May 31, 2016

That's One for You, Nineteen for Me

Been awhile...sorry about that. 

Today is the day that, I thought, taxes are due in my region of France. As we aspire to be responsible human beings ("aspire" being the key word), I dived headlong into the FrInternet this morning, convinced that, after more than a few weeks here, I would be able to decode the government mumbo-jumbo and decipher the different acronyms and, well, pay my taxes.

As is her wont, France guffawed at me, leading me down a trail of imprecise advice ("enter your fiscal number, which is different than your ID number," "you must pay online" with a link to a .pdf form that cannot be completed online, a series of phone numbers that I can call for help [billed at the cost of a local call] where pressing "0 for the operator" leads back in a vicious cycle to the original welcome message...). Eventually, perseverance -- the most important character trait in any governmental dealings, here or in any modern state -- paid off and I had a human on the line.

Pascale was lovely, telling me that I had done several things wrong so far, but that I shouldn't worry about it. She gave me the number of another office closer to my hometown where they would be able to help me. She even looked up the direct line for me, prompting me to say, "And people tell me that French public servants aren't helpful!" We laughed, and I told her that I, too, had worked in government at home, and that Americans largely shared the French's opinions of government workers, but that I knew, like Pascale did, that folks work hard, even when they are on the taxpayer dime.

In Beaune, at the correct number, a woman cheerfully explained to me that she would need to send me documents to fill out. When I expressed mild concern about the supposed deadline of today, she chuckled and said, "It's your first time, Monsieur. You couldn't possibly have known what to do. Do not worry about; we'll help you figure it out."

It feels like a remarkable accomplishment for a day, and it's only 11. Naturally, I cannot write anymore right is time to start preparing lunch.