Nothing says YOU LIVE IN FRANCE NOW GET WITH THE F-ING PROGRAM more like moving.
Despite the fact that I’ve been in my new apartment since mid January, up until two days ago there was one remaining task on my to-do list: cancel my renter’s insurance at my old address and register for one at my new address.
Sounds simple, right? Wrong.
As a freelancer who never knows when the next paycheck is coming in, back in the States I’d waste hours of my time on hold just to recoup an extra $10 here or there. But in France? Pshaw! Keep charging me €12 a month for renter’s insurance on an apartment I no longer live in. I can’t take the thought of calling to try and fix it.
Why? First, the language barrier. Even basic tasks like picking up a few things at Castorama (the Home Depot equivalent) remain to be an ordeal because I have to ask for things like a door stopper or that thing that goes under the rug to keep it from slipping. Thankfully, I know the words for door and stop and rug, but slipping? I become a bumbling fool trying to make sentences out of words.
The second issue is, you know, administration bullshit because FRANCE. See, here in France, you can’t just sign onto your online account, click “cancel” and end a contract. No. You must read meters. You must send in paperwork both you and your former landlord have signed. You must provide the name of the former tenant to install a phone line. I mean, honestly. It’s such a thing English comedian Paul Taylor dedicated a video to it.
Because of all this, I enlisted the help of French friends and my American friends’ French boyfriends and husbands. They made phone calls. They arranged appointments. They sent emails. They removed doors and hung microwaves. (Those last two didn’t so much require French as they did muscle and actual know-how regarding such things. Holla Pierre!)
Alas, one after another, I hit roadblocks. Or, couch blocks, which is where I’ll begin part deux of my three-part move series.
The Pink Couch Debacle
To begin, the awkward dimensions of my new living room made choosing a couch itself difficult. Because of some ill-placed doorways and slanted ceilings, my options for where to put said couch—and a comfortable one that sits more than two people—were limited. After much deliberation, I chose this Scandinavian-style pink three-seater.
I decided to save some money on delivery by paying a third of the price to have it delivered to the lobby and hiring an outside guy to get it up the six flights. Elvis, the man who moved my things from the 11th arrondissement to the 18th, agreed to do it for €50. It seemed reasonable and was way less than the rate the manufacturer quoted.
On the day of delivery, things appeared to be prepped for a smooth transition until minutes after I received a call from the delivery guy saying they’d be there in 45 minutes, Elvis texted to say €50 is actually for one person and he’d need €80 for two people. Apparently, he thought I’d be helping him. I couldn’t quite compute paying €80 to bring one couch upstairs when I payed €150 to move ALL MY STUFF from one apartment to another (with another person, to boot), so I was left with whether to help him, swallow my pride and just eat the money I thought I’d be saving, or say “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog Elvis!” and figure it out on the fly. I went with the latter.
As luck would have it, the delivery guy showed up with a torn package revealing dirt on the couch’s arm so instead of hauling it into my lobby only to have to figure out how to get it upstairs sans Elvis, I refused it. Sure, I’d have to wait another week (or more) for a new one, but at least I bought myself some time to find someone to haul it upstairs for a reasonable price. And I did—for only €30—thanks to the city-run platform called Lulu dans ma Rue.)
The Cable Kerfuffle
Anyone who’s ever dealt with Time Warner Cable or Cablevision in New York knows how depleting it can be in English, so imagine just trying to get beyond the automated system in French. Thankfully, my friend Lindsey’s husband Ced came to the rescue. After sending him all my account information, he alerted me that since they weren’t able to locate the capabilities of my new apartment—even after I provided the name of the previous tenant, which is AN INSANE THING FOR SOMEONE TO KNOW OR HAVE TO FIND OUT—they’d need to send someone to my apartment. Of course, the next available appointment wouldn’t be until 7 days after I moved in, but they could give me extra data on my phone to use as a personal hotspot. Fine.
I planned the week of my RDV (rendez-vous) around the appointment and its four-hour window. I received various text messages confirming it. Things seemed on task. Then, about five hours before the scheduled window, as I was drinking my morning coffee before leaving to work at the yoga studio, I received a call from the actual cable guy to see if he could come now. I sat there in my robe, flustered by the call, which caused me to trip over my words, misjudge the time it’d take me to get ready and arrive at the studio, and somehow, agree. As soon as I hung up, I realized I made a mistake.
I called back immediately to say this time actually wouldn’t work for me and could he please come at the scheduled time?
He said he was already downstairs.
I said I’m sorry…fumbling for the appropriate words for I’M NOT DRESSED YET and this will take longer than the time I had.
He said it’d only take five minutes.
I said to please come back at the time I scheduled TWO WEEKS AGO. Click.
Then, he buzzed the intercom.
I didn’t answer.
Then he called my phone again.
I ignored it.
I was being harassed by my cable guy! Of course, the irony is that they NEVER come on time, let alone early, and here I was turning him away. I got my shit together and left. As I descended the six floors, my phone rang in my pocket. Eventually, I reached the street and found him in his car. We then proceeded to get into a screaming match during which I tried to say (again) that this was very inappropriate and he’d have to come back at the time I (ahem, Ced) scheduled two weeks ago.
Off I went.
Then I sent him a livid text saying I’d call the cable company (ha!) and cancel my account (haha!) for his unprofessionalism and he agreed to just come at the set time.
Forty-five minutes before the set time, he calls again: Am I home yet?
No, I said I’d be home at X time.
Twenty minutes before X time, he calls again while I’m on the metro.
I AM NOT HOME YET.
(This is all in French, by the way. Though later on my friends told me I should’ve just spoken in English since he likely wouldn’t have understood what I was saying, which would’ve made him feel inferior as opposed to me being the one who sounded like an irate 10-year-old.)
Finally, I reached my front door only to receive another call saying he’s just nearby and suddenly, voila, there he was. We climbed the stairs together in awkward silence. I huffed and puffed and murmured incomprehensible Franglish phrases under my breath. Once inside, he appeared to be setting it up as fast as he could to prove that it would, as he said, only take five minutes. I’d say it took 12. Twelve very uncomfortable minutes. I didn’t have a TV yet so I couldn’t check to make sure it worked, and the internet and phone would take a while to be up and running so he literally left me to my own devices. And that was that.
The Meter-Reading Mess
Before I could cancel my electricity account at my old address and open one at my new address I needed to conduct a meter-reading at both residences. I started the online process as soon as I signed the new lease just after New Year’s by writing down what I *thought* were the proper kilowatts at my new apartment only to realize I was off by a number or missing a letter. It took me three more attempts to get it right.
At my old address, the meter was located in the basement so I had to wait until my landlord could get down there with me since I didn’t have the key. Of course, this didn’t happen until I left the apartment a few weeks later. (Thankfully, my other apartment had electricity and heat. It was just about putting it in my name.)
Eventually, we read the meter and I attempted to enter the numbers online, only I kept getting some error that I obviously didn’t understand because FRENCH and also because NUMBERS so I enlisted my French friend Adeline to help. She called up and learned that the kilowatt usage I was trying to give for my old address was less than what had been recorded before I moved in, which meant they were either wrong or we read the wrong meter. My money was on the latter since when we went down to the basement to look for my apartment’s meter, my landlord appeared to be guessing. Eventually, some two weeks later, she emailed saying she did, in fact, read the wrong meter and sent a different set of numbers, which I then sent to Adeline who then entered them online for me and one account was finally closed and another was opened. GOOD GOD.
The IKEA Crisis
Somehow, all I remembered about IKEA were the meatballs in the cafeteria and the Big Blue Bags. I hadn’t been to one since I first moved to Manhattan back in 2002 so I forgot about the little pencils and pieces of paper and the codes and, oh right, the fact that those little pieces of paper WOULD ALL BE IN FRENCH. Not only was I left to translate the Swedish word for shelf, but also the French word for “aisle” and “row” and whatever else you need to write down in order to find the particular item you like downstairs in the Deathtrap Depot.
But let’s back up. I forgot to mention that IKEA is located outside Paris, which meant that I had to take the free IKEA shuttle (as one does). Which meant that depending on how much I bought, I’d either be taking it back four hours later or calling an Uber.
After touring the showroom a few times, during which I discovered the one item—a desk—that I actually went to see in person was not assembled on the floor, I took a break to eat some meatballs. Then, I gathered a few other odds and ends: bedside lamps, shelves to hang knick-knacks in the kitchen and a rug. At this point, I could’ve taken the shuttle. But then I decided to ask someone about the desk. Namely, where-the-F-was it? From what I managed to make out, it was available to purchase, but it wasn’t on display. I’d have to buy it and then get myself over to this OTHER warehouse nearby to pick it up. (Or I could order it online and pay €75 to have it delivered, which is nearly as much as the whole damn thing. Plus, I was already there!) I decided to give it a go without any idea how big or heavy the package(s) would be.
I waited on line at check-out and sent all my items through before presenting my phone with the skew of the desk to the cashier—as I thought I’d been told to do. Apparently, this was not right. Turns out, I was supposed to have gotten a piece of paper from an associate way back in the desk department. I stood there with a dumbfounded look on my face that said both, “I Think I Understand What You Are Saying,” but also, “There’s No Way I’m Going All the Way Back Through the Showroom Maze to Get That.” Eventually, a very nice IKEA associate came to my rescue. He took my phone and disappeared while I stood there with a coy smile on my face as if to say to the long line of people behind me, “Sorry, I’m American!” Finally, after what felt like a million minutes, he returned with my phone and the piece of paper. I paid, stuffed my things into a Big Blue Bag and stood there trying to figure out my next move.
The nice man suggested calling an Uber to take me from this IKEA to the warehouse and then back to Paris, but I knew explaining in French how to find me in this shopping complex would be next to impossible. It couldn’t be that far, could it? I decided to walk. Cars and trucks whizzed by me, surely confused by the random woman trudging along the highway service road with her Big Blue Bag. About 12 minutes later, I arrived. As soon as I entered the parking lot, I was greeted by a man clearly waiting for sad singletons like myself without a car and another set of hands. He offered to drive me back to Paris—and haul the package up the 6 flights!—for a mere €15. I was a little wary, and texted a friend his license plate before committing, but ended up taking the ride. I obviously arrived safe and sound and I’m now typing this from the desk, which I put together myself and LOVE.
If you’ve gotten this far, I applaud you.
Finally, I present you with the particulars of my last outstanding task: the renter’s insurance. It remained at a standstill because in order to cancel at my old apartment and start an account at my new one, I needed to prove that I’d left, which means that I needed to get my old landlord to provide what is called an “Etat des Lieux,” a document stating your departure date and listing all the things in the apartment and the condition they’re in. Once I finally figured all that out (with the help of Adeline, once again), I had to wait a week or so to receive the letter from my landlord. Up until this morning, it’d been 10 days since I emailed it to the renter’s insurance company as instructed. I knew what needed to happen to seal the deal: a phone call.
And that is exactly what occurred—thanks to my friend Jess.
To be continued with part 3, which will include more photos. Here’s a tease…