The Natatorium

An emporium of oddities from around the world, complete with somewhat informative plaques that almost never match the item they are meant to be describing.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Grade A American, Passed Inspection

I went to Lille on Monday for my governmental medical exam, which I was a little freaked about. I was worried that a) They'd deport me because I have the lingering remnants of a cold, b) They'd do freaky medical things to me in French that I wouldn't understand, and c) I would be immigrant cattle with a bunch of other immigrants.

Of course, as usual, the reality was much less glamorous than my colourful imaginings. Except perhaps for the cattle part. I got to the place early, so I went to the cafe on the corner for a cheap sandwich and a comforting cup of tea. I went back, still early, and checked in. When I entered the waiting room I discovered a jolly group of assistants. We all started discussing our posts and where we're from, and were slowly called in by twos. We exchanged rumors about what the exam would entail, and the consensus was that we'd get upper-body naked for a chest x-ray (hopefully not all together), and beyond that we didn't know. When I was called, along with another girl, we were put into little individual vestibules that led into one x-ray room. The doctor was really nice and somewhat cute, but he spoke really quickly, so if I didn't already know what was going on I would have had no idea. When he left I undressed from the waist up, but they didn't even have one of those little half-size paper cardigan things that mom always makes fun of. Since I didn't understand him, I was still unsure if I should take off my bra or not, but I quickly realized that this doubt was a combination of wishful thinking and paranoia of extreme humiliation due to undressing *too* much and being all "full headlights" unecessarily when he opened the door again, which by the way he did very quickly and without knocking. I felt weird standing there half naked waiting for him to open the door, so I decided to be tricky and put my cardigan back on for decency. It worked out well, because this way I didn't have to walk the six steps or so to the x-ray machine feeling completely undignified.

They clearly were used to shuffling people through these things at an accelerated pace, because the 8 or so assistants that were with me in the waiting room seemed to move through the stages as a group and I was out of there very quickly, even before several people who had been called in for the x-ray before me. After the x-ray I got dressed in the vestibule and then went into a sort of holding pen in the hall with the others. Then it was into a second room, where they checked my height and weight and eyesight with one of those big E charts. Since I've had an eye test every six months for the past ten years, and since I'm a big dork, I thought it was vaguely fun to do it in French. After that it was back to the holding pen, then into the last room, which was more of an office. A third doctor checked my blood pressure and pulse, and listened to me with a stethescope. All of this was done very perfunctorily. The last doctor asked if I'd ever been hospitalized, had surgery, etc, then looked at my x-ray briefly and signed the forms. That's it. Not that I wish it would have been more involved, but really, if all you're going to do is take a chest x-ray and a pulse, what's the point of going to the trouble? They basically check to see if you're alive or not, which I think would be obvious from the fact that you traveled to France in the first place. I would have thought there'd be a blood test for AIDS and other dangerous diseases, but I guess that's all too expensive and possibly dangerous. I suppose the main idea is just for a doctor to see you face to face so they can check for any obvious problems. If you drag in looking like you're at death's door, they probably look at you a bit more closely. I hope.

I think the part I like most is their preoccupation with lungs. Before I came, I had to send in a medical form filled out by a doctor, and the most detailed part of the form was concerning the health of my lungs. They wanted a "complete description." I thought that was weird anyway, and now this exam was all about the lungs too. It seems rather charmingly Victorian of them, as if their main concern is tuberculosis, that glamorous Victorian disease that gave one that ever-trendy emaciated, pale, and delicate look. Well, no romantic TB here, I should think. I'm actually not sure that I've had a chest x-ray since I almost died from scrubbing bubbles when I was five, so it's kind of interesting to have one. They gave it to me afterwards, so now I have a nice picture of the inside of my body cavity, which is cool.

Today I'm getting on a train for Calais to spend the night at a teacher's house. She offered to drive me into Lille Thursday morning so I wouldn't be late to the assistant's orientation again. I think I may sign up for the language classes they offer to assistants there, so I can fulfill my scholarship requirement and get out of Berck once a week.

Over and out.

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