Monday, December 24, 2012

Je Paye La Facture


When I had my recent emergency room experience, as I was preparing to leave, I asked where I needed to go to pay. 

The docteur told me that they are a public hospital and there was no charge. 

Today I got a bill for 179 euros.

I was relieved.

It seemed to me that I should pay something for being clumsy and stupid in a foreign country.

But I had also been internally giving accolades to a health system that would let a foreigner chalk up several thousands of dollars of medical expense and not charge him.

The bill shattered that ambivalence. 

Having a Paris mailing address may have cache, but it also seems to have disadvantages.

But how could I argue with a few hundred euros for spectacular emergency care?

I couldn’t.

That was why I was at Parc Montsouris and got this amazing picture of a parrot.

paris 2012 parc montsourris parrot 122412 00000


Hôpital Cochin is on the way to Parc Montsouris. 

So I decided to spend the afternoon in Parc Montsouris.

When got there – to le hôpital - I went in the accueil entrance and went to the first obvious window and said “I don’t speak French but I want to pay this bill” – in French, of course – and got the usual barrage of French in response.

The woman who issued the barrage obviously didn't like me on sight, but I felt confident that she didn’t like anyone on sight. 

The up-shot of the barrage was that I needed to go down the hall that extended at a right angle to that window; the word “telephone” played some part in what she told me that I would be looking for. 

I went a-ways and came up to two desks in an alcove on the left side of the hall, one desk of which was occupied. 

It said “telephone”. 

“Great” I thought; “I must be where that bitch told me to go”.

So I went up and used the same snappy approach that had gotten me all the way into the inner-sanctum to this new factotum of lack of desire to be helpful, but who will go through various motions to preserve her state of being employed. 

She assumed a look of extreme boredom and gestured aimlessly in no apparently specific direction.  I made some kind of interrogative reply and she snarled “a gauche”.  I replied “a gauche?”  She said again with emphasis verging on malice “a gauche”.

So I wandered off a gauche for a rapidly becoming interminable time. 

I was beginning to question the wisdom of continuing since I was getting pretty deep into non-accounting medical territory - and I have no sense of direction so I could conjure a situation in which I was hopelessly lost in a vast hospital.  Visions of George C, Scott flashed before my eyes when an orderly asked me what I was looking for. 

After the same basic exchange I had already had two previous times he said to come with him and he took me back from whence I had come and pointed out a glass enclosed alcove that I had missed. 

Part of the reason I had missed it was that it was dark inside. 

But once it was pointed out to me I could see a guy sitting in there in the gloom.

So I went up to him and went through my routine – at which I was getting quite facile – and he took my bill and looked at it and then told me that they had had a power outage and he couldn’t process payments. 

He told me to come back at 1600.



After the park and the parrot and a nice hour an a half walk I got back to the hospital at 15h35.

That was not 16h00 but I decided to try anyway.

When I got to the window it was still dark inside the enclosure but there were now two people: my friend and a woman. 

The woman was a net addition since I had been there at 13h30 or so.

“So I guess two of them are going to decry the lack of electricity” I thought to myself.

I tried to transmit a look of uncertainty - transmitted as if a laser - at the window from several feet away from it; apparently that tactic worked. 

The guy gestured for me to come ahead. 

After he had gone through the normal rummaging around that precedes making a credit card payment he kept telling me to wait before putting my card in the card reader. 

“Attendez; attendez!”

Ultimately his card reader wouldn’t work so he had to pass me over to the woman.

After a similar amount of foreplay and rummaging she – the woman -  told me to put my card in the reader.

After a little waiting, the payment was accepted and I was on my way back to le Jardin de Luxembourg and home.

The thing that I don’t know how to evaluate is that none of the exchanges that I needed to go through to complete this transaction involved English – from me, or from them.

I still love France.

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