As you read this post, I am soaking up sun on a beach on the Spanish Mediterranean, lazily stretched out on a towel with a good book. Or I'm on the same beach running after Le Petit and doing my best to keep him from eating too much sand. Either way, I'm sporting a sexy new pair of Givenchy sunglasses that I fought for tooth and nail with my insurance company.
In March 2007 our car was "visited" and my sunglasses stolen, and it took me over a year to
work up the nerve to try and get them replaced. In theory, it was surprisingly easy: when I went to the optician, I learned that my insurance company would pay for a new pair with no questions asked and I wouldn't even have to go back to the optometrist.
In practice, I ended up facing down the monolith of apathy that is French customer service. There was some sort of a mix-up when I came back from maternity leave between my primary health insurance company and the company that handles my optical and dental coverage. The latter couldn't find me in their computer system.
Naturally, when I called one company, they sent me to the other. I was placed on hold, passed from person to person, and told to call back an hour, a day, or a week later. Yet for once, I did not give up. Every time I called I patiently repeated my story, although suspected I was recognized immediately.
"Ah, c'est encore vous!" I'd hear from an amused voice on the other end.
The petite américaine who's been calling about the same subject for weeks? Yes, that would be me.
I had plenty of opportunities to practice my best bureaucratic French as I explained, pleaded, and menaced, to no avail. I spend days with their insidious hold music in my head, a cheesy elevator remix of a pop song with a chorus of "I never meant to hurt you, I never meant to lie, so this is goodbye." Perhaps they did have a sense of humor after all?
Just when I was about to give up and send a certified letter of complaint, the arm of choice when waging war against The Establishment here in France, something miraculous happened.
The clouds parted. The computer systems communicated. And after so many tries that my optician began to laugh at me when I called, the reimbursement went through. I now have one fabulous pair of sunglasses, and just in time for vacation, too.
(Picture me pushing them up on my forehead, and with a provocative smile, winking in triumph.)