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  • Donna

A Lovely Morning in Stars Hollow

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

Pharmacy in Bessines-sur-Gartempe, Haute-Vienne, France

I had a Gilmore Girls moment at the pharmacy today.

Here in France farmers have their own social security organization called Mutualité Sociale Agricole (MSA). It's kind of like the U.S. Social Security Administration, in that it deals with social benefits including retirement. But MSA also coordinates taxes and healthcare. It's the last point that brought me my Gilmore Girls moment.

I received a phone call a few weeks ago asking if I wanted to have a free wellness check-up with a nurse. I decided to attend and it went pretty well. The nurse apologized for not speaking English and I apologized for not speaking better French. We compensated with hand gestures where needed and my favorite - my absolute all-time favorite since arriving in France - was how the nurse responded to my blank stare when asked the question "Avez-vous eu un test Pap au cours des trois dernières années?"

Now, seeing it in writing, I feel I should have understood the question. But I'm glad I didn't because she repeated it, this time laughing, lifting her eyebrows, and bobbing a downward-pointed finger toward her lap. This literally made me laugh out loud.

My appointment also included a blood test, urine test, and questions to assess my mental well-being. Overall I was impressed. At the end of the interview, she told me to make an appointment with my doctor after receiving the results in the mail. She wrote down what I needed to say while booking the appointment: "Consultation de prévention," because the doctor would need to book a 60 - 90 minute slot instead of the usual 15.

So that's where I was headed this morning when I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up a Repevax shot. I was supposed to get this vaccination last year but never got around to it, so I had planned to bring it with me this morning. Cue the set of the Gilmore Girls.

"I'd like the Repevax vaccine," I said in my best French when I approached the pharmacy counter.

"Avez-vous une ordonnance?" the lady asked me.

I explained that I didn't have a prescription because the doctor's office had told me I didn't need one. The lady behind the counter kindly clarified that I can basically trade the prescription for the vaccine without paying anything; or I can pay for the vaccine without a prescription. She asked where my doctor's office was and in Gilmore Girls style I simply pointed and said "over there."

Then there were a lot of words, kindly repeated, and she gave me the Repevax with the understanding that I'd come back with the prescription after my appointment. Can you imagine that ever happening at a CVS?

My general practitioner did give me the vaccine but, in an interesting twist, had never seen the form MSA asked me to bring and literally laughed when I told her the nurse had said this was a different kind of appointment that would last around an hour. She and her apprentice completed the form anyway, went over my results, and asked if I had any questions or anything I wanted to talk about.

The thing is, I only think the nurse said it would be a 60 - 90 minute appointment. While I'm a little less like a deer in the headlights now, I still do a whole lot of guessing when listening to someone speak. And I still engage in my own personal game of Password when I can't use the English word I want to use but don't know the French equivalent, so I just use the French words I do know to describe it. I must be extraordinarily frustrating to communicate with.

But I have found that most people are quite patient with my efforts, and bit by bit our French version of Stars Hollow is feeling more and more like home.


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