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i’ve always depended on the kindness of cab drivers

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Where we left off: God just pushed me down the final step of the Strasbourg Cathedral stairwell and did something mauvais to my foot.  I’m in the lobby of the Hotel Gutenberg waiting for the doctor.

The doctor arrives.   He only speaks French so we communicate in the language of pain.   He taps my foot, moves it around and I yelp when it hurts.   He tells me he thinks it’s broken (casse) and I’ll need to go for “radio”.    He gives me a couple of pills, makes a few calls and escorts me (okay, drags me), downstairs to get a cab.

After a brief conference with the doctor, receptionist and cab driver, the doctor passes me off to the driver who pretty much holds me upright as I hop to the cab muttering “merde, merde, merde.”  He compliments me on my French.

Somewhere along the way, the pills kick in and I start to enjoy the chauffeured tour of the outer reaches of Strasbourg.   Woah, full moon.  We arrive at the Clinique St. Anne Urgences entrance and the driver gets me a wheelchair.

In the back of my mind, I believe that once I sit in the wheelchair, all is lost.   So it’s either that, dumb pride or that all-powerful feeling you get when floating on a schedule 3 narcotic that makes me refuse the chair.

I hop bravely up the ramp to the door…well, half way to the door.  Fortunately, the cab driver has the foresight to follow me with the wheelchair, providing a comfortable place to collapse.   He wheels me the rest of the way in.

off to get an X-ray

being chauffeured to my X-ray

I sign in, give them my insurance card, fill in a form and somebody pushes me to the waiting room.  I’m not sure, mais je pense I’ve been parle-ing fluent Francais and understanding tout ce qu ils disent.   Yaaaay!

There are a few people already ahead of me, so I fear a long wait.  Five minutes later, my name is called and I’m wheeled into x-ray.   An intern takes a picture of my foot and tells me to wait for the doctor.   Gotta love French healthcare.

In another few minutes, the doctor comes in and introduces himself as David.   Not Doctor David, just David.   Maybe he’s a night janitor.  I don’t care.  He’s cute.  He confirms that oui, my foot is broken and I will be getting a cast up to my knee.  Honey, you can put that cast as high as you want.

Then a horrible realization hits me.   I’m wearing skinny jeans.  There’s no way I can fit a cast under them.  I’ll have to take them off (well, at least one leg).   I haven’t shaved my legs.   I need a pedicure.   Dear God, what underwear am I wearing?   What will I wear back to the hotel?   What will I wear home?

After the cast is put on, the intern devises a lovely outfit by jauntily throwing the empty pant-leg over my shoulder.   She cuts some gauze as a belt and fashions a skirt out of a paper scrub top.   I feel like I’m on Project Runway. Fortunately, I have no photographic evidence of my one-of-a-kind look.   I’m pretty sure Tim Gunn would be mortified.

My cab is waiting, and I’m faced with a new dilemma.   In France, the hospitals don’t give out crutches, they’re prescribed.   It’s 8pm and god knows how I’ll deal with it.  It’s times like this I wish I was married.   Not that my husband would be of any use to me.   He’s probably back at the hotel watching football. Bastard!

bad

evil crutches

The cab driver, lady at the registration/incoming wounded desk and I discuss the problem and the next thing you know, the taxi driver makes a few calls, finds an open pharmacy and we’re on our way.

The pharmacy is in a huge complex set back about 30 meters from the sidewalk.   Both the driver and I know there’s no way I’ll be able to hop up there without taking several naps along the way, so he goes in and gets my crutches.

I had envisioned myself swinging breezily from the kind of crutches that rest under your arms, but in France these forearm wrapped ones are de rigueur.   I hate them.   The design forces users to rely on balance and core strength, neither of which I seem to have.   I’m more of a leaner.

I attempt a graceful exit from the cab.   The driver’s arms are out, ready to catch me as I stand up shakily and freeze like a dog on an escalator, trying to figure out what goes first, the crutch or the foot.

The trip to the hospital and pharmacy took an hour and a half.   It takes another hour and a half to get to my room.

I immediately start to pack (well, after a short rest).   My plane leaves at 7:30 AM and I have a lot to figure out before then. I’m happy to discover that I did pack pajamas.   I can wear the bottoms to the airport.   A thrill rushes through me knowing that for the first time ever, I will have worn everything I packed.  I’m also pleased to discover that I’ll save a lot of time in the morning because I can’t take a shower.

The next morning, I get to the airport (by cab) without a hitch.   The driver passes me off to the wheelchair and attendant he wrangled for me inside the airport.   I feel like a rolling baton being passed from person to person.

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At first, I’m a little embarrassed.   Yes, I’m that unkempt person in pajama pants being wheeled through the airport.   But as they whisk me through security, keeping close track of my passport, purse, coat and even wheel me over to the cash machine on the way to the gate.  I even get a whole row to myself on a packed plane (could this be because I can’t take a shower?).  They even fasten my seat belt. I could get used to this.  Maybe I’ll save the cast and crutches for all future travel.

Another wheelchair and attendant await me in Nice as well as my checked bag.  Once I’m comfortably in the cab, I realize a new set of obstacles await me.   Have I mentioned that I live in a third floor walk-up?

I’m pretty sure  I can get the driver to carry up my bag, which despite being small is way too much for me to handle with these godforsaken crutches.   But what about me?   I just fell down a stair.   The thought of three flights fills me with terror..   Maybe I can crawl?   Slither up on my belly like a snake?

In the foyer of my apartment building, the cab driver assesses the situation and has an idea.  First he carries my bag up the three flights.   Then he carries me,  piggy back.   He sets me down and holds me upright, while I open the door.   He carries my baggage in and helps me inside.   I pay him (HUUUUUGE tip).

I close the door and lean against the wall feeling an enormous sense of triumph and relief.   I made it!   I’m home!

A half hour later, once I’ve rested from the exertion of being carried up the stairs, I make the ½ hour trek to my couch   I begin to realize that getting home was the easy part.   How the hell am I going to get out of here?  How will I bathe?   How will I cook?  How will I get groceries?  How will I clean the apartment? How will I hang up my goddamn coat?   I’m alone now.  I have nobody to love and care for me. I’ll probably starve to death and my cat will have to eat me until someone discovers my remains.

Or, I can call a cab.

 ***

Postscript:   Don’t feel too sorry for me.   My niece, Alex came down from Switzerland and waited on me.   I’m so glad my sister had the foresight to breed!

san francisco – nice

I have a very complex system for long haul travel.   It involves carefully modulated Xanax dosing which has saved many lives.

When the kitties or I start yowling on the way to the airport, I take my first chip of Xanax.    We check in without a hitch.

Unlike last time, when we traveled to Auvers via Air France, Luftansa actually checks the cats’ paper work that cost me hundreds of dollars and countless hours to get.   I guess that’s the difference between a French and German airline.   Either that, or since my last trip, the kitty terrorist threat has been raised.

I take an unscheduled chip of Xanax when they tell me my extra baggage fees plus the kitties cost $650.

After the kitties and luggage are safely in the airline’s hands, I wait in the three mile security line that’s coiled up like an intestine..  After an hour of waiting in line, I take my next chip of Xanax.    By the time I get to the x-ray machine, I don’t even care that airport security probably knows more about my body than my doctor.  I’m mildly concerned that nobody saw fit to grope me.

I think I bought something at the duty free store and I’m sure I’ll figure out what it is later when I see the bill or the actual item.

Once I’ve finished boarding and loathing all the people clogging the aisles trying to fit a 48 x 30″ bag in the 36″ x 18″ overhead bin, I take my final chip of Xanax and settle in for take off.

SF pretty…from a distance.

Man next to me takes up too much space.   What’s really annoying is he’s not fat, he just likes to spread out.   His arms are hanging in my chair space and his legs are definitely taking up MY legroom.   Just my luck to get an uncute, unfat space hog.   Or is that airspace hog.   Or unhot hog.   Whatevs, he sickens me more than … mushy mushy mushy.

I wake up, look out the window and pray what I’m looking at isn’t the Rockies.

After asking the stewardess a few key questions I’m able to determine it’s the Alps,  which melt into the Cote d’azur and Mediterranean in a few moments.   Jeez, this doesn’t really give me much time to worry about every horrible eventuality that could possibly happen upon landing.

Villefranche sur la Mare, Cap Ferrat, Monaco, Monte Carlo from the air

Cote d'Azur from Menton (bottom) to Nice (top)

Damn, it’s pretty down there.   I mean here.

A bit of Nice

Nice Airport is very manageable.   I get through customs and got to baggage claim within 10 minutes of landing.   That time is well-spent making deals with whatever higher power may be listening that I’ll trade the safe transport of of my bag with the Dolce and Gabbana jacket (vintage 1999) for that of my kitties.

The luggage and cats emerge unscathed although I do have one brief horrible moment where I have to poke Denzel in his carrier to make sure he’s alive (he is).

My landlords are waiting for me outside the baggage claim with a sign that reads “Lesley Stern and Kitties”.

The 50 minute drive to Vidauban is smooth (as opposed to full of potholes, like our disintegrating roads in California which cause me to refer to any car as an orgasma-tron).   It’s also very beautiful with mountains, the Mediterranean,  hilltop villages and vineyards.

Unfortunately, my memory is a little foggy, my camera battery died at the airport, and I just dozed off in front of the computer, so the tour of Vidauban and my new home for the next three months will have to wait until later.   But it’s all good.

Good night or good morning or whatever it is.

 

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