Buying a Sofa Bed & Counting in French

[written by me as entries in a journal about part-time ex-pat life in rural France, and dated September 17 and 23, 2007

My late wife, Linda Kennedy, was on full disability medical leave for treatment of multiple recurrent cancers. I was her primary caregiver, and, aside from these duties I devoted my time to capturing our lives, which Linda had determined we should try to conduct as normally as possible. She succumbed to her disease the following spring, collapsing on the very last day as we prepared to return to Cambridge from what proved to be our final sojourn to our little village house in Haute Provence. I hope it is clear that, until the end, we carried on much as before. There never seemed any merit in dwelling on illness.

I will only add, hastily, that since 2007, I have altered my view of Fiats, especially since their acquisition of Chrysler, which seemed to right all the wrongs. I have even, I’m happy to say, even rented Fiats. They’re as good as any competitor on the road, and actually kind of fun.]

Writing, to whoever is reading this post, from the third floor [deuxiême étage] chez nous, on our new banquette-lit [sofa-bed], which we ordered in June and arrived on schedule this morning. Naturally, it arrived in the midst of a funeral, with a service conducted in the chapel, just across the way. Didn’t faze anyone, the horde of townspeople filling the place (as Rudolf, said, “It must have been someone important, because all of Fox high society was here, but I don’t know which clans were represented…”), or the deliverymen, who just waited until the hearse drove down the hill and the crowd dispersed. It did faze Linda considerably, but she got over it — was afraid of some terrible breach of etiquette, decorum, respect, protocol. Rudolf, said, in addition to his cynical observations, “not at all… we all have to die.”

In any event, this is quite the piece of furniture, which I guess we knew, but it’s so big the delivery guys had to dismantle it and carry it up in three sections to get it up the narrow medieval proportioned stairways of our little house. They put it back in good order, and I was amazed to see up close the feat of engineering the design of this thing entails. It’s designed to be a sofa, or by pulling this out, and pushing that in, it becomes a chaise longue, wide enough for three, and by then pulling this out and those other things back in, it becomes a queen-size bed. It looks like it’s built with about the same level of comfort as our second-best bed (shades of Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway), which is in the guest room, and which all and sundry (well, the four separate sets of guests, seven people in all who have braved the trip in the last six years) agree is one of the best night’s sleep they’ve ever had, even with the chapel bells striking the hour and the half-hour, all through the night, about 80 feet above our heads.

We also incidentally have spiffy new shutters, with a fresh coat of paint, throughout, and some other minor improvements.

We’ll be testing the level of comfort of this thing one of these nights ourselves. Can’t have a guest sleep where we haven’t, so we can attest to the quotient of rest and relaxation, which has always been at a high level. This new acquisition increases our guest capacity by at least one, or two very closely associated (or at least very accommodating) guests. So bear this in mind. No more excuses, or begging off, from you that we “couldn’t have room…” for you so you can’t make it.

Some of you know some of the details, but this trip has been adventuresome from the start. We flew Aer Lingus for the first time (the lure of cheap seats, which may have had something to do with the 50-minute connection they gave us between flights when I reserved the flight on-line on their web site). Turns out two things are true. Airports and airlines set the minimum “legal” connecting time between flights. Not that legal has anything to do with committing a crime by, say, booking transfer that’s only 15 minutes from arrival time to the next departure. Aer Lingus is the official airline of Ireland and Dublin is a hub—so presumably they have made a conscious decision about what amount of time is required between the arrival of a flight from Boston, and the departure time of a flight from Dublin to somewhere else. In this case, the second thing that’s true is there’s only one flight a day from Boston to Dublin, and what’s more, at this time of year, there’s only one flight a day from Dublin to Nice. I figure the fundamental assumption is, if you fly to Dublin, you must want to be in Dublin. Who wants to leave Ireland except for very compelling reasons?

