Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Avez Vous Des Tums, Mademoiselle?

I was asleep, in one of my usual profound, deep, unshakeable sleeps, enjoying a dream whose content escapes me now, but suddenly one of the characters in the dream started nagging me to wake up. "Michael! Wake Up!" I thought to myself this isn't part of my dream. "Wake Up Now!" The tone was still urgent. "I need you to go and get me something to settle my stomach," my wife was groaning and she is one tough cookie. She has had more than her share of physical pain and she never complains so to be woken from a deep sleep in a French Canadian hotel at three in the morning because she was in pain...well, that was something I simply had to pay attention to. 
Rusty was fast asleep, snoring at the end of the bed with the slightly asthmatic sound of his heaviest sleep. Cheyenne used to snore like a walrus, heavy wobbly breaths full throated and deep, but Rusty at his heaviest is a delicate breather, delicate like everything else he does, light on his feet, light on his snoring.  I pulled together some clothes as best I could by the light of my phone and slipped out, into a dark rainy night in the outskirts of Quebec City. I doubt it was even as warm as sixty (American) degrees and the  four lane street alongside the hotel was slick with water. On the opposite shore I could see one of three gas stations was all lit up, so I made my way across. There was no traffic.
Le Dauphin  is a great hotel, they charge for a dog but they provide a bed towel bowls bags and treats and Rusty took advantage of them. He wasn't a huge fan of the faux wooden floors but I helped him up onto the bed when he had trouble getting a  grip on the floor to make the leap up, and the human facilities were excellent all round. The staff all spoke English except the chambermaid who knocked on the door one day and Layne summoned me:
"Michael, come here and speak French!" 
I was going to make that the title of an essay as I thought it was pretty funny but Fate intervened and with my search for a cure for indigestion our true vacation drama began.
The province of Quebec has toyed with becoming independent from English speaking Canada but the Federal government has made concessions and separatist feeling has been muted, at least publicly, nevertheless they speak French here and not much English. The few English speakers we located were excited to speak the international language and said they longed for a chance to practice but speaking Not-French mostly gets you cold looks in this sad part of the world. I speak French but conversely I don't get much chance to practice in the US yet my grasp of the language is good enough that in Quebec they have a nasty habit of replying with rapid fire Quebec-accented French which is damnably difficult to understand, so my French frequently got me into difficulties. Not least at three am in the gas station looking for a cure for the common stomach ache -mal a l'estomac. 
I wandered into the store and there was a young woman, possibly 20 years of age alone in the gas station on night shift. My  wife I said has a stomach ache. That was the easy part, now what the hell do you call the cure? I couldn't think straight at all so I just started gasping like a fish out of water...tums? She smiled, tums? Of course they have tums and she found them for me, at $1:45. I have trouble discerning Canadian coins for some reason. The looney is bronze colored and pentagonal and has a loon on the dollar coin, hence it's nickname. The two dollar coin has bronze in the middle and a silver ring outside and is completely different. Obviously I get them muddled, doesn't everyone? Eventually I left with the tums and my change and got back to the hotel.
All of which did absolutely no damned good at all and an hour later my wife agreed with me that we had to go to the hospital. And that as they say is a whole other story. Getting tums was as nothing to dealing with medical professionals in the most medieval of hospitals, the CHUL. French only spoken there.