Oh my. The arse hits just keep on coming. I’ve talked about the French health care system before but because I fell down the stairs and beat the merde out of myself I get to be a repetitive old bag if I feel like it. While I was icing and moaning, Neil called our doctor and explained what happened. I knew it wasn’t likely serious but because of my other spine issues she thought an X-ray was the safest way to go.

I went up to her office, she met me in the waiting room, passed me the order and sent me on my way, no charge. Then I drove up to the radiology clinic at the top of town. It’s right swanky, set in the middle of a field next to a big grocery store. It’s so different from any publicly funded clinic I’ve ever been to. The gals behind the desk are friendly, efficient and are even able to work and smile simultaneously. They don’t chat on their cell phones or stare into space or roll their eyes when you dare to ask for an appointment. They ask what time would be convenient for you to come for an X-Ray. They make jokes about how a black and blue arse is just the thing for the festive holiday season.

In Canada it’s like you’re intruding upon someone’s time when you go for medical services as if they’re doing you a favour just by letting you in the door. But here it’s a service that people expect to be excellent and it is. The only relevant comparison I can think of is being served foie gras on fine china in a Parisian restaurant versus having a snarly waitress slap down a greasy baloney sandwich at a roadside diner.

I waited less than 24 hours for my appointment. My X-ray was taken at exactly the time they said it would be. It took 10 minutes and then I was told to take a seat in the waiting room. About 5 minutes later a very tall, dark and handsome radiologist called me into his office. He was wearing a white uniform like Richard Gere in An Officer And A Gentleman. He reviewed my films with me (nothing broken) then swept me up in his arms and carried me through the building as the technicians and receptionists clapped and cheered. Not really, but he did give me a written report and he did shake my hand.

In Canada, there would have been weeks of waiting for an appointment, crowds of disgruntled patients and hospital staff, a film that would end up in a pile of thousands, a report that would take weeks to be dictated followed by even more waiting for another appointment to get the results from the family doctor. It would be faster for Canadians to fly to France to get it done. I’m not saying it’s the perfect system. In fact there is one thing they could learn from the Canadian one.

Draping. In Canada all exposure is strictly on a need to expose basis. The French don’t believe in the use of paper sheets or gowns to cover anything. Not even for gynecology exams. I knew this before I went but I completely forgot. So for a spine X-ray I walked into a large, freezing cold, brightly lit room wearing nothing but grey wool socks and frayed blue thong underwear. I stood on the platform, shivering and puckering as the technician turned me this way and that and then finally turned me back on for the money shot. I must have been quite a sight, the bruises over my left cheek adding just the right touch of class. Now I know why they’re always smiling.