Public services in France, like most countries, vary in quality and accessibility.
This advertisement in Annecy displays the faces of local public servants — lovely smiling faces, like Sebastien’s, above. Just last week, I had a positive experience at the Annecy prefecture (council), where the new kid handed me the forms I needed without making me to take a number for the queue, then complimented me on my spoken French.
However, that’s the first positive experience I’ve had at the prefecture, with most visits taking longer than expected: someone once jumped the queue and took my spot, and the reception lady always tuts about incomplete paperwork, then gives in with a sigh when I insist I have everything listed on the official paper in front of her. Twice, I’ve arrived to find a sign that says the office is closed due to exceptional circumstances. Opening for those four-and-a-half hours per day is too long, perhaps?
Sebastien here is probably sneering, thinking of ways to make a simple request from the member of the public into a week-long effort for that person.
But that’s just the prefecture, and I do feel for public servants who have to answer the same old questions day in, day out. So what’s the excuse for La Clusaz?
The ski resort opened for the weekend of 1-2 December due to so much snow, and they had the busiest opening weekend ever. They must have expected a similar situation last weekend after more snow fell during the week, so you’d think they’d get the roads as clear as possible the night before, then start work early in the morning to remove the overnight snow. Yet the roads were clogged not only with snow, but with snow-clearing trucks and tractors which caused a hold-up of traffic through town before the lifts had even opened. Carnage continued outside the town centre, with the roads so poorly cleared that a truck was stuck on a corner near the La Balme ski area, and cars lost traction on the alternative route up, blocking it too. No worries: the top section of La Balme never opened, and the bottom section opened closer to 11am than 9am, and those waiting couldn’t even access the few other areas open because the Fernuy lift didn’t open until after midday. But the (non-public service) ticket office were still charging people €28 for a day ticket. Safety is obviously a priority, so piste closures were inevitable, but if you’re advertising an early opening to the public, at least prepare all the roads before 9am, and offer a price that reflects the limited skiing options.
That grin on Sebastien’s face is perhaps his relief that he had to work on Saturday morning instead of navigating the roads in La Clusaz. Wait; the prefecture isn’t open on weekends either. So, well done to the person who put this poster up. It’s now soggy and flaky, which seems like the perfect advertisement for public services around these parts.