A few weeks ago I became one of the many “lucky” folk to catch the H1N1 flu (“swine flu”). For the first time in my adult life, I understood how someone could die from the flu. Not to sound alarming, mind, just that on the fifth day of a high fever, bad cough, and exhaustion, I was so sore and tired that I barely had the strength to cough well enough to clear my throat to breathe. And that was with medication, and I was in pretty good physical shape before that. Flu vaccinations. It hurts less to get one than to get this flu.
While I was ill, the French national police knocked on my door. At first I wondered if I were in a movie, seeing the plain-clothed gentleman present himself with blue-white-red-striped official ID in hand and firm look on his face: “Bonjour madame, police nationale.” He was looking for one of my upstairs neighbors (the eldest son of his parents, who also live there, along with their two younger sons and the eldest son’s daughter), who has a warrant out for his arrest. Delightful. I swear my apartment is in a nice neighborhood overall. It would seem I’m just in a bad micro-part of it.
I finally recovered to the point where I was able to get back on my mountain bike yesterday at noon. Taking in the fresh autumn forest air on the rocky hills was wonderful, and raised my spirits. Then, this morning (on foot, not on my bike), a car driver decided that she would rather risk killing or handicapping me than lose ten seconds at a stop sign, which also had a clearly-marked pedestrian crossing. She accelerated — yes, accelerated, to my horror as I kept trying to signal “stop” with my hand and even shouted at her — then swerved to the side of the road to go around me, missing me by a few centimeters. I spent the rest of the day taking short breaks to pull back from my desk, wiggle my legs and look at them, happy they’re still attached and in good working order. Before that, however, I called the police. Again. It’s to the point where I recognize the dispatchers’ voices now. Good to know in this part of the world where there is no shortage of drivers who have a sense of entitlement the size of their hurtling metal narcissism machines: if a driver runs you down in a pedestrian crossing, you can write down/memorize their license plate, then go to the gendarmerie and file a complaint (porter plainte), also giving a description of the car as possible. The police will then contact them and handle it from there.
I could write a book on interactions with the police and gendarmes in France. I’ve now dealt with pickpockets, a drunken upstairs neighbor who would tip over his furniture at 2 in the morning while watching football, a mentally ill East German woman who’s hit her children, husband and niece, insults everyone in French and threatens to poison my cats, an upstairs neighbor who threatens his own mother (yes, I had called the police on him a couple of times — the national policeman’s visit didn’t entirely surprise me), and dangerously irresponsible drivers. Have a complaint? I probably know how to file it. In French!
Besides that, though, I found some beautiful chrysanthemums at a florist. They reminded me of Chinese and Japanese paintings. Earlier I had potted daffodil and iris bulbs I’d dug up and stored this summer, and am pleased that all of them are starting to sprout. From the two daffodils and three irises I had originally, I now have four daffodil and seven iris plants. Work on my apartment is also coming along, although very slowly.