Today I accompanied Marc to the impound lot to retrieve his van because he had been stopped a few days earlier at a stop sign that he had not respected. The offense earned him the last points on his license: immediate withdrawal and van confiscated by the police.
As Marc is working for me at the moment – he has been redoing the plumbing in my bathroom and the masonry of other rooms for several days – and his van is his work tool, I offered to go and collect it with him , in order to avoid paying for each additional day impounded. We left by transport and during the journey, he told me a little part of his life, with an embarrassed smile and a few shrugs of the shoulders.
Marc was born in Haiti. There, he lived with five brothers and sisters, surrounded by love but above all raised by nannies because his parents, traders, were often absent. One day, long before Marc was born, his father was the victim of a burglar: while trying to defend his house, he received a bad stab. The wound, poorly treated, took ten years to slowly kill him. Marc was sleeping next to his father when death arrived. In the early morning, the little boy shook his dad in vain to wake him up. Then it was Marc’s arrival in France with his mother. He was 12 years old and left some of his brothers and sisters behind in the country.
He hadn’t told me much more when we arrived at our destination. We walked down the sunny street to the impound lot where his van had already been for a week (around €180 to pay). A smiling young blonde woman welcomed us, took a look at the paper given to Marc by the gendarmerie and shook her head: no question of giving me the keys to the van because it was not my name written on the minutes. At the time of the offense, the police had probably asked Marc who would be the person who would come and collect the vehicle with him. Taken by surprise, Marc had given the name of a friend, not mine obviously. So, although Marc was the owner of said van and my own license was perfectly in order, the young blonde woman firmly refused: we just had to leave on foot. Unless said friend immediately sends a duly signed email, accompanied by a copy of their identity card, authorizing me to collect the vehicle in their place. At the beginning of the afternoon, the friend could not even be reached by telephone.
We left empty-handed. Marc will have to pay for a few more days at the pound, while his friend travels or another person accompanies him, armed with the precious email authorizing him to act. There remains the problem of the permit: Marc is waiting for a response from the prefecture which does not come, to know on what date and according to what conditions he will have to retake his exam. Sitting in the return carriage, I watched him try to call the prefectural services and only get a series of automated responses. I suggested to Marc to have his wife transport him while he gets things straightened out, but his wife does not have the license.
This is how a small problem can become a professional obstacle, an administrative headache and a financial spiral for a man who does not benefit from the advantages that another person could avail of; for example money, free time, good car insurance, another vehicle, an available and trained entourage, perfect command of French, great ease in life in general…
After our unsuccessful trip to the pound, Marc went back to work at my house, among the rubble, welds and PVC pipes. From my office, I hear him whistling to the rhythm of haunting Haitian music coming from his phone. I initially thought they were voodoo songs, or traditional peasant songs. He explained to me that they were Catholic religious songs: nothing but odes to God and his power. He tells me that these songs help him to see clearly in existence, in his happy periods as well as in his periods of sadness. I think he’s really very religious.
In any case, it takes a long time to complete the plumbing: he is meticulous and is not always aware of deadlines. He likes to be proud of his work and above all, he likes to satisfy his customers with a job well done. Friends who have also dealt with him for work have taught me that if a client complains because of long deadlines, he can burst into tears. I hope with all my heart that it doesn’t come to that.