This shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s had to deal with a French fonctionnaire:

A recording of an emergency service operator mocking a young mother, who died hours after her call was ignored, has sparked outrage in France.

Naomi Musenga, 22, called Strasbourg’s ambulance service with severe stomach pain and said: “I’m going to die”.

“You’ll definitely die one day, like everyone else,” the worker replied.

The woman eventually called another service and was taken to a hospital but died after a heart attack. The health minister has ordered an investigation.

In the three-minute audio, Musenga – in a very weak voice – appeals for help and struggles to describe her pain while speaking with the ambulance service (Samu).

The operator, apparently in an annoyed voice, replies: “If you don’t tell me what’s going on, I’ll hang up!”

I don’t know if the operator was employed by the government, but I suspect he was poorly paid, unmotivated, badly trained, and a member of a powerful union. During the experience I recounted here, the woman in charge of the department I was dealing with quickly adopted the attitude of a petulant child who knows they are immune from repercussions regardless of their behaviour. She was quite young but already bitter and jaded, wielding her allocation of power with callous indifference to those relying on her department to do its job competently.

For French and foreigners alike, dealing with such people is simply part of life in France.


6 thoughts on “Fonctionnaires

  1. Ha ! Try getting an ambulance in Kent, it’s like negotiating peace in Korea.

  2. Can’t help noticing the other thing, though. Musenga isn’t exactly one of the ancestral family names around 67, is it. Remember something was in the papers when my french wife was still the current model. One of France’s vibrant community had turned up at the hospital on the point of giving birth. Insisted on being a tad too ethnic about aspects of the procedure. Was told, if she felt like that, better go somewhere else, then. Ended up dropping the newest addition to France’s cultural diversity on the pavement outside. Problem now solved, they’d admitted woman & wailing newborn. It was certainly a small point of discussion in France. Or at least amusement.
    Which is the point about the french.Overt racism is neither uncommon nor widely condemned except in the more progressive circles. Watching the police dealing with a gaggle of Roma women beggars outside Lille, Flandres rail station one morning was notable, not so much for the liberal use of riot sticks & long hair as a useful handle for dragging but the way passing french completely ignored the proceedings.
    So the question is, not what the BBC is reporting, but has this made any better than page 8 in the french press?

  3. “You’ll definitely die one day, like everyone else,” the worker replied.

    Call emergency services, get an existentialist philosopher. Only in France.

  4. I thought the same as BiS.

    An unfortunate accent may have cost a life. A pure French accent would be treated better.

    My experience of the French is that they are efficient, though rarely with a smile, if you are yourself properly prepared. I prefer that to smiling inefficiency.

    An Australian we knew stupidly complained about someone at the local Mairie. After that they made sure everything was twice as difficult as it needed to be. She once had to refill a form because she’d used black pen. Meanwhile I got what I needed no problem because I didn’t expect the fonctionnaires to be polite to me.

  5. Call emergency services, get an existentialist philosopher. Only in France.

    Shit, I wish I’d written that!

  6. The French despise fonctionnaires and the fonctionnaires return the favour by being obstructive. My most amusing encounter with officialdom was being caught in a speed trap driving a car with French plates and invited by the gendarmes to climb into the back of their panier à salade to discuss the situation.

    They were nonplussed by my failure to protest that their equipment was faulty and my polite admission that if they had to stop me it must have been because I was going too fast for which I apologised.

    I was urged to drive with greater prudence and sent on my way.

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