Well, it happens the departure time of the one daily flight this time of year from Dublin to Nice is at 6:20 in the morning (presumably to make it convenient for businessmen who don’t want to stay overnight or for lovers scheduling a nooner at the Beau Rivage Hotel on the Quai des États-Unis, or, killing two birds with one stone, businessmen who also schedule a nooner, and don’t also want to stay overnight and have to make excuses to the missus—or vice versa, if we’re talkin’ businesswomen). The flight from Boston to Dublin is scheduled to arrive at 5:30 a.m. Piece of cake you think, especially with a 150mph+ tailwind (which we had). But you are not taking into account Logan Airport’s well-earned reputation for one of the worst records for on-time flight departures and arrivals in the country, if not the world, or the galaxy. Good thing Voyager I and Voyager II avoided air traffic control at Logan…

The long and short is, we made the plane to Nice, but our bags didn’t. I can’t tell you how we made the plane on time, as we were 15 minutes late arriving, but we were allowed to do stuff you’re not supposed to do inside an international terminal (I can say no more). I also can’t tell you how another guy from our Boston-Dublin flight, with the largest piece of checked baggage I ever saw in my life (about eight feet long, 30 inches across, and a foot thick) also managed to get on the Nice flight 15 minutes after us, and his bag arrived in Nice, and not one of the three bags we had checked arrived.

We didn’t see them again until they arrived at our hotel two-and-a-half hours after we checked out.

Luckily that was only, well, exactly at the hour I had reserved our rental car. Unfortunately, but characteristically, they didn’t have the kind of car (make and model) I reserved, but since the deal is, if they don’t have the vehicle you ordered, they give you a car (or offer you a car) that is in a higher price category first. Ordinarily this is a fortunate thing, as in the past it has meant I’ve gotten to drive all sorts of snazzy vehicles, like an Alfa-Romeo 156 sports sedan, and a Renault Vel Satis, which is kind of like an Audi A6 or a Mercedes C-class sedan, only way uglier and with a name the justification of which no one can explain. Unfortunately, this time, they offered me a Fiat Multipla.


 The dread Fiat Multipla

Now I don’t drive Fiats. Ever. I won’t go into it. It’s too painful. But someday, someday, I will write a book about me and Fiat. Suffice it to say, I think they’re total shit, and I am not ashamed to say it, or to refuse them when offered by an exasperated, if not slightly superior and condescending agent in a Europcar office in the fourth or fifth biggest city in France. So I got to pick what turned out to be, after all, more or less the car I ordered. Except, it had just been returned and needed cleaning. “Cinq minutes, monsieur…où dix” [five minutes sir, or ten…] Never saw a guy use Windex so fast. Then we made a sweep of the outside of the car and noted about 25 nicks, dents, bumps, scrapes, dings, pings, and scratches that had not already been noted on the form that came out of the computer printer. Fine and dandy. By now, me and the mechanic are, like, tight. Talkin’ cars, talkin’ French popular singers… Au revoir… À bientôt… the latter expression means, “see you soon!” I should only have known how soon.

After 20 years of renting cars in France, I know how to check things out before actually getting on the road, before actually picking Linda up with our bags… I turn on the radio. No dice. Not only that, no sound, a lttle static maybe, but a message on the dash in LEDs, that spells out CODE, which blinks on and off, and the digital clock starts blinking too. So I drive around the block, and drive back into the garage, and tell them what’s what or really what’s not what.

Then I make the mistake of allowing them, with phone calls, and much reference to the diagrams and explanations in the owner’s manual, to try to get the radio to work. They keep entering some code, and they keep getting ERREUR on the instrument panel, and then a big WAIT (actually and literally that, in English… “WAIT” with a “99″ after it, which begins to decrement: 99, 98, 97, only really really slowly, like one number every 15 seconds). I walk back to the hotel to tell Linda what’s not what… and head back to the garage, where the guy is now sweating and reading everything he read before, only more slowly.

In short, you have to enter a code, using three different controls on the dash that are otherwise used for other purposes entirely, that is, when the radio is actually working. And if you do it in error, you have to wait two minutes, while the counter counts down from 99 to 0, and you are allowed to try again. Except for every error, Renault engineers in their wisdom have programmed this “safeguard mechanism… pour securité” to double the waiting time, for every error entering the code. They’ve tried about five times by now, so do the math.

After two hours, one of the not-quite-snotty, but really underneath it all, very nice agents comes to the garage and offers me the Fiat again, but I ain’t buyin’. Is it a plot? Who knows? Who cares? She asks when we will next be in Nice. I say, well, next Monday (when we have to return Samantha, Linda’s cousin, to the airport—oh, did I mention Samantha?). Samantha is our long weekend guest who has been waiting for us at the Nice airport (Oh don’t worry Sam, this all works out perfectly… We get the car at about 2:45; it takes 15 minutes to get the bags, and about ten or 15 to get to the airport… you arrive at 3:10; the timing is perfect).

