A city maman and I were bemoaning the difficulty of getting kids to after-school activities on Friday. She’d ditched her car and opted for the bus to avoid the nightmare traffic after the bridge fire to get her kids to the swimming pool on the Ile Lecroix. I had got caught out at the bus terminal on the way back from the cinema with no ‘liquide’ (cash) and an inoperable ‘credit card’ ticket machine and spent the journey back musing how well I was doing installing honest values into my four children, all the while ‘fare dodging’ my way back home.
So it was that city maman whispered in my ear something about ‘famille nombreuse’ and 10 free bus rides and I set off to investigate.
When I arrived at the TCAR bus-line office, there was a queue as long as the traffic at rush hour. Once I had put myself in said queue, I spent a good ten minutes scrabbling about in my bag for stray and unplanned bits of ID in the hope that by the time I reached the desk, half an hour later, I wouldn’t be spat out in disgust. Everyone knows that France is the land of red tape.
I spent a good ten minutes analysing the staff and had just come to the conclusion that with a certain amount of eyelash fluttering to the lone male, in the absence of passport photos, I might still succeed to get my free tickets, when I noticed him banish another woman in the direction of the door. After that I was laying bets on which woman looked the most compassionate, but the odds were still on being directed to the man.
As it was I did get a woman, and very fortunately the one furthest from the queue, which meant we were able to be conspiratorial together without fear of being overheard!
It turned out that for everyone who had never registered for a ‘Card Astuce’ – the rechargeable bus and metro travel card, and thanks to the now defunct bridge, TCAR were offering free ‘membership’ and ten free travel tickets per head. This meant I would save 18€50 per head. What’s more the membership lasted 3 years and gave me discount 1/2 price travel for my rediculously large family for the entire duration.
I was a little concerned when she asked me which school my kids attended – it was a French school wasn’t it? I was just thinking that I was about to fail by some obscure criteria, when it emerged that she had an english friend with several children moving to Rouen who needed some advice. Blog address handed over, I reckoned that the ‘Carte Astuce’ was ‘in the bag’.
The crunch point came when she asked if I had photos. I had a few dog eared one’s for two boys, and ripped the third off a defunct swimming pass. When I announced that I didn’t have one for my husband or myself, she waggled a web cam in front of me, and conspiratorially took a photo of me before I even had time to smooth my hair. For my husband she managed to scan off an old identity card. Within a few minutes all the cards were done.
I left the office hugely impressed that in the wake of a minor local disaster the city pulls it’s hand out of it’s pocket to give a few freebies to sweeten the ride.
So there you have it. Red tape? Paper work ?
What red tape? What paper work?
At least I won’t be arrested in the company of my children next time I venture onto the metro!