You know you're in big trouble whenever a French bureaucrat says this to you. This particular form of "let me explain" is not meant to be helpful, but rather to establish who is in charge: them, never anyone else.
On Monday, March 1, Monsieur J and I went to the préfecture together with our passports and our newly delivered livret de famille, a booklet that proves you're married and where your children's names will one day be inscribed. Evidently this was all we'd need to obtain my green card equivalent. Ha!
Now keep in mind that I'd gone to the préfecture several weeks prior to find out what was expected of me given that I would be marrying a French citizen. I asked all the right questions: is there a dossier I need to complete? What documents are required? Do I need to schedule an appointment? Non non non, just come with your husband, your IDs and the livret de famille.
Per usual, I got all of the wrong answers.
When we arrived, there were 50 people ahead of us in line. The last equation I ever understood in math class went something like this: distance equals rate times time. 50 people = 12 people x 60 minutes, or a roughly 4 hour wait. Super. We promptly abandonned ship and found a bookstore nearby where we bought road maps of the Pyrénées, guidebooks and a few postcards to send to my nieces and nephews. Anything to distract. As predicted, in our hour away only 12 names had been called. What can I say? I spend a lot of time here, I know the drill.
When it was our turn to approach the troll at the counter, I had everything ready. We briefly explained the circumstances; she asked for my papers; I forked them over. She then asked Monsieur J for his ID and he slipped his passport across the desk. This is where things got ugly. Then there was a rapid fire exchange between them en français that went something like this:
Troll: This is NOT a valid form of photo identification!
Monsieur J: Is this a joke?
Troll: I do not appreciate your tone of voice!
Monsieur J: No really, I honestly thought you were kidding. It's a passport ma'am...
Troll: And let me remind you that there are fake passports out there!
Monsieur J: umm, ok?
She then proceeded to present us with a dossier to fill out, a laundry list of documents we would need to present in original and photocopied format on the day of our appointment on March 25th. Is it just me, or did I already ask about all of this circa late January only to get a completely different answer? In retrospect, make that a non-answer.
At least now Monsieur J understands why I have to curl up in the fetal position after dealing with these people. I'm not an emotional midget, it's just the rampant incompetence, I promise!
In the meantime, I'm still incredulous that a passport is considered the ultimate form of photo ID in every country except France. Typical.
1 week ago