I agree to take the car with the defective radio. We can’t understand a word they say on French radio as they speak so fast anyway, and purely in slang that was invented last week. When we return on Monday to drop off Sam, we can exchange for another car. Great! We’re on our way. I drive half-way around the city to get around the corner, because they are building a new tramway at a cost of 2.5 billion euros, which they’ve been doing since almost three years ago. So for three years, getting around the corners we have to get around in Nice involves about 3/4 of a kilometer of extra driving through detours of major construction. I pick up Linda and all of our luggage, including our previously errant bags, and we head down the Promenade des Anglais.

It is now rush hour, so it’s stop-and-go, though it’s never very fast anyway because the traffic signals that are placed every two blocks are timed precisely to make you go no faster than 50kph (about 33 mph) if you plan to make more than two lights in a row.  And it’s the busiest thoroughfare in France, I’d guess, outside of the Champs Elysées.  Three lanes wide on either side of a divider festooned with palm trees.  Very tropicale.

I get about two kilometers, and the car suddenly manifests the behavior of a car in very big mechanical trouble. The clutch starts halting, and then craps out altogether. The pedal is on the floor, and not going anywhere useful. With the last remaining momentum, and with the rare good fortune of two clear lanes momentarily on my right, I turn into a side street, and the car stops completely more or less in the middle of a wide passage. We are on the rue Isadora Duncan (which the sign informatively tells you in very tiny type under the name was deceased in Nice long ago).  We are blocking traffic, sort of. Buses make their way around us. Cars make their way around us. Motorcycles. Motor scooters. Soon there is a regular flow of traffic around us as if we had been a fixture planned by the city fathers.

I call the Europcar agency. Oh, nothing we can do monsieur, you must call the emergency number on the folder holding your agreement, which indeed tells you in French and English that if you need roadside assistance to call the “numéro vert” (800 number) listed. I call. I ask if the guy who answers speaks English (seemed like a reasonable question at the time—everything on the agreement is in both languages). But no. I should say, “mais non!” So I explain that we are en dépanne (broken down) and the car is bloqué (won’t run), and he tells me there will be a dépanneur (repairman) to assist me in an hour. I give him the street name, and the proximity to Promenade des Anglais, and he asks what city I am in, and I realize he’s probably in Paris, or Rangoon, or some goddamn place that is far far away, where the radios work, and the cars are all automatic.

We wait and wait.  We call Sam and alert her. It’s now more than two hours since our appointed time to meet and pick her up. She doesn’t mind because she brought work with her (a 145+ page brief she is preparing as her final act as a clerk to a Federal Appeals court judge in the U.S.). She sounds happy.  We are not happy.

Impatient, I decide to call the agency in Portland ME from whom I actually rented the car. It’s the same agency I have used for nine years: courteous, efficient, polite, great rates, relations with all major car rental agencies in Europe, and called, appropriately, AutoEurope. I recommend them highly. Still do.

A supervisor gets on the phone immediately, and in a booming voice with the confidence that only a 20-something supervisor at 11 o’clock in the morning could be expected to use to communicate with a customer so far far away, Scott or Bud or whoever tells me, “excuse me sir, I’m going to ring off, and make a phone call; I have a friend at the Nice airport [a “friend!”— right here in Nice… how fortunate; what a coincidence] and he’ll probably be able to help you.” He can’t see my smirk, so I say, “fine, I’ll wait here,…” a favorite joke of mine, which I have unfortunately had too many opportunities to use. In fact, I don’t know what to think, so I think nothing.

But the phone rings about three minutes later and it’s Scott-Bud, and he says, “I have my friend A.J.on the line here with me…—A.J.?” And a voice with a mild unidentifiable accent—French, a little British, maybe North African or Middle Eastern gets on, and we have a three way conversation. A.J. allows he can get to me sooner than the dépanneur is expected, which is actually any minute now. And he says he’ll be right there.

My mind continues blank.

A.J. arrives in a late model Toyota (no fool this guy), and he gets out, and he is the most wonderful new friend to have. Congenial greetings all around. He opens the driver door, looks at the clutch pedal sitting on the floor, and says, that’s no good. But he squats and puts his hand under it, and lifts it off the floor, where it stays. He gets in, tries the ignition, and drives the car into a parking space we’ve been guarding.

