I cannot claim credit for this column idea, which belongs to another Rob Curran.
The Other Rob Curran is a gifted writer, a relentless investigator, and a man of great integrity – and yet somehow the French authorities mistook him for me.
In fact, in the vast demi-monde of French bureaucracy, the Other Rob Curran exists as one and the same me. This existence is, he assures me, costly, confrontational and far-fetched.
It all started in early 2017 when the (or my) Curran family organized a big reunion, a week of skiing in the French Alps. Three generations, 14 adults, 13 grandchildren, 300 liters of wine and fondue. You could have made a Christmas card from the group photo, if there had been snow (that white, fluffy substance on our hair is lice shampoo.)
The Currans are not one of those clans who have skied for so many generations that they come into the world with darts on their heels and tan lines on the top of their heads. Generally speaking, when our ancestors got in the way of snow-capped mountain sides, it was to retrieve buried sheep.
The ski instructors at Massif Les Brasses had no idea what to expect: something akin to repatriation of sheep, except with overturned Currans instead of sheep. At least, we thought, the lack of snow had restricted us to the rabbit slopes where, surely, we couldn’t hurt ourselves.
On the contrary. My oldest daughter, Grace, broke her leg in two places on the fake snow.
It was terrible to see her suffer. A little mercy was the scene of the accident. The French have not yet adopted the American version of the Hippocratic Oath: first, to harm financially. The grand total of the medical bill was 215 EUR ($ 255). We had been warned by the ski rescue team that we were also going to be billed for the ambulance, and that’s where the trouble started.
I do not remember having received this invoice. I made a weak attempt to find him, but it quickly slipped out of my mind.
That was it, we thought, on our way home to Texas. Finished.
In a twist worthy of The man in the iron mask or the count of Monte Cristo, my dark secret has come back to haunt me. In May of this year, my wife emailed me, with a familiar “from” line: “Rob Curran”.
It’s me! I was thinking. It was not me, but my double. The author dryly referred to an invoice he had attached from Massif Les Brasses for my daughter’s ambulance trip, which he had “finally” received.
“I say ‘possibly’ because it was after the authorities looted my account to pay your bill,” my duplicate wrote. “It’s been over a month now since my wife and I have had tremors, and let me make it clear to you, discussing this with the French authorities is the last thing we needed here.”
A little bit harsh, the man told my wife that he would expect her to resolve this debt confusion if she was a “person of any merit.”
He signed himself “Robert Curran, another”. I felt like one of those magical realism writers who appear in cameo roles in their own stories. Except this cameo player came up with his own storytelling.
When I shared his email with friends, I expected them to be offended by Other Rob Curran’s tone. Instead, they were in love with his classic vocabulary.
“Looted! A friend observed. “Looks like he dated Oxford.”
It was the kind of response I always hoped to get from a reader of one of my own columns, but I never did.
I tried to meet his rapier-sharp email in kind: on guard, Mr. Curran.
“My dear namesake,” I wrote. “It seems there was a case of mistaken identity. “
“Indeed, there is a case of mistaken identity,” replied the other Rob Curran. “But try to tell that to the French.” Touch.
In this second email, the Other Rob Curran told the story in more detail. He was a regular visitor to France, where he has close family. The French government seized the 305 euros ($ 362) owed for the ambulance from an account in France.
This prompted him to do his own research. From Facebook, documents I had posted about traveling to Europe, and my wife’s public university profile, he was able to piece together what had happened. “I almost feel like I know you,” he said.
When I had not answered my cell phone for a long time, he contacted the person of merit of my marriage.
The feeling that I was living inside a surrealist novel only increased when the Other Rob Curran introduced me to our nemesis in this matter: Monsieur Eric Rondeau. Mr. Rondeau works in an obscure capacity for the French authorities, and he was involved in extracting the money from the account of the Other Rob Curran.
Some of my Texas friends were blown away by my next move. They were convinced that this affair was between Mr. Rondeau and my well-known alter ego. How did I even know the Other Rob Curran wasn’t just posing as a Rob Curran?
I felt bad for my namesake and all the noise it had made for him and his wife. Still, I tried to persuade him to settle the matter with PayPal instead of Mr. Rondeau.
“Hopefully they don’t return your money to a third Robert Curran and then sue a fourth for a duplicate payment three or four years later,” I wrote.
The Other Rob Curran was impassive. It had to go through Mr. Rondeau, he said. He had to clear his name, or at least disassociate himself from my name.
I wrote to Mr. Rondeau in the same light tone that the Other Rob Curran and I had developed in our correspondence: “My namesake was held responsible for this bill on the pretext that he was the father of Grace Curran. . I can assure you that this is not the case (if only because my wife assured me me that she would never have anything to do with Robert Currans).
M. Rondeau was not amused. In dry French, he said he was not authorized to return the money he had seized from Other Rob Curran’s account. (Did we really think it would be that simple?) He seemed reluctant to rule out the possibility that we were part of a Rob Currans criminal league, trying to defraud the government of its legitimate requisitions.
Only the authorities at the Massif des Brasses ski resort could approve the return of the money to Other Rob Curran, and only they could issue a new invoice, Rondeau said.
The case, it goes without saying, is not resolved. My sister-in-law, who is French, warned me that this stage of the procedure could take several months. The Other Rob Curran doesn’t seem to care. He said the case took the shape of a Monty Python sketch.
“Mr. Rondeau described the situation as an” imbroglio “which I found perfect !!” recently wrote The Other Rob Curran. “So it seems to be happening, but in the typical French way, heavy, fun and frustrating. “
Sometimes I wake up at night and ask myself: could we communicate with the wrong Mr. Rondeau?
“Well, sorry we met this way,” wrote fellow Rob Curran. “Perhaps you can sense an article coming.”
Rob Curran is a writer in Denton and the real Rob Curran. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
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