Or, Kelsey’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
A few weeks have passed since this day, and I think I’ve finally sufficiently recovered in order to write a post about it NOT full of spit and vinegar, like this post ended up being when I wrote it the same day the event happened.
Okay, so all non-EU assistants have to have a medical appointment to validate their visas and receive their carte de séjour, or residency card. But before that, you have to have your long-stay visa, your proof of entering the Schengen Zone, your justicatif de domicile (lease, utility bill, etc.), and a bunch other stuff. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again- the paperwork to work in France, particularly for the French government, is insane!! But that wasn’t the issue. I had all the necessary paperwork and once we got there, the appointment went fine. They even had me translate from French to English for an girl who didn’t speak French 🙂 but getting to the appointment was the issue…
If I remember correctly, the appointment was at 2:30, and it was at the Rectorat for the Académie de Nice waaaay out of town. I had been asked to babysit that morning, so I agreed to babysit until noon. David and I decided to take the 12:20 bus from near our apartment, based on what the Lignes d’Azur (the public transit system here) app on my phone told me when I put in our starting location and destination. The mom didn’t get home until like, 12:07, so I ended up having to RUN about a mile to the bus stop in order to make it, but I did, so all was good. We had to change buses once in Nice, and were slightly worried because our connecting bus was a few minutes late, but it did come and we got on it with no issues.
The problem started when we had been on the bus for maybe 20 minutes. I knew what stop we were supposed to get off at, according to the app, and that it was many stops away, but after awhile I decided to check our location on Google Maps on my phone, compared to where we were supposed to be. Well, Google Maps showed our location as way past where we needed to go, and getting farther away! David and I had a quick discussion about what we trusted more, Google or the Lignes d’Azur, and Google won singlehandedly. We got off the bus at the next stop.
So we were basically stranded outside of Nice, near many busy roads (like interstates), but not many buildings or ANY public transit around… what else to do but start walking? I figured out the direction from Google Maps, and we set off, talking about our options as we went. By this time it was probably around 1:45 or so. We thought a taxi might be an option, but we didn’t know what company to call or if they would be able to pick us up ASAP so far outside of Nice. We considered getting back on the bus, but none of the stops we saw would take us back the way we needed to go. We saw a hotel and hoped there would be a taxi there or that we would see one on the street, but no luck. We stopped at a store and got the numbers for some cab companies nearby, but none could help us. We decided to just keep walking.
After we left the store, the only road we could take to go where we needed to ended up being an interstate-type-thing. It didn’t have a sidewalk, really- some parts, there was a paved slope next to the road that we walked on, and in some places we had to walk on the shoulder. Dangerous, I know, but we had no choice! It was SUCH a ridiculous situation, and as the minutes passed our appointment time got closer and closer then eventually passed. If I had been alone, I probably would have been really upset/stressed/crying, but having someone with me helped a lot. Honestly David seemed a lot more angry/stressed than I did… I just kept laughing at how ridiculous the whole thing was. Plus, I wasn’t TOO worried about being late for our appointment because 1) I knew that many assistants had an appointment at 2:30, so it would take awhile to get through us all, and 2) another assistant whose appointment was the week before was like an hour late for her appointment and it turned out okay.
After walking for awhile, we were like, we can’t do this anymore. We tried to get off the interstate, but weren’t sure if the road we took was going to take us where we needed to go. I started mulling over the idea of asking a random old lady in a McDonald’s or grocery store parking lot for a ride. The Rectorat wasn’t too far away by car, but it was going to take us forever to walk it, and by this time we were already probably about half an hour late. I honestly probably would have approached someone but David was like, “No, people don’t do that here, don’t do that,” so we just kept walking. A few minutes later we saw a used car/rental car place and David was like, “That’s it. I’m renting a car. I am being completely honest right now.” We weren’t even sure if he would be allowed to, so I was like, let’s just go talk to whoever is inside working and get directions.” Right as he opened the door to go in I was like, “If you need me to turn on the waterworks, just give me a sign.” I was totally intending on getting them to offer us a ride to the Rectorat, by crying if I needed to!
We found the door to the used car lot office and it was dark inside and at first we couldn’t see anyone, so David just poked his head in and asked if they were open. They said they were so we went in. There were two middle-aged men sitting there, one behind a desk and one in front, just chatting. David, since he’s better at French, explained how we were lost and trying to get to the Rectorat. The guys were like, oh, it’s just a couple of kilometers right down the road, it’s not far. David was like, “But there’s no sidewalk…” and the guys were like, sure there is, it’s just on the other side! David didn’t really know what to say after that so he just kind of awkwardly looked out the window, and one guy said to me that I looked tired. I saw an opportunity, so I then stepped in- literally, I think I took a step forward, because I had been hanging back and letting David speak!
I started talking and let myself get a little choked up… not hard, considering the day I had had so far! I told them (in French, of course!) that we were Americans, that we had this doctor appointment to validate our visas, that we were already really late, and that if we didn’t get there we would have to go home (no idea if that’s true or not). The guy in front of the desk looked at his friend, grabbed his keys off the desk, and was like, “I’ll take them.” SCORE! He was really nice and gave us a ride to the Rectorat. We chatted the whole way and when we got there I gave him some cash. He tried to refuse it but I insisted. See, good people do exist! Just gotta turn on the tears 🙂
This might sound like a happy ending… not quite yet. He dropped us off at the wrong Rectorat building, so we got directions from a woman working inside, but the correct building, while not far away, was NOT easy to find. We ended up stopping and asking for directions several times, including from a police station and from a guy working in a cafe who was NOT happy to help me at all. We were almost an hour late by this point so we were sprinting around trying to find the right building. Eventually we found the right one- in order to get to the elevator (the office was on like, the 6th floor or something), we had to go past a gate marked for deliveries only! Dumb. But we made it up to the right floor where many of the other assistants were and checked in. Many of them were still waiting to finish their appointments so it wasn’t a big deal. Almost everyone had trouble finding it so we all commiserated while we were waiting.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the appointment went fine, I translated for a girl who didn’t speak French, and I got an awesome chest x-ray to take home with me. In case you were wondering, no, I don’t have tuberculosis. I know you were worried. After David and I made our way home (WAY easier than getting there), I got some sushi to eat and enjoyed it in the comfort of my own home and sweatpants. I guess my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day ended up all right after all.