So, while I am still waiting for a reconsideration from the prefecture, life has gone on.
When I was working, that was definitely a ‘gray area’ of legality – but now, the only ‘gray area’ is driving. Of course, I am an honest kind of woman, so I wanted to fix that up as well. I went into the prefecture, armed with the advice from the lawyer we had chatted with. The re-enactment below features me and the Driving Permit Employee (DPE).
Me: Hello, I was recently refused a license exchange and I wanted to talk to you about that.
DPE: Let me see your letter
Me (handing it over): Yes, well, I know it says that I am past the limit of a year, but, in fact, I didn’t even get a car until May of 2009.
DPE: That doesn’t matter.
Me: Also, I was never informed of this law when purchasing the car or insurance
DPE: That doesn’t matter
Me: Also, my husband did not get his valid carte de sejour until July of 2009, so we didn’t know if we could actually stay until then.
DPE: That doesn’t matter
Me: Well, I actually lived in the US an entire month last year – here is my mortgage and electric bills to prove it. Can we date my arrival from then?
DPE: No, that doesn’t matter. All that matters is the effective date on your carte.
Me: Well, what can I do?
DPE: Take the French driving test.
Me: Well, I can’t afford that, are there any programs to help people without income?
Me: Well, I need my car. Even if I do take the exam, it takes about 3 months to prepare. Is there anyway I can get a temporary permit for that time?
Me: Well, then – what is the punishment if I drive around with no official license and I get caught?
DPE (looking shocked): You would lose the right to take the French test.
Me: OK, thank you for your time.
I left the prefecture, hopped back in the car and reported the bad news to André. He made an appointment for us to see a lawyer the next week. She did some research for us and found out that, although our International Drivers License's are valid anywhere else in the world – they are not valid in France. So, I am officially an outlaw. However, she did give us some good news. First off, she thinks we might have a case to make since André got his carte de sejour so late. He went in and applied for an exchange – they gave him a temporary license that is good for 2 months (or until he, like me, is rejected). For now though, he is legal. She is preparing a letter to argue my case as well. She also informed us (much to my relief) that they can’t go after our money if we do get in an accident. The worst that could happen is our insurance could deny us coverage and then we have to pay back the damage slowly over time. Hmmm…. seems worth the risk to keep driving to me. For all this she charges 200 Euros. Not much in the scheme of things and definitely cheaper than getting a French license – on the other hand – it might not work, and who’s got an extra 200 lying around?
Mr. Liberty (that’s the name of the car) had been acting funny, so I took him into the shop this morning. Turns out he needs a whole new clutch – for a turbo diesel such as him, that costs about 800 Euros. Needless to say – we will be fixing that car – that car we are driving without a license. We can’t sell it with a shot clutch – that’s for sure.
Well, why not just abandon it? Well, because I need it. I need it to go shopping, to take the kids to activities, to go to classes, and I admit this seems most important of all, to continue to go on adventures. André has a 4-day weekend in May and we are planning on visiting Vienna (yes, sleeping in the car again), and we recently found a villa in Tuscany (with a pool) for only 250 Euros for 5 days in June. We spent Sunday visiting a cave, a waterfall and other fun spots local to us. No car, no adventures, nothing to look forward to. I know, I know, I’m a totally selfish pleasure seeker – so sue me.
So, that’s the latest in our saga – this is going to end up being a book….