Whenever I have to deal with the French bureaucracy, the following lines from the movie Kill Bill always come to mind:
O-Ren Ishii: You didn’t think it was gonna be that easy, did you?
The Bride: You know, for a second there, yeah, I kinda did.
I thought I had almost “won” the right to vote in the upcoming French elections when I received the email from the High Court of Paris inviting me to send supporting documents to prove I was still living in Canada.
However, time was of the essence. I received the email on April 4 and the court hearing—to which I wouldn’t go since it would be in Paris—was scheduled for April 10.
I started digging into my “French paperwork” folder. Carte d’identité, got it. Expired consular identification card and registration letter, got it. Proof of address, got it. I typed a fancy letter begging the court to forgive my absence and explaining my case and I peppered it with the most formal French I could remember and other considérations dinstinguées.
I was still missing an up-to-date consular identification card and registration letter. I emailed the Consulate in Toronto, and since I never got any reply, I called, left messages, called again and finally, on Wednesday afternoon, I reached a human being who promised to email me a copy of the card.
“By the way,” I asked, “do you think I can email the supporting documents to the High Court of Paris? There are only two business days left before the hearing and unless I use FedEx, no mail service will deliver on time.”
“Oh, I’m sure you can,” the consulate employee replied. “Sorry, I can’t hear you very well… sounds like a seagull in the background.”
“A seagull? Uh… no…”
“Alright, good luck, then!”
I was too cheap to use FedEx (the quote was around $80) so I scanned the all the supporting documents, wrote the email, added the attachments and clicked on the “send” button. Then I sighed and smiled, because you know, it feels good to get things done.
Two minutes later, my computer pinged. New message. I clicked on my mailbox and noticed the email I had just sent to email@example.com hadn’t been delivered—you know, the usual MAILER-DAEMON delivery failure notice. Weird.
I double checked the address and opened the delivery failure email, something I almost never do because usually, the issue is a typo in the address and I catch it right away.
I read it. Ah. The issue was the attachment… the server was blocking the attachment!
For Christ’s sake…
I check the documents’ properties but they weren’t big, a few kB each. I tried zipping them—nope, bounced back again.
It was 1 a.m. and I was very pissed off.
New message. It was from my aunt who was waking up in Paris. “What are you doing?” she inquired, like she does most mornings.
“Trying to send a fucking email and get through a fucking server who doesn’t accept fucking attachments!” I replied.
(For the French version, just replace “fucking” by “putain de”—this was your French language tip of the day).
“You know what,” she wrote back, “just send me the attachments and letter and I’ll mail them from Paris tomorrow. With the tracking option, it should get there by Friday.”
“OMG, love you!”
I hadn’t thought of involving my French family in the process because I knew there was no way my mom or my dad would make it to the post office on time. But my aunt is efficient and she works in an office environment where she can easily print stuff.
Indeed, she printed and mailed the documents and emailed me the tracking number. The letter was delivered on Friday.
“Any idea how does the court make a decision on cases like yours?” she wrote.
“Nope. Your guess is as good as mine.”
Meanwhile, at home, Feng found the whole saga exhausting. “Your democracy thing is just so… weird,” he claimed.
“Do you know why I did it?” I asked. “Like, why I even bothered appealing the decision, mailing the documents, etc.? Honestly, if I can’t vote, so be it. I may even end up leaving the ballot blank. But if I stop caring about everything, if I keep quiet when my opinion is asked, everything stops mattering. Voting matters. Defending my right to vote matters. My voice matters. So yeah, I did it just for the sake of it. That’s a good enough reason for me.”
Yesterday, I received an email from the High Court of Paris. Attached was a PDF.
I can vote.
Damn, feels good.