Those of you familiar with the ongoing saga of my struggle to obtain a French driver’s license may just want to skip to the end of this one. For the rest, here’s the situation: apparently, you have one year after receiving your French residency permit to exchange your American license for a French one. This was information that no one shared with us, so I assumed I could just exchange it whenever I wanted, as long as the American license hadn’t expired yet. That seemed logical. I was wrong. So very wrong.
I waited too long, and now the French government considers my American license invalid. And an invalid license means that if you get into an accident, your insurer is under no obligation to pay for any damages. So, in layman’s terms: not cool.
Johann’s grandfather pleaded my case to various local authorities (he’s kind of a big shot around here) who passed it up the chain of command. At one point, one thoughtful civil servant even called to tell us that although the decision was not up to him, he had seen a case like this before and everything had worked out just fine. He assured us that our request was headed up to the regional prefecture and that everything would be okay. He was wrong, too. They said no.
So now I have to study for the French exam (and in French, because they don’t produce any study materials in English). Remember how much fun it was to study for your driver’s test? Well, it’s even less fun in a foreign language, let me assure you.
And it’s not something you can take a “wing-it” attitude toward, relying on common sense and your many years as a licensed driver to guide you, because many of the rules make ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE AT ALL.
Here’s a little something I just learned: let’s say you are driving down a country road that is a “no passing” road. And on this road, you come up behind a farmer on his tractor. Are you allowed to pass him? What if the farmer is on foot and leading a large herd of sheep up the middle of the road? Can you pass then? What if you encounter a person (who may or may not be a farmer, this wasn’t specified) on a motorcycle? Can you pass him? What if the motorcycle has a sidecar? (Because, you know, you see sidecars so often these days.)*
Here’s the scoop: you can’t pass the farmer on the tractor. You can pass the farmer with the sheep. You can pass the motorcycle, but not if it has a sidecar. I don’t know what’s permitted if there’s a sheep in the sidecar. That wasn’t covered in the DVD study guide, but I’m sure the French have a law either allowing or strictly forbidding it.
Now I know it’s been many, many years since I last had to take the driver’s exam in the United States, but I don’t recall there being a lot of SHEEP-RELATED questions on it.
I’m in way over my head, here, people.
* This is sarcasm.**
** Well, duh.