It's 5:30 in the morning, I glance at my iPhone clock not registering that I'm supposed to be up in a matter of minutes. I decide to quiet the alarm, just to close my eyes for a few more minutes. Silence. The alarm blasts, 6:15 in the morning. I'm exhausted and there's a pit in my stomach I know I have to head down to the prefecture in 20 or so minutes. Last time I was too late, I arrived only 1 hour early and the line was shocking. I cried because they turned me down at the door, telling me il n'y a plus des tickets pour les étudiants.
This time I was prepared, I packed a book, a sitting towel, if needed some water and pims. I thought about the 2 hour wait as I gulped down my cereal without tasting it- stones in milk really. Sustenance. I kept thinking about all the times I've had to wait, at airports, in line, hoping it won't be too horrendous.
I decide to avoid the bus. I grab, magically, the only bike available on my street. As if something, somewhere was giving me a karmic break. As I bike I feel the stone grow heavy, doubts creep into my mind: what if there are even more people waiting? What if I'm too late again? What if i'm aggressed while waiting? What if I have to pee?
I park my bike and stride to my destination, there are already 20 or so people lined up, either sitting or pressed against the wall. I pull into the line, spread my blue towel on the dirt ground and take my place. I look curiously around at the crowd, mostly a mix of Chinese students prolonging their visas and asile or 'asylum' internationals looking to stay under the safety of France. We are all miserable, exhausted and bored.
Tell me, how is it such an organized country like France can be so underdeveloped in regards to their visa visitors. No reservations ahead of time, wait in line and fight for a place. Those that come in late somehow get a place in the front, most likely greasing some people who camp out over night. It's truly a gamble- how late can I be until ts too late? One time I was able to get there at 8am and served by 12... It's a variable situation with no alternative. Students, victims of other countries and other such issues are dealt with in one understaffed building in the 3ème arrondissement in Lyon. If the tickets run out you won't be served that day no matter how long you wait.
It's already 28 degrees, I'm thankful they open at 9am. I literally feel the humanity peeling off as I tense up and glare at those passing in front of me.
Finally 9am rolls around, I stand, stretching the stifness out of my legs. The door is having issues, we are blocked outside for antoher 20 minutes.
Inside, I don't get served until 11:00 am. Bri brings me a chilled mocha, I drink at it dazed, exhausted. By the time I leave it has been 4.5 hours since I arrived in the line.
It was one of the worst experiences. Ever.