France – July 2011
I. Saturday, July 2
I have to say that I like the Paris metro system. Unlike its London counterpart, it is more spacious, better ventilated, and less hectic. The performers often found in London tube stations actually board the trains in Paris, offering a song for a stop or two. London trains always seem to cramped for this to ever happen.
That said, it does lull one into a false sense of security. This is a foreign city with every tourist a potential target for pickpockets—some young, knowing they will only get a hand slap if caught, and others earning their living this way. I will blame it on being road weary for inexplicably putting all of my travel documents and money into my travel wallet this morning (something I would normally never do) but, whether young or old, I made someone’s day today.
It is an odd sensation realizing that you have no money and no identification. It is also an odd sensation calling credit card companies from Paris while waiting to be called into a police station to file a report, which is needed by the consulate to get a temporary passport. And here I thought turning forty would be uninteresting.
II. Sunday, July 3
I wake up in the middle of the night with a horrid realization: While Paris does not celebrate the July 4th holiday, the American consulate does. As it’s the weekend, this means the soonest I can go in is on Tuesday the 5th, not Monday the 4th, which is also the day of our train ride back to London. Of course, this is assuming I can even get into the consulate without any form of ID. I eventually fall back asleep only to wake again with another realization: If I can login to my work email and get access to a printer, I had to send a scan of my driver’s license to HR a few months back for some forgotten reason. Thank you, senseless bureaucracy.
We spend the first part of my birthday retracing our steps along the metro system from where I last saw my wallet to when I discovered it missing and asking if anyone had turned one into lost and found. We both knew this wouldn’t be the case, but it felt like something should be done. And it kept my mind from focusing on the various Draconian ways I was imagining pickpockets should be punished should such punishment be left up to me.
III. Monday, July 4
In the morning we head to a photo studio were I can get some passport photos taken and make a dry run out to the consulate. I had called the consulate on Saturday after my passport was stolen and was surprised that I was unable to report it stolen. I understand that I could not get it replaced till they opened again the following week, but would have at least thought they’d like to know the number of a passport that had been lifted. Instead I was sent to their website to download paperwork that I wasn’t sure at the time I’d be able to print.
IV. Tuesday, July 5
It’s an early rise to arrive at the consulate by 7:45am to be first in line. Fortunately, our hotel had allowed me use of their computer and printer, so I was able to print my scanned driver’s license and consulate paperwork. I’m called from the waiting area to my first window around 9:00am, where I turn in the paperwork I had downloaded along with my police report and am asked to explain my situation. I’m sent back to the waiting area before being called to another window where a more official looking official has me go over my story again in greater detail. He seems satisfied and sends me to another window to pay the fee and submit my passport photos. Then back to the waiting area.
Many more people have arrived by now and I begin hearing similar stories to my own being told. Can’t hear everything being said, but can make out “metro” and “pickpocket” spoken repeatedly. By 10:15am I’m called to my last window of the morning and am handed my temporary passport. I’m told by the last official that had I arrived an hour later, I probably would not have gotten my passport in time to catch my train.
So it’s back to the hotel to gather our bags, then off to the train station to board our afternoon train. It’s an uneventful return to London, though the immigration official in London does give my temporary passport an odd look as one usually only uses one to enter their home country. “Paris metro,” I say and she shrugs, knowingly.
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