Thousands lined the avenues of Paris to protest reforms designed to energize the French economy by opening up regulated professions with high barriers to entry. “Don’t touch my notary!” read one banner.
The Wall Street Journal
And so after many years I have returned to Paris from the south of France, where I was banished after I was caught taking an acknowledgment over the telephone. Of course I knew it was wrong in my heart of hearts, but my gut of guts was hungry! I needed the two sous notarization fee. I knew the voice at the end of the line, and thanks to modern technology it was as if the signataire was right there in front of me.
What I did not know was that this was une operation de piqure, or “sting” as the Americans would call it. The League of Notaires had decided to entrap the young competitors who were entering the noble field and driving down fees. France–she plods along behind les Etats-Unis, where even robots are permitted to sign documents in order to facilitate the financing of les mortgages du sub-prime! It is no wonder that our unemployment rate is 10.4%.
But I can stand it no longer, nor can the thousands of notaires provincial like me. We suffer in the sticks; no petite boites de nuit, no famous ecrivains scribbling on marble and wrought-iron tables as they sip their absinthe and their cafes au lait, and also their les pouces (thumbs). We’d like a little culture too!
And so, we have rallied behind former investment banker turned economics minister Emmanuel Macron to break down the walls that keep us out of the exclusive and highly-unlucrative business of authenticating documents. We are trained, rested and ready to go! Me, I have the routine down pat, and pat isn’t complaining one bit. “Is this your free act and deed?” I ask skeptically of every woman who comes before me to sign an installment sales contract for a bidet.
Look at the pussy in that bidet!
Always it is “Oui,” but still I persevere, knowing that someday, somewhere, some woman will say “Non–eet ees pour mon chat.” Ha, ha, I will laugh–ah, that is a good one, mon chere! I will say. But how can I ever endear myself to une femme by falling for such a stupid joke if the government and the notary monopoly will not let me!
I–Emile Miromesnil, the proud scion of a line of notaires that extends back to the Song of Roland, including the flip side, Song of Roland Part le Deux. I had sunk so low that I even considered setting up a black market shop, deeply discounting my services, but I was too afraid–until Monseiur Emmanuel Macron came forth. Him, with his dashing good looks, his white chemise, his cravat de bleu! Ah, we have yearned so long for his coming, just as millions of medieval Francais wandered about aimlessly until the arrival of Joan of Arc, wondering how they were ever going to get out of the fifteenth century and into the sixteenth!
Emmanuel Macron: “I wear boring clothes, so my idees can be . . . how you say . . . ‘exciting.’”
And so we march on Paris, march for the freedom to apply our stamps and seals to les documents importante. The hidebound reactionaries who control the notary-industrial complex, they will do anything to stop our march–hey, wait a minute. Somebody else is marching. It is–les notaires. How can you have a march when the people you are marching on are also at the same time marching on you? It is–how you say–awkward.
“Hey vous!” I hear someone yell, and who should I see but the despicable Guy de la Roquefort, the man who said “J’accuse!” when evidence of my phonarization was presented to the Prosecuting Notary. He then folded his arms across his fat chest and said “I rest my case.” Ha–what he rested was his ample backside on his chair–so smug!
“Yes,” I reply, working my lips into a contemptuous sneer. “What is it vous wants?”
“I want you to high-tail it back to the provinces, where you belong. Paris–the City of Lights–is for real notaires, not rubes like vous.”
I see that Roquefort has enlisted a crew of “supporters,” carrying signs saying “Hands off my notary!” As if, as the Valley Girls of America say.
“Ah, Roquefort,” I say calmly, coolly, “your day has past, and this claque of faux applauders for you fools no one.”
“We are loyal votaries–of our favorite notaries!”
“They don’t?” Roquefort asks, turning around and giving his gang a gimlet eye–and try saying that five times fast.
“No, they don’t,” I say with emphatic emphasis. “Nobody loves a notary, unless that notary does something really special for them, like . . .”
“Like–taking an acknowledgment over the phone?” he says, and his crowd makes a collective “Ah!” at this low jibe, which they express with what is called “the face of shock,” like many another conclusory allegation designed to cut off further debate.
I take his best shot and, like the great French boxer Georges (was there more than one?) Carpentier, merely shrug it off.
“You are so behind the times, so ancien regime,” I say with a debonair laugh. “It is perfectly proper to take an acknowledgment over le telephone–if only you knew how.”
The crowd gasps. “What notarial heresy is this?” asks a striking blond who recalls Yvette Mimieux–the starlet whose name causes one’s mouth to screw up as if one had eaten a lemon.
“It is simple,” I say. “Give me your number.
The beauty hesitates, but Roquefort cannot back down; if he does, he will never be able to hold his head up when he walks into Le Stamp et Seal, the Left Bank bistro favored by notaries.
“Go ahead,” he says suspiciously. “You can always change it afterwards.”
The woman rattles off the seven digits, and I input them in my telephone’s “text message” fonction. “Is this your free act and deed?” I type to her, and when she sees the words scrawl across her screen, she squeals “Oui!” with delight.
“Non, mon chere, you must respond by typing also.” She takes her dainty little thumbs, and slowly taps out O-U-I.
“There Roquefort, see for yourself. A written record–over the telephone!”
He grumbles a bit but there is, as Jean-Paul Sartre would say–no exit.
“Fine,” he fairly spits out at me. “But how are you going to seal your little screen–eh?”
I see that he has underestimated me, and I reach into the inner pocket of my coat de sport to retrieve high-quality, first class gold seal stamps–an essential part of any notary’s kit and caboodle!
“Like this!” I exclaim, and I gently apply a pre-sealed stamp to my new admirer’s telephone.
“It is . . . so pretty–merci!”
“Don’t mention it.”
“But I just did.”
“Once is fine, just don’t make a habit of it,” I say, giving her my studied Jean-Paul Belmondo uplifted eyebrow come-hither leer.
I lean in a bit–hope I don’t have escargot breath, and whisper the words I’ve always wanted to say:
“How about you and me . . . going bidet shopping?”
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