It didn’t start as a tale of misery and it probably won’t end up in one, the middle part is all a bit woeful though.
In France, there is a medical examination you have to go through if you are on a longer stay visa. It is called OFII (Oh-fee) and seems to be basically there to make sure you aren’t going onto the countries health system with an expensive disease. This has to be done within the first three months and mine was going fine until the day of the appointment. Letter received, documents available, perfect….
I set out early, caught the metro, walked to the OFII centre and arrived an hour early which was lucky because there was already a large group of people crowding the door and a line of roughly one hundred and fifty stretching up the block. I didn’t really understand why they hadn’t staggered the appointment times more but hey, not my country. I even checked that it was the line for OFII when I joined it. It was, so all was well.
That was until four hours later. Four hours of slowly making our way towards the door as people left and I assumed went through the OFII process. Four hours of holding my bladder in the cold with no where to sit and no shelter. And really, thank god it didn’t rain or snow. People would have frozen to death.
I think I was about twenty people from the door when people started appearing asking for numbers and shoving into line. I looks like this line happens so often that the people have created an unofficial system so they don’t have to stand in it. Basically, when you join you get a number and then you can return at any point to retake your place. I didn’t have a number. I also don’t like unofficial systems. This caused some stress although nothing serious.
Unfortunately, without giving up my place in the line I was now thirty or forty backwards meaning that it was a waste of time to continue as at the rate we had been going that would have taken another four hours (and that estimate included the advances from the people who had left). So I gave up, said goodbye, and started walking home.
But, I thought I should ask the man at the door just how I was supposed to keep my appointment if I couldn’t get the door. He didn’t speak English but with my broken French and his patience the conversation went something like this.
“Give me your paper…..You are too late for your appointment!”
“I am not late. I have been standing in line since 8:30am.”
“You have been standing in line? This appointment means you can walk right in. You are too late. You will have to book again.”
And so here I am, having wasted most of my day freezing my butt off for nothing. I did feel a little bit cocky when I managed to make my way through the rebooking conversation though. That feeling disappeared when my girlfriend called them and I found out I hadn’t booked myself an appointment at OFII for 10:00am tomorrow. They just wanted me to rebook the appointment after 10:00am tomorrow. 🙂