He gets out and we confer. He suggests I call Europcar Emergency Service again, which I do. “Ah non, monsieur, j’ai vous dit une heure et demi…” [oh no sir, I told you an hour-and-a-half —who knew my French was that bad?] A.J. asks if I’m willing to try to follow him, or he’ll drive my car and I his, to the airport, where he can get me all fixed up with another car. I put him on the phone with Monsieur Emergency Services, and we blow him off.

As we prepare to leave, A.J. tells us he’s a Moroccan, in fact, but proudly says he is now a U.S. citizen, which he clearly prefers being. Furthermore he lived in Portland ME, which he loves, for seven years, and San Diego (which we gather he liked a lot less—too much like Nice). A.J. prefers seasons, not the same weather day after relentless day, so boring. I would call him a friend too, instead of what he is, which is an Autoeurope liaison, a supervisor himself, like his friend, Scott-Bud, permanently attached to the airport offices of all the car rental companies.

We actually make it to the airport. He steps immediately and familiarly behind the Europcar counter, kisses everybody in sight on both cheeks. He jabbers quickly to one of the agents and in two minutes, I’ve signed a car changeover form, and I am given the choice of a Ford something-or-other, or a Mercedes. Is she kidding? I take the Mercedes starter thingie which looks like a very thick cartoon key made out of polycarbonate, which apparently has a tiny infrared gun in the front end, which you stick in the ignition port (and turn it, and it starts) of a very beautiful, brand-new black Mercedes B180 (who knows? It’s a Mercedes. We get in and we take it). While Linda watches over the luggage, I walk over to the terminal and meet Sam, who walks back with me, and we drive out of the lot finally, with the radio going full blast.

Now you may think after we tooled off in our Mercedes B180, A.J. waving at us in the rearview mirror (nah, he didn’t, but I’m a sentimental fool, and so are you—admit it), it was all rosé wine and brandade de mourue [a kind of paste of desalinated salt cod—baccala as the Italians call it—made mainly with poached salt cod, warm milk, a lot of olive oil, and a lot of elbow grease, but pure heaven, on freshly toasted slices of baguette]. However, you would be completely wrong.

I may be luxuriating now on the aforementioned banquette-lit in a nice deep terra-cotta shade that for some reason the haute designers of Cinna (the brand of furniture it is, a line sold by Ligne-Roset) call “Zinnia.” I may be basking in the golden, unceasing paradisiacal weather (that my new “friend” A.J. hates) of the Haute Provence. But it has been a queasy ride this trip, my friends, because a free and easy quotidian does not come warrantied with your round trip e-ticket to Nice.

Let’s back up a little. Not so far that I have to ease my spreading butt off this lovely piece of furniture (upholstered in Alcantara: looks like suede, feels like suede, can be washed, and is about twice as expensive as suede), and let me tell you about one small detail I omitted about the process of getting this hefty hunk of seating and sleeping up to the third floor. As in the aforementioned narrative concerning the delivery-men, the deconstruction and reconstruction of our brand new sofa-bed, with the slight interruption of a local funeral, it took a while to get the thing where we wanted it. The third floor chez nous is a cheery, sunny aerie, overlooking my beloved tree out front. It’s a giant tree, a monumental tree, to which I have alluded many times, a tree for the ages—indeed, it is now officially two hundred years older than it was on our last visit, but more about that later. Up here, it is hard to experience care, or want (except maybe wanting a nice glass rosé and a nosh of some brandade on toast). But down there, in the place, where the trucks and cars and motorcycles pass, belching diesel exhaust, with the occasional horse, not belching, but performing other disgusting bodily functions—we’re a favorite diversion for horseback riding schools in the area—down there, Oy! the real world awaits.

It’s the same world you occupy.  The world of bills, and money, and expectations of payment for nice luxurious furnishings, covered in the skin of the mythical Alcantara beast.  We ordered this thing in June, during our last trip. It had taken 18 months to find something we liked, most of that time occupied with discovering not one loophole in the closed path from the factory in Italy of the sofa-bed we really wanted and our little house in the hills above the littoral. We paid with a check-card. You know. Also called a debit card. That fine money-making institution called Fidelity Investments (may they fry in only the finest very hot extra-virgin olive oil from Italy or Greece or Spain; I wouldn’t want to waste fine French olive oil on them) issues it to deserving clients with large amounts of ready cash to fuel their spendthrift acquisitive ways. We paid a deposit on this nice little sofa-bed using our Fidelity check card, and waited for delivery, promised in September. And, as I mentioned, delivered as promised. No problem with the deposit, no problem with the wait, no problem, except a hearse and a funereal gathering, with the delivery.

