After two inspections, another technical certification and some minor modifications to the car itself, Antoine and I took The Hybrid for its final inspection. It was near Paris in a little town called Montlhery. When we passed the gated checkpoint, complete with ID review and name tags, we were instructed to hand in our cell phones. They placed a semi-permanent sticker over the lens of the camera to prevent you from taking photos of the property. This was strange given that we were basically standing in an empty parking lot. When I asked why, the woman explained that car companies regularly bring their concept cars through there and they had to be certain that no one could photograph them. It seemed like overkill to me but…whatever. When we finally arrived at the inspection station, we were ushered into a waiting room. Not much detail had been given to me regarding the appointment so I was shocked when they told us it would take almost 4 hours to complete. La Vache!
An unexpected and frankly unwelcome surprise, there was absolutely nothing to do on the grounds so we decided to get some lunch in town to kill some time. It had started to rain lightly. We returned to the security station and inquired about the surrounding area. The young lady told us that there was a small town at the bottom of the hill. When we told her of our plans, she gave us a skeptical look and cautioned us that it was a REALLY long hill and that we should probably reconsider. But of course, me being me, I was like ‘Ehhh no big deal we’ve got 3 hours to kill. It’s not a problem.’ She said ‘Ok’ but I am certain she thought we had no idea what we were bargaining for. Turns out she was right.
We headed down the hill. The descent was rather steep. As we continued to walk, the rain became more intense. By the time we reached the bottom, twenty minutes later, it was pouring. Halfway down we considered turning around since neither of us was in possession of an umbrella but I didn’t feel like walking back up the hill in the rain. I thought: ‘The town can’t be but so far away. We can just call a taxi to take us back.’ When oh when will I learn?
At the base of the hill, there was a highway intersection and a small walking bridge. We had reached the residential section of the area and still no town in sight. Until this point, the neighborhoods were somewhat industrial with a lot of rundown houses lining our route. We had to make a choice; We could turn back now or continue on with no idea of when we would reach the center of town. We still had over 3 hours to kill so I voted, despite the crappy weather, to carry on.
Picture this: Walking down the street in what seemed to be an abandoned town -mostly because the residents, unlike us, had enough sense to stay in the house in this type of weather- Antoine in front with his hands in his pockets, shoulders slumped over, rain dripping off his baseball cap, drenched. We were a sight to behold. (Sorry for the lack of visuals here but you know – concept cars.)
When we finally reached the town, we had exactly two choices: a tabac and a pizza shop. I am not a fan of tabacs. They tend to be dirty and this one was no exception. And as you know, I don’t care for the French version of pizza at all. There was no cafe, no restaurant, nothing. Ugh. After checking the area a few minutes more, I had to accept the fact that this was it. So we went into the pizza shop and sat down. At least it was warm and dry inside.
After we finished eating, I went over to the young man behind the counter and asked him how we would go about calling a taxi. He looked at me and laughed sardonically. ‘There are no taxis here. There’s nothing here.’ Bloody hell. I felt sorry for him. He seemed distinctly unhappy with his life choices.
It took us about 45 minutes to walk back to the inspection station. They were just finishing with The Hybrid when we arrived. It passed with flying colors (After only a short 8 months.) All that was left, was to petition France to allow the car to matriculate.
The news arrived a few weeks later. The Hybrid was good to go! This called for a celebration. Jayne and Antoine accompanied me to Midas where the new plates were printed and installed. Quick explainer: In France, you are given a matriculation number and the plates are printed on-site at the auto shop.
The plates were installed, and the champagne was on ice. After all the work, we had finally done it! But knowing what I know now, I’m not certain I would do it again.