May 20, 2001

I'm back from France. I don't have anything against the French, but here it comes...

I was having a great trip: Saturday and Sunday were spent sight-seeing and relaxing, Monday was spent kicking off the conference, and on Tuesday I was In My Element teaching technical sessions. Then Tuesday night I got sick.

Wednesday, trooper that I am, I over-medicated and delivered the rest of my sessions (sitting down, mind you--I was pretty wobbly). Wednesday night my fever spiked, and Thursday morning I had nice, bright crimson colors in my stool (which wasn't really "stool" per se... it was more like "stooooooo.") This was the point at which I had my cohorts call a doctor for me. I was pleased to learn that French doctors make house-calls.

Between la fievre and le blud, the nice french doctor explained to me that I ought to go to the hospital. Being a trusting (read that "stupid") American, I quickly agreed, and off I went in a taxi.

I realized later that his conversation with the clinic, translated from the original french, must have gone something like this:

Doctor: "I have a sick american here. He is ugly and stupid."
Hospital: "Does he have any money?"
Doctor: "His hotel room is well-furnished, and he has a computer."
Hospital: "Well, send him over. Even if he's poor, I bet we can get him to let us stick something up his bleep."

At the hosipital I got X-rayed (le radio), sonogrammed (le echogram), and blood-tested (le stick le big needle dans le arme de moi) before I got to see the gastro specialist who let me know via two languages and some creative gestures that he wanted to do une fibroscopie (camera up the bleep). Oh, and if I had a plane to catch any time soon, I'd miss it.

I decided that rather than stay in France any longer than necessary, allowing people I did not know and could only barely make myself understood to stick anything else in me, I'd sign a waiver and fly home. So they gave me a waiver to sign. Translated, I think it said:

"I (insert name here, you stupid pig), am a stupid american, and hereby confess to a long list of heinous crimes against the Noble and Glorious French People. I agree to leave this hospital without firebombing it, but if at any time a french doctor wants to use one of my body parts for science, he may, and I will even help him remove it. Vive La Revolution!"

Waiver signed, I went to the desk to pay, only to find that they only took cash, check, or insurance. My VISA card was of no use to them. So -- get this -- they called me a cab and sent me to a bank, where I pulled out 2200 francs, and was then driven back to the hospital to pay. And finally, le coup de grace, the nurse taking my money divvied up the bills with the doctors hovering behind her while I looked on.

I'm home now. I still have a fever, but there's no blood in my stoo (it's down to "stoo" from "stoooo") and I've spoken to a nice, american doctor who assures me that even if I need to come in and see him (which I might), it's unlikely that he'll need to stick a camera up my bleep.

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