2. Herewith an account of my latest passage at arms with the bizarre French banking system. Susie and I have a bank account in a French bank, BNP Paribas, which we opened in the big Place de l'Opera branch. [Never mind that in order to gain the right to give them my money, I must maintain an 8,000 Euro savings account in the bank that I may not access.] We need this account because all our bills for the apartment are paid in Euros -- electricity, condo fee, taxes, telephone, cable, internet, insurance -- but all of the Americans who rent the apartment for short periods when we are not there pay us in dollars. There is a BNP Paribas branch in Place Maubert, across rue Lagrange from the cafe, and it even has an atm machine outside where my Bank of America card works. So that is fine.
However, periodically, I must deposit Euros in the account to cover the on-going costs of maintaining the apartment. I do this by taking Euros from the atm, and then entering the bank and depositing them in the account. Simple, right? As if!! Three days ago, after accumulating a little horde of 2000 Euros [I can only take about 600 a day from the atm machine], I walked into the bank to make a deposit. Now, I had a problem, which was, I admit, my fault. I had left my bank book at home, and hence did not have ready to hand my account number. But I had my passport, and I figured that with some fractured French explanation, all would be well. Good luck. The lady behind the counter told me that I would have to go to the branch at which I had opened the account to carry out this transaction. They are branches of the same bank, but that seems to count for nothing.
So, Susie and I took the metro to Jussieu, transferred, and went to the Opera stop, which -- it being the ritzy part of town -- even has an up escalator [but not a down escalator -- one can try the legendary French bourgeois penuriousness only so far.] We went in to the bank and asked to see Mlle Phincth, who, it seemed, was on an extended lunch break. She could see us in an hour and a half. So we crossed Place de l'Opera [always a risky operation] and sat in the famous Cafe de la Paix, drinking kir and watching the traffic go by. [I logged ten different bus lines passing through the Place -- extraordinary.] At 3:30, we were ushered in to see our conseillier. I counted out my 2000 Euros, and was then told that I needed the atm withdrawal slips, to prove where the cash came from. Of course, I hadn't kept them. Who does? This one time, she would make an exception, since I had my passport, but the maximum amount of cash that the bank would accept in any case was 1500 Euros. She took me to a teller, who led me down a flight of stairs, and through two locked doors, to a secret room [where downed American fliers were hidden from the Nazis in WW II, maybe?], equipped to receive -- cash. Back through two locked doors, up the stairs, and finally I was given a receipt. But it was made clear that BNP Paribas did not approve of cash, and in the future all transactions would have to be electronic.
Marx was too pessimistic, thinking it would take a revolution to overthrow capitalism. If he had only been a bit more patient...
3. I have committed myself. Today, at the market, I bought four pounds of beef, cut up into large cubes, a healthy portion of lardon, reduced to cubes, enough mushrooms to sink a canoe, carrots, leeks, and a lovely huge bouquet garni, and I am ready to try my hand at a true French boeuf burguignon. This will either be a spectacular success, or the largest pile of unusable detritus I have ever accumulated. I shall report on the outcome of the experiment.