On today's "reading options" menu (alternatives to what may be, for some (including myself!), a gruellingly long retelling of a short hospital stay), we've got drunk birds (the ones who dip through our vineyard each winter) ...and (option two) continue reading the latest installment in the skin cancer chroniclesVoilà, the choice is yours: a) Drunk Birds (click here) or b) Drunk Patient... either way, je vous souhaite bonne lecture! Wishing you happy reading! Note: there are really no drunk patients in the following story, though a shot of pastis might color up the narrative!

patienter (pah-see-ohn-tay)

     : to wait 

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following French words. Download MP3 or Wav file

J'ai patienté à l'extérieur du bloc opératoire.
I waited outside the operating room.

Verb Conjugation : je patiente, tu patientes, il/elle patiente, nous patientons, vous patientez, ils/elles patientent

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Bottoms up, Doc!: A patient's overactive mind

The hospital was unmistakably French. Beyond the occasional quirk, that Gallic "something" came through the very walls, which were painted deep lavender, a colorful reminder that this was Provence.

I looked at the deep purple walls and listened to the hum of the busy 'scrubbers', that is, the nurses and doctors in uniform. From this horizontal position, on a stretcher, or brancard, midway down the hall, I was in the middle of the action, with, depending on how you looked at it, the very best seat in the house!
Waiting my turn for surgery, I spied the hospital staff as I listened to secrets and avowals, to wishes and regrets and, oddly, to news about funny-looking garden pets....

"J'ai ammené les nains de jardin!" "I've brought the garden gnomes!" one of the nurses notified her colleague, and I had to check myself to make sure that the calmant, or happy pill, I'd been given really hadn't kicked in... In fact, had I heard the nurse correctly?

"Yes! I've put them on your desk." "Oui, je les ai mis sur ton bureau," the nurse replied, confirming the whereabouts of the bearded creatures. I quickly reasoned that someone would be gardening this weekend, and I rested there, assured that the hospital staff were not desperately short of help....

Doctors and nurses breezed in and out and I caught spicy snippets of conversation. One nurse answered a phone in the bureau, opposite, and I became curious when her voice lowered (and were those giggles?) as she discreetly closed the door. There was nothing left to assume or imagine or invent... except that the breathy nurse was planning an amorous cinq à sept: the famous afternoon tryst that is rumored to happen in France sometime between leaving work (5 pm) and arriving home