Then we whipped out the very same card and handed it to the diligent, hard-working delivery men, to pay the balance. Otherwise, they would have marched up here to the pleasant aerie and done the whole deconstruction thing and hauled our new sofa-bed away. The delivery guy hands me his little tiny cell phone and I speak to a disembodied voice who wants me to recite the number on the carte bleu, which is a generic term for credit card, whether Visa or MasterCard, it’s all carte bleu (which used to be a brand and not just a generic term) to them. So I recite the long string of numbers, in French, on the front, plus a few more on the back, plus the expiry date. Now this process, not unknown to me from prior experience, always presents a quandary. The French, in general, seem to prefer to recite long strings of numbers, like phone numbers, credit card numbers, tax ID numbers, bank accounts, etc. ad nauseam, as duples, as we say in music and computer programming. That is, as pairs of numbers, but stated as a whole number. I mean, “87,” let’s say, is 87, not “eight-seven,” that is, a pair of single, primary cardinal numerals. I’m not used to that. Doesn’t matter why. Don’t give me grief. I prefer the laborious process of saying each and every single cardinal number by itself. Those of you who know me well know this is likely, because, and perfectly consistent with my personality, I am an anxiety-ridden perfectionist who hates to be wrong. And I hate going over things. And I hate remembering the slightly flaky way the French count past 16. Every cardinal number has a unique name in French, up to 16 (which is seize, pronounced “says” not “seize,” as in, to grab something in your viselike mitt, for you who are foreign-pronunciation challenged, which includes most Americans). After 16, it’s wild. Seventeen is “dix-sept,” literally, “ten-seven.” And so it goes to 20, which reverts to having its own special single word/name designation [“vingt,” pronounced in this part of Provence, incidentally, as “vang,” as if they know I don’t have trouble enough], but then they revert to the same crazy form. Twenty-one is “twenty and one.” And back and forth in this completely inconsiderate way, though 30, 40, 50 and 60 have special singular names. Seventy is “sixty-ten,” but you could guess that right? Eighty is even crazier; it’s “four-twenty.” Ninety is quatre-vingt-dix [that is, 80-10, or, in French, four-twenty-ten; it’s not something you get used to easily] And so on and so forth. No wonder they invented the leisurely way of life we in America love and hate, admire and repudiate.

So there I am in the village square, pigeons cooing, formerly 200 year-old, now 400 year-old trees swaying delicately in the light breeze, with me leaning on the open bed of a big delivery truck, reciting a string of 17 numbers, grouped as strings of four+four+five+four numerals, or something like that. Who gives a damn. I take it the hard, non-French way. As a laborious set of 17 individual numbers. I reach “zero-zero-zero…” and he says “trois-zéros,” which is French for “three zeroes,” ’cause he’s French and if a Frenchman can take a shortcut, he will, even if it’s down a one-way street the wrong way. And my mind freezes. Of course, he doesn’t know he’s talking to Mr. Going-the-wrong-way-down-a-one-way-street-produces-an-anxiety-attack.

So I say, that’s right (make believe I’m saying this in French, which I was, which you will simply have to take my word for), zero-zero-zero, three-zeroes. And he repeats it. And now I’m thoroughly confused, because those three zeroes are only the first three numbers of a four number sequence.

Unless you didn’t get the idea, this is taking a while. The delivery guys are having a side conversation. One is smoking a cigarette. By now, I want a cigarette. And I haven’t smoked one in 37 years. Not a tobacco one at least. However, finally the number ordeal is over. The guy on the other end is satisfied we’ve got all the numbers right, and then he says the dreaded words, “La carte est refusé…” Now, my friends, you don’t need even the mediocre French education I had (three years in junior high and high school, and a lit survey in college) to figure that out. The goddamn card is refused.

With perfect sang froid, the guy tells me, well it’s a lot of numbers (after I have expressed my incredulity-qua-exasperation-qua-anxiety, not caring if the subtleties of American tonality and idiomatic emoting without uttering an intelligible word is comprehensible to this guy who is being paid to listen to Americans saying in French strings of numbers that are 21 numerals long). Maybe I, meaning “he” (he’s still talking), got the numbers wrong. Let’s start all over again. Of course, bien sûr, swell, I don’t mind, let’s do it. And we go through the whole ordeal, including the whimsical “trois-zéros” motif all over again. Oh God, I hope, I hope, I hope… “Refusé” Goddamn that goddamn Fidelity. Because now I know the dreaded, We Only Do This For Your Security Police are on the job. Of course, France is rife with grifters who commit fraud by paying the balance on a bill for furniture, through a furniture merchant, with a bona fide merchant number in the carte bleu system (run by the Visa/MasterCard cartel, whose mission is, “make the lives of billions of people miserable around the world”) by stealing an American check credit card, with a positive balance in five-figures of our own money to use against any debits on the card. These thieves settle their thieving asses into ill-gotten Alcantara-covered sofas, armchairs, ottomans, what have you, all over France, wotthehell, all over Europe, plus parts of the Pacific Rim, and Africa. In their spare time while relaxing on their ill-gotten luxury suite of furniture, they write drafts of those email schemes, promising you one-third of the $51 million fortune secreted away by President Mugabe, if you will just wire $5000 immediately to cover the costs of handling and shipping all those small bills in unmarked boxes, plus the additional cost of upholstery in Alcantara.

” Do you accept American Express?” I sweetly and innocently ask, knowing full well they don’t. Maybe 1% of the merchants in France, all of them on the rue du Faubourg St. Honoré in Paris, where you can’t get away with spending less than two thousand dollars for a pocket square or a handkerchief, your choice, accept American Express. Why do I even ask? A student of Dr. Johnson, I live a life indeed that is a triumph, as I said previously, of hope over experience.

So I whip out the local debit card we have on our French checking account. We have that so the bank in France that holds our mortgage can automatically pay themselves the mortgage premium, plus mortgage insurance, each month. The account happens to have a larger than usual amount of money because the contractor who has been working all summer on various projects around the house asked me to put beaucoup monnaie in the account to pay him the balance by check when we get here. Only he doesn’t say how much, even when I ask, because, although he’s a native Brit, still carrying a British passport, and although he’s lived here for 20 years with his family, and we love him, and his wife, and we’re getting to be good friends, in all other respects he’s French, and he acts French, probably including saying “trois-zéros,” so why specify an exact amount? And me, being the anxiety-ridden etc. have put a wad of money in the account. And I can pay the balance on the sofa-bed without breaking a sweat, and I recite yet a new string of 17 numerals plus three more on the back of the card, plus the expiry date, and it goes through! Hooray! Vive la France!

My euphoria lasts about 12 seconds because now I have to replace the money I just used that was intended to pay Robin, and that means calling the dreaded wire transfer unit of the Bank of America, but before doing that, I have to transfer the funds into the BofA checking account I will use from, you guessed it! From Fidelity. This I can do on-line. And I do. The wire transfer requires a phone call in real time to a real person, speaking American English, but in U.S. time, and at the moment of my minor triumph it is 5am in the land of the City on a Hill. The transfer can wait. But Fidelity will not.

They don’t make it easy to reach them from a foreign country. Not even from a village on a hill.

It seems the check card, funded by Fidelity account money we deposited, is actually administered by a bank in Pennsylvania. So we call the bank, and with the intent of reaming them a new one (a new what? what do you think? A new banquette-lit…) we speak to a representative, who gets us nowhere, but says we should call back in two hours and ask for her supervisor. We do, but it’s a dead end, and we speak to a new, a different rep, who knows nothin’ from nothin’ and he says he’ll look into it and send us an email (which I know means he’ll do nothing, except temporize, and then tell us, in bankerese, “tough shit” we ain’t going to pay for you to transfer those funds to your checking account in France at the now confiscatory exchange rate of euros for dollars due to the imbecilic policies of our President, I mean Bush, not the president of this fershlugginer bank in Pennsylvania).

And so, to bring this story, which has gone on way too long, to a close, let me wrap it up. We got the email. It did say, tough shit. We also discovered by checking our voice mail at home that the Security unit of the bank, open 24/7 (for our protection) had their computer call and leave a recording, four times in the same day. The last of these automated messages was after the time of our conversation in real time on the phone with a real representative, so they don’t exactly have their, um, stuff together. Which I already knew.

So you tell me. If you have a customer who has used his check credit card repeatedly for travel in France, and you spot what you think is a fraudulent transaction in, well, France, why would you call that customer repeatedly and unsuccessfully in the United States to find out if it’s a legitimate transaction, and if it is, you let it go, except that it’s in France? Must be like one of those French films with a surreal plot, where you end up not knowing which end is up.  Which does give me an idea for a film plot…about how to recite a sequence of 17 numbers in French.

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