The phone rings. I glance at the screen.
I take a deep breath and put my mind into French mode.
“Oui? Allo.” So far so good.
I’ve been expecting this call.
The conversation follows a predictable script with the receptionist explaining why she is calling and asking if I still want to make an appointment.
It’s going well.
“L’ordinance que vous avez incluse avec votre demande de rendez-vous en ligne concernait XYZ maladie?” she inquires. (The x-ray prescription you included with your online request was for such-and-such condition?)
I’m beginning to congratulate myself on my excellent phone-conversation skills, when I’m distracted by an English conversation going on between two friends next to me.
I tune back in just in time to hear the voice inflection rise on the other end. She has just asked me a question. I pause, hoping for a flash of genius.
“Comment ?” I ask.
The receptionist, thinking she can overcome my French ineptitude with volume, shouts into the phone, “QUELLE EST SA DATE DE NAISSANCE ?” (What is her date of birth?)
I give her the relevant information and the call continues smoothly until she asks me a question I actually don’t understand.
I hesitate for a few seconds, hoping again for enlightenment and dreading her reaction when it doesn’t come.
I’ve got nothing. So I respond timidly, “Pardon ?”
She audibly inhales. Here it comes.
“QUI EST LE MEDICINE PRESCRIPTEUR ?” she shrieks. (Who is the prescribing doctor?)
I smile to myself as I finish our conversation. Maybe louder does help.
The real expat life.
Photo by Jason Rosewell