Monday, April 14, 2008

Deep Country

The other day Eric and I set off to see the doctor for our medical exams for the mariage. Even though we’ve been in France over a year, we have yet to choose a doctor which is what those websites about moving to France tell you to do immediately, but they’re obviously intended for people who are organized. Which we’re not. But thankfully we’re healthy so it hasn’t been an issue until now.

Though from what we saw at the doctor’s offices we tried, it would be awful to be sick around here and searching for a doctor. We’ve all heard about the wonders of the French healthcare system and I’m sure it’s true but out in the countryside things can still be a bit...country?

We spoke to one doctor in the next village over and she said to come by on Friday morning. We found the building, and when we walked in there were just three unmarked white doors. That’s it - no signs on any of them. Well, one had a photograph of children lined up at a urinal, so that turned out to be a toilet. Okay, that’s one down, we thought. One of these other doors has to be a waiting room, right? So we took a chance and opened another door and there was a patient and doctor having an examination.

The doctor admonished us to go to the other unmarked room which turned out to be a closet-sized waiting room, unventilated, full of eight or so people sitting uncomplaining and staring at us through the foul, fetid air.

I’ve been in some pretty low-class clinics in the Lower East Side of Manhattan back before it was all boutiques and cute coffee bars but this was really bad. I had to get out of there immediately. We tried another doctor in our village, thinking we could at least try to book an appointment and it wasn’t much better. Airless, with magazines several years old. And a harried-looking doctor sticking his head out to survey the victims, I mean patients.

We left and set off in search of lunch, realizing we’ll have to get some doctor recommendations from friends, and fast. A veterinarian might be better.

To shake off this defeated feeling we thought we’d try a nearby restaurant that we’d heard was good. They have concerts every Saturday night and we’d been thinking it might be a good place to play. But when we pulled up the parking lot was empty, and there was a sign on the door about a death in the family.

At this point I was getting really hungry and cranky. I wanted to complain about the emptiness of the countryside, how it was impossible to get something to eat, or be spontaneous, and how going to the doctor could make you sick. Not to mention the continuously lousy weather. And then I felt guilty for being so selfish, when here this family were off at a loved one’s funeral, and all I could think about was how it inconvenienced me.

We crossed the river into a village we’d never seen before and miraculously, there was a café open. We ordered steak frites. Rather, that’s what the proprietress told us we could have.

Sometimes I find myself holding on so tightly to expectations and ideas of what things should be like, I can almost forget to enjoy the real experiences that are going on. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies but I have these images in my mind of lovers on a ride through the French countryside stumbling upon a charming restaurant. This place wasn’t exactly charming. They were playing Alan Jackson. There were a lot of bad paintings hanging on the walls and the bathroom had an enormous poster of a chimp with a laptop sitting on a toilet.

But there was a drum kit and keyboard set up. We talked to the owner’s husband and it turns out they have live music, and chances are we’ll play there soon. The food was good.

And then we saw this rainbow...

6 comments:

Rosie said...

It's taken us a long time to find a remotely civilised doctor. The one we have now is not too bad but is so very shy that he can hardly speak. French doctors are taught not to allow anyone to leave the surgery without a prescription for their own bodyweight in drugs, to justify the price of the consultation...

Le Tigre in France said...

The first time I went to a French doctor it was in a housing comission! I assumed this was French healthcare. 'So this is socialised medicine' I thought. THen the next time when C tried to take me there his office was closed (thank god). We went elsewhere and waited in a lovely room of modern furniture, up to date magazines and even a little fountainy kind of thing. The only difference was instead of two patients ahead of us, there was two pharmacutical reps! I'll go to him from now on because I was actually really happy with his prognosis and I didn't have to wait in a cramped room with 20 people in a housing commission. I guess it takes some shopping around..

Can't go wrong with the steak frites!

screamish said...

yeah, what is it about waiting rooms? They're designed to make you the incubus of some pustulent plague infection.

The magazines in my local doctor's are mainly bullfighting ones and rather graphic.

I dont need to see images of bloody pain and suffering and a severed bulls ear while I'm waitng for the doctor...its all very alarming...my french medical experiences seem really good OR very bad...

amy said...

Well, we asked around and found a very nice doctor a few villages over. The waiting room is fine with a good selection of magazines(nothing on bullfighting unfortunately but I've learned all there is to know about Carla Bruni).

Function of Time said...

I don't have a doctor and this experience of yours makes me not want one.

Michele said...

You know how people over use the "lol" thing - well, I am not kidding, a big guttural laugh leapt out of me when I read this:

"This place wasn’t exactly charming. They were playing Alan Jackson. There were a lot of bad paintings hanging on the walls and the bathroom had an enormous poster of a chimp with a laptop sitting on a toilet."

Oh my God!!!

Yeah, that'll kill those romantic expectations.

Your story reminds me of our trip to France when my mom was living in Roanne, about an hour from Lyon. The outskirts of town were very pastoral. The town itself was pretty charming (I couldn't believe they had a McDonald's!). But when looking for food in Roanne, my husband and I were clueless about where to go so stumbled into some bad places: One "cooked" pizza in a microwave right in front of us. And another was a Mexican restaurant. I know! What were we thinking? The burritos were made with goat cheese and the margaritas came in shot glasses.

About the doctors there, my mom has found some doctors she really likes. I hope you do too. The ones you went to sound scary.

Love this photo. It looks almost unreal its so beautiful.