Sometimes things in France are weird. The Office of Immigration, for instance.
When I had to have my chest x-rayed, I definitely thought of David Sedaris’ story of sitting in a French waiting room in his underwear. The technician sent me into a closet-sized changing room to undress from the waist up, only to cross the room back to her bare-breasted. So…why did I need to go behind a door to undress?
They tell you to keep your copy of the x-ray for future reference. I highly doubt I’ll bring this back to the U.S., but in the mean time, it’s kind of fun owning it.
The doctor who interviewed me had a grayish face carved with a few long lines and thin-but-angry eyebrows, kind of like an aging Morticia. When she stuck the chest x-ray on the light to examine it, she asked immediately if I smoke. Her tone made me worry briefly that I should expect to drop dead any second now from lung cancer. When I said no, she looked at me in a way that said, “Yeah, right, like I haven’t heard that a hundred times, pothead.”
The best was yet to come.
Every time I’ve explained my medical history since March 2008, I’ve found a dark humor in watching doctors react when I tell them I’ve had malaria. For a moment they think I’m joking, and I can see the thoughts rushing behind their furrowed brows when they realize I’m serious—“But you are American…and alive…”—until they manage to formulate a more polite way to ask, “Where the hell’d’ya find that?!” Friday’s doctor was no exception until she expected me to know which strain I had. I told her I didn’t know and worried for the second time that she wouldn’t let me stay in France.
The real fun, however, came when she asked if I take any medications on a regular basis.
“Oui,” I said. Most medications have the same name in French, just pronounced differently, so I said, “Je prends 15 mg par jour d’Adderall,” making sure to hack up the double R as if it were scratching my throat.
The hacking was to no avail because she had never heard of it. Oh, dear. I would have to pull out the big guns and use the generic name.
“15 mg d’amphetamine,” I squeaked.
The Morticia lines in her face flew into a look of horror and disbelief—a look that said, “QUOI??!?!? I hope you’re mistaken!”
As I remark each time I set foot in one of its classrooms, France has yet to acknowledge the existence of ADHD. This doctor clearly thought I was hoping to set up meth labs across France.
I explained nervously that it’s a common prescription in the United States. “I know,” she said, but continued to glare at me as if to add, “but I’d rather deport you myself than let you bring your nation’s pathetic drug dependency here.”
She must have been feeling too lazy to fill out deportation paperwork, though, because she ushered me on to the next bureaucrat, who added a very official-looking page to my passport.