Friday, May 11, 2007

I'll be good

Well I had better be a Really Good Girl from now on, because if I'm bad, when I die and they turn me away from the Pearly Gates, Hell is bound to be a place where a) there are bugs that make you itch and/or b) you have to do international banking transactions. And Tantalus will be there, exacting revenge, laughing and dangling reading glasses just out of reach.

Oh, dealing with bank accounts. And transatlantic bank accounts. Ugh. I admit that I am not the most organized when it comes to paperwork and finances -- it's that oh-so-artistic ADD streak in me. Deadlines? Why yes, I love them. In fact I cling to them like a life buoy. Need an adrenaline rush to get focused? Well, sure, so wait until the VERY LAST MINUTE of that deadline to assure total panic -- the more panic, the more adrenaline.

So I'm in adrenaline up to my scalp follicles right now.

I have to call Major Financial Institution in US this afternoon to wire transfer a small amount because I've overlooked a teensy little health insurance issue which will expire today if I don't get it done. Another reason to be good. And healthy. We love insurance, yes we do.

So I get on Skype, call the MFI at some amorphous location and go through the voice mail steps, shouting IDs, PINS, my mother's maiden name, everything but my dress size into the Skype headset. The cloying female recorded voice says, "I'm sorry; I didn't get that." Again. And again. Finally I break on through to a human being.

A young account rep (his voice hasn't even changed yet) named Gary tells me how to request the transfer. Patronizing and silly, he ends every statement, "'kay?" and jabbers on with queries about life in Paris. After endless inane chats while we're on hold with his supervisor (who was busy with college applications, I think) he informs me that --oops, his mistake! --in fact I have to send a fax, that it can't be done on line. Thanks a pantload, junior.

I look at the clock. Oh, god. It's now 8 pm Paris time and my beloved copy/fax store around the corner is closed.

Desperate, I search on line for other fax places in Paris. Les pages jaunes -- no help. Finally I Google it and find out that the Poste at the rue du Louvre (the one that's open 24 hours) has fax service. God, okay. I grit my teeth, jam the papers in my bag, grab my Navigo pass and am about to head out the door when the phone rings. I almost don't answer it. But I think maybe it's MFI changing their minds.

It's my friend Mary, calling from Montmartre.

After exchanging pleasantries I explain my quandary. Mary, who knows all things Paris, muses, "Don't most cyber cafes have a fax service?" (This is why God blesses us with friends. This is why God sends a little voice to answer that telephone call even though we're in a tearing hurry. Right now I love Mary so much -- she has saved me from a premature hours-plus journey to postal purgatory.)

Bingo. There is that B@byconnect internet center around the corner, where all the kids hang out to play video games. Worth a try.

I hang up and barrel out the door. Round the corner. B@byconnect is open! My saviour.

The very friendly attendant seems relieved to have someone over the age of 15 to talk to. She tries sending the fax. No go. Tries again. No go. Needs me to come listen to what the voice is repeating on the other line. Ah, familiar English: "Your call did not go through..."

Grabbing my belongings, I storm back to the apartment in order to call baby Gary and give him a scolding and to get a fax number that works from abroad. I reach the corner, rummaging for my keys. I left them, of course, at B@byconnect. Swing sheepishly by to scoop them up, then back to the apartment. It is now raining and gusting, blowing my umbrella inside out. By God, I'm taking the elevator up to the flat. No self-righteous keep-fit stair-climbing in this saga.

I clamp on the headset and call MFI again. Same log in, IDs, PINs, voice-recognition misunderstandings. Only this time the machine asks for my account number, too, and the date that I opened the account. This time I get Indira in India. She is sweet but vaguely unintelligible, and totally unsure of call-center protocol. Next we mercifully switch to a worker-bee apparently in the US: Clark. He's much more senior, must have graduated early this year.

Another fax number. Another reference number scribbled down. Back to B@byconnect. They are warm and welcoming. They are quick, efficient, saints. Please, someone: canonize them tomorrow. The fax goes through. Cost: 3 euros. Sympathetically she offers that they are open until 1 am tonight. God, so if all else falls into the money merde, I can always go back? And back. All is done. It is now 10 pm and I can come home and rest. Oh, and fix dinner.

So from now on I'll be Really Good. I promise. I have seen a glimpse of where Bad People go, and I don't like it one bit.

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