It’s time for medical exams, and a handful get named right off the bat, Frye Corey D being one of them. Buildings like this are always just one waiting room connected to another connected to another, and I occupy one until it’s time for the first of 3 doctors. First one is eyes, height and weight. Then they usher you into a one-person changing room, tell you take your shirt off and wait until called upon. This is an ill feeling, half naked in a tiny windowless room waiting for god-knows-who to do god-knows-what to you. Suddenly the door opens and there’s a grumpy French troll woman barking orders in French. And she didn’t even use the same door I did to enter this dressing room, she somehow invented a second one with troll magic and surprised me from behind. Another person who doesn’t care which language I’m comfortable with, she mumbles some directions but I can only make out “paper, chest, and breathe”. Seeing a large machine with a piece of sanitary paper hanging over it, I figure I’ve got enough info to make this happen. Only thing I’m not sure of is how close I should put my chest to the paper. A quick shove from behind via Madame answers my question, as she says “Collez!” (“Stick to it!”). Then my lungs say cheese and this pops out:
She tells me to return to the tiny room and put my shirt back on. I comply, but I don’t know what happens next. I stand inside for a few minutes quietly until the troll door opens again and I’m told to beat it.
Another waiting room (longer this time) and finally the 3rd exam of my chest x-ray, blood pressure, and a quick look at my teeth. This time the doctor is a nicer, gentler fellow who comments on my good level of French. This starts to lift my spirits. The lack of anything tumor-like in the picture on the wall also aids to comfort me. He hands me an address of where to get a free vaccination if I’m interested, and surprisingly gives me the x-ray as a memento.
Another long wait in another different room, this time for the “Welcome Interview”. I know this is where I’ll have to shine, in a one-on-one setting. I see a woman take my file, and just before she motions to me, she’s called on by a coworker to translate for some Chinese immigrants. It’s surprising to see a French lady speaking fluent Chinese, and I begin to strategize. I’ll use this as an ice-breaker right out of the gate. And that’s what I do: before we even settle into her office I’ve already said “Vous parlez combien de langues? C’était impressionant!” (How many languages do you speak? That was impressive!).
Jackpot. We’re off to a good start, and things just roll from there. I even test the waters with a bit of slang and she goes along with it. She says on two occasions that my French level is quite good, and the cake gets iced as she hands me this:
Translated it says I’ve “presented a level of knowledge of the French language deemed satisfactory by article L 311 blah blah blah”. Does it mean I’m fluent? Hell no. In fact they never gave me a “test” to determine my level. But over the course of the day, each worker I interacted with deemed me satisfactory, and that’s just fine for now. Twelve expensive stamps later, I’ve got the residency card in hand, along with all the rights and protections of an honest-to-god Parisian. I have to say I felt a bit different walking out of that building today, maybe a bit more of a connection with the people sharing the street with me. It’s just a silly piece of paper after all, but the feeling of being officially accepted is undeniable. I saw a florist along the way and decided my wife deserved flowers.
So here I am riding home, on the right bus going in the right direction, with a handful of my fellow countrymen. Stomach back to normal. On my lap a bouquet of flowers, a chest x-ray, and a shiny new residency card. On my face, a smile.