I just wrote a mail to a friend, saying that, but a few short days ago, I looked in the mirror in Bayreuth and saw a smiling, healthy, cheerful man. I looked in the mirror this morning in Toulouse and noted the rings and bags under my eyes with disgust. In four days, I'd aged ten years, and I feel this way every time I come back to the south after a summer in a country and a town which works. It's been exacerbated this year by the necessity to register my German-bought Audi in France. Exchanging ownership papers and registering in Bayreuth took twenty minutes from start to finish. Here in France, I started at 10am today and won't finish - if I'm lucky - before September 14th. Here's why:
For some obscure reason, the French require a Certificate of Conformity to 'prove' that the car you wish to register is known to the authorities. In a sane world, you would imagine that an Audi A3, now on its third owner and possessing a full service history (I bought it in Germany, after all), would not cause Jacques & Co. to have a seizure. Wrong. I was informed it was 'essential' and that 'nothing could be done' until they were in possession of this particular little sesame. 'So', I asked; 'how do I get one? The Germans didn't see the need, seeing as the car was first put on the road in 2000'. 'You get it from the manufacturer'. Great help. This was after being informed I needed another piece of paper from the tax office (don't ask) to prove something or other. It was free, but it just seems to be there to keep people busy. And frustrated. Anyhow, to cut a long story short, I (finally) found the number of Audi France and they prodded me in the right direction. With any luck, I should receive the thing through the post in about a week.
What drives me insane is that no two people in authority in this country will tell you the same thing. For neophyte car importers, that's a pretty big issue. Why the hell they insist on this CoC (exactly) is beyond me, seeing as their own cars are such shit they fall apart after five years of sink estate handbrake turns and bump-bump parking manoeuvres. In addition, they're so pathologically corrupt they need a piece of paper from a German company before they'll recognise obscure brands and models such as the Audi A3. Once I've finally registered the bloody thing and providing I haven't gone postal by then, it'll have cost me around €300. The price I paid in Germany? €59. One employee of Audi Toulouse even told me I'd have to have a new MOT done here in France, even though the car went through the TÜV in Germany on August 15th. I suggested that might be sufficient, would it not? He replied that 'We were in France', as if they could do a better job than the people who built the bloody car in the first place. Makes you want to puke.
There has to be a victim in all of this, and there was one, I'm afraid. Something else I needed to do today was print off an invoice to send to a company near Stuttgart. The printer, which has seldom given me much hassle, decided its black ink wasn't going to work. I tried printing the bill; no dice. I cleaned the heads. No dice. I tried again. And again. And again. Eventually, it decided the other colours all needed replacing and wouldn't budge an inch until I'd spent f*** knows how much replacing half-full cartridges, just to see the test paper refuse to show any evidence of black whatsoever. After half an hour of kärchering the heads to no avail and having used up my stock of spare ink cartridges I finally lost it and pummeled the printer into oblivion, smashing my fist down repeatedly on its cover, shattering the photocopier and scanner glass, unfortunately under the watchful eye of Fingernail II, who wandered off to Mrs. F and said "Daddy's killed the printer". I tried to explain my way out of it as best I could, the fact it was the result of red mist that had slowly been descending ever since my first contact with the civil service after my arrival from Germany; the fact that the size of our flat is driving me crazy; the smell of the streets; the incivility; the lack of room anywhere and just the fact that I didn't deal with a frustrating situation as well as I could have. In the end, I said, it was all due to a lack of self-control and no excuse I could make will ever divert attention from that truth. There are worse things in life. I can't wait to sell this place and get the hell out. Seriously, it's getting critical. I've just spent three months in places that work, then I come back to one of the world's richest countries and encounter nothing but bullshit and indifference. Stupid, spoiled f*******; do they know how good they've got it? I'd better stop. It's curious: I'm the happiest I've been for months, now that I'm back with my little family, yet my nerves are currently jangling for no more reason than I have to go about my everyday life with people who are obstructive and unhelpful. Life never gets easier, it just gets more familiar.