As if a disintegrated vertebra wasn’t enough to deal with, JC’s annual end of term accident throws us back into the maelstrom of French administration, with its arbitrary video game rules. Joy, another spring interseason spent leaping over fiery pits and avoiding cartoon bats in order to collect enough bits of paper to beat Dr Robotocrat and gain access to the pot of gold.
The first sign that all was not as it might be came shortly after he was wheeled into A&E equipped with nothing more than disreputable underwear and a mobile phone, and lacking a Carte Vitale or any other useful piece of identification. Note to self: get colleague with sewing business to construct an ID pocket in his pants. Or possibly have the vet tattoo his details inside his left ear a la the cats. Not that you can actually read their expensive tattoos without suffering serious lacerations, but you have to assume that he might have the sense to let medical staff look in his ears without trying to claw their faces off.
Fortunately I know his secu number more or less off by heart (no I know this isn’t normal, but in my defence you can work most of it out as long as you know what the numbers mean), though it didn’t do me a lot of good since it turned out that while he was registered on the system, it said he wasn’t entitled to any care. They’ve probably blocked his account because they haven’t got a bit of paper, the helpful reception lady said cheerfully. Without bothering to tell us. This explanation – ridiculous though it clearly is – has the ring of truth about it, so since they seemed quite happy to treat him anyway without demanding a briefcase full of cash up front I wandered off to lurk in the waiting room.
Having got my application for unemployment benefit out of the way over the weekend (all done online, suspiciously simple), I got together all the likely looking bits of paper and trotted off to the CPAM on Monday morning. Ah oui, says the nice lady, this is because he irresponsibly packed in that job he had two years ago and we have no further record of him. Which is a bit baffling given that he has been paying the usual small fortune in social security every month, but what do I know.
Nice lady assures me that hospital treatment will now be covered and I will not be smacked with a bill likely to necessitate selling the house. And certainment he will be entitled to sick pay, but unfortunately non, yet again I do not have the correct pieces of paper. One of them I have at home (lesson – next time bring all the paper in the house including cats vaccination certificates, washing machine receipt and shopping list) and the other is a thing which needs to be filled in by his employer.
Unfortunately employer is the RATP, so all pieces of paper are dealt with by their HR department in Paris, which my previous experience of HR departments everywhere suggests is very bad news indeed. I’m sure there’s a reason why HR is always staffed by retarded chimpanzees with an attitude problem, but I have no idea what it might be. On top of this, local RATP boss clearly has no idea what the procedure is, looks blank when presented with the relevant form and – most alarmingly – puts the official arret de travail carelessly on a pile which looks suspiciously as though it might be destined for the bin. Oh I’ll send it all to Paris, he says, don’t worry about it. Hmm.
Might as well give everyone the benefit of the doubt though, so I turn my attention back to the Pôle Emploi, who have decided on a belt and braces approach to unemployed wasters this year and want me to complete a paper copy of the form I already filled out on their website. I was tempted to print out the one I already did, but cunningly they had made several miniscule changes and would have spotted the subterfuge, so I had to do it all again and bung it in the post, only to have it rebound on me three days later because I hadn’t written my name in a very small box through which someone had helpfully put a staple.
Further waiting about and much financial haemorrhage later (lace-free footwear, home nursing, ambulance, yet more Haribo ….) the whole lot comes pinging back to me with a highlighter-covered letter telling me in a long-suffering fashion that I haven’t included the paperwork I got following my previous contract. Well, no, admittedly I didn’t do that. Quite possibly because a) they didn’t ask for it and b) they have never asked for it on any of the previous four occasions either. I wait with bated breath to see what they might want next. My ASA Preliminary Swimming Teacher certificate, perhaps. Or the one which claims (inaccurately) that I can fence with a foil.
Meanwhile, back at the RATP, we discover that the HR department consits of a director who signs the letters, a machine which answers the phone, and one woman who presumably does everything else. Ah oui, she says, we have many bits of paper here, but not the arret de travail, an essential bit of paper without which the whole process will grind to a halt. I knew he’d dumped it on the bin pile.
But when confronted with the awful truth, local RATP boss is adamant that he sent the thing in, to the extent of (allegedly) ringing HR himself and extracting a grovelling apology from them for mislaying it. Personally I suspect he spent half the evening desperately dredging through the communal poubelles and then ironing it and Tippexing over the food stains before whacking it belatedly in the post.
So we continue to hang about the house compulsively checking both e- and snail mails in the vain hope that eventually we might have the wherewithal to pay the mortgage and feed the cats without being reduced to selling our bodies on the streets of Bourg d’Oisans. Can’t see mine fetching much, but JC has scrap metal value if nothing else.