After I made a trip to the Citroen dealer to order a part for my broken passenger window –another French translation nightmare — I was ready to go to the Mairie with an application I had filled out a year ago.
At the Mairie, Rich approached the “lady in charge” in the secretary’s office. He was quickly served with the same paper I had already filled in. No questions asked. Meanwhile, the second “lady in charge” -Estelle- started fumbling with the form I had given her. She promptly crumbled it up and threw it in the nearby trashcan. Then she asked for my “carte grise” (car registration.)
How she knew I could not produce the carte grise is a mystery to me. The only copy I had was a photocopy tucked away in the glove compartment of my car in the underground parking lot (guide). Trying to ask Rich was impossible. He was dead set on submitting his own paperwork without a carte grise, might I add.
Nothing I could say in sign language would satisfy Estelle. I waved and said “avoir” and headed (in the heat) for the car in the parking gide.
When I returned to Estelle, she was starting out the door to have a smoke. Kindly, she turned around and went back behind the desk to “deal” with me. When I handed her the photocopy of the carte grise, she asked for the original. My hands went up to demonstrate “up in smoke.” That seemed to satisfy her for the moment. Until she asked for … as I could figure out … the police report.
Ah! Then it clicked. Estelle thought my car was stolen!
Unable to hide my amusement, I laughed loudly and said, “No, no!” Then I did what I should have done: I pulled out my iPhone and went directly to Google Translate. Telling Google I just wanted a pass to Pont du Gard, I handed the phone to Estelle. She belly-laughed, too, when she read the translation. (Well, as much of a “belly laugh” as the French do.)
With that, she bent over, picked the crumpled paper out of the trash, smoothed it out, stamped it, and then handed it back to me. Deed done.
Estelle joined me as I walked out of the Mairie, almost arm-in-arm. On our way, she said something that I took to mean, “Let’s meet for coffee so you can learn French, and I can learn to speak English.” After agreeing and exchanging our email addresses, we parted. Friends.