You Meet the Nicest People in a Bar

I was chewing on an immense magret from a steroidal duck and washing it down with Coop wine when an old friend from past visits came in and I immediately launched into my insurance saga.

“This is wrong. I can help you.”

He went to another table, talked with one of the men, and returned with a business card.

“Franck can help you. He says it’s not a problem. Just go to his office Tuesday morning.” I bought him a beer, but I had seen enough to withhold optimism until Tuesday.

So I rented a car for the drive to Tours to visit with John and Mary Priest and family for a lovely weekend of good food, great wine, and better friends. Returned Monday and quickly fell asleep only to dream of losing all my money. Totally wiped out. Everything.  No explanations. Just gone. I awoke with the pigeons and checked my bank account which was intact but the news did not significantly lower the level of anxiety.

I went to see Franck. As I was driving the road leaving Maury, a truck coming in the opposite direction flashed his lights at me, the signal that the gendarmes had set up a check station just ahead. Visions of the guillotine danced in my head, but I was allowed to pass. Made it to St. Paul without incident, Franck welcomed me and turned me over to his colleague who would fix me right up, no problem. She echoed his optimism but unfortunately her computer was down and she could not process my request, but no worries, she’ll take copies of my paperwork, and when the computer is fixed this afternoon, she’ll do a quote and call me. Right, I’ve heard that before. I took the long way home. By five o’clock, my fears were confirmed, I turned on yesterday’s Giants’ game and poured a glass of wine.

I called the US Embassy and found out that France has driving reciprocity with only a few states and California isn’t one of them, so they will not exchange my license. I have a year in which to go to driving school and take the test for a new French license. But there was no reason that I couldn’t get insurance in that time. It was up to the companies. There’s no law against it. I called Franck again and his colleague suggested I give her a mailing address so she could send me the quote. She’s eight kilometers away but how long would the post take?

“I’ll come to your office.”

“You will come? OK. I will call the company after lunch—it was almost 10 AM so I guess there wasn’t enough time before lunch—and then you can come. Four o’clock?”

“OK. I’ll be there.” She didn’t ask and I didn’t offer the information that I’d be driving my uninsured car to her office.

The country cousins have come to visit my pigeons but they don’t seem to have much to say. Their voices, limited to a single long whooooo, argue ineffectively with the locals.

Woo, wooooh, wuh. Whooooo

Woo, wooooh, wuh.

Whooooo.

I talked to Michel who said maybe I could sell him the car and when the new registration was complete, he could put me on his insurance as a second driver. The French just live for this stuff. There’s a workaround for every bureaucratic obstacle, but I could only see reams of paperwork and months without a car. I told him I would go see Franck.

They were both smiling when I arrived a few minutes before four, but I didn’t expect that to last and, indeed, when she turned to her computer, a shadow passed across her face. She asked me what level of coverage I wanted, then swiveled the monitor to show me the options and rates. This was progress but the numbers were not a reason to smile. I decided to go for the all-risk coverage, the highest number on the board, and while we’re at it let’s throw in the 24-hour roadside assistance. That brought a smile to her face: “It is best.”

Then the smile faded as another potential obstacle loomed. “You have a French bank?”

But I had this one covered. Not only do I have a French bank account, I knew how much was in it and I had the numbers with me.

She put the green official coverage form in her printer but then turned back to her monitor and shook her head. This, I was sure, was the disaster I was still expecting. But she simply removed the green form, printed out two copies of the contract, handed them to me for signatures, printed the form, and smiled. “You can drive.”

Poof. Anxiety gone. I wanted to kiss her. I wanted to kiss Franck. I settled for handshakes and the most profuse expressions of gratitude I could muster in French.

©2017 Ron Scherl

3 thoughts on “You Meet the Nicest People in a Bar”

    1. To be fair, Karl, she may have thought I wouldn’t be so foolish as to drive without insurance and the bus may not have made it before lunch. But – probably not.

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