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WTF Moments August 11, 2008

Posted by gordonwatts in life, Marseille.

IMG_1355That isn’t what you think. “WTF” is abbreviated as “Welcome to France!” — but is basically the same. My wife discovered this coined on David Lebovitz’s blog. He is an American who moved to Paris back in 2002 – a pastry chef. And he frequently writes about how strange France can seem to an American (see his post on 5 great business to open in France – we have have experienced all of them).

Our building here in Marseille is about 100 years old. It has a spiral stairway that accesses all five floors. A very small elevator is installed in the middle of the spiral and carries people up and own. Much to the consternation of us occupants, it has a tendency to stop between floors. Since it does get stuck every now and then, the few moments when the doors open between floors and you aren’t sure they will close again can be a bit nerve wracking. Last time the stuck thing happen the elevator guy came by. I explained, in my broken English, the problem. He fixed it apparently. That was several months ago. Last week, however, he ran our buzzer and came up to talk to Paula. He explained why the elevator keeps getting stuck: the workers in the business that occupies the 3rd floor apartment smoke too much. Hmm… My wife finally worked it out that they use the elevator so much that some key bit overheats, expands, and causes it to stop between floors. Not that he would replace it, but he did come all the way out to the building to inform us…

Banks are weird here. In the USA they are much more consumer oriented. For example, our ATM cards all have a limit: no more than 350 euros per 7 days. France is much more of a cash society than is the USA, so 350 in a week can sometimes be cramped — but no problem, we have two cards, and we can each withdraw. So unless we are traveling this has never been a problem. But… it turns out… lets say you try to withdraw 200 euros. It fails. So you try again and you manage to get out 150. The next day you try to get out another 50. Nope — you are over the limit! You go to the bank and complain! They look at the ATM record and tell you that you’ve withdrawn more than your allowed 350. After you direct them to look at your bank account they agree that the first 200 euros wasn’t real. Will they fix the ATM card so you can withdraw? Nope – sorry — you have to wait until Saturday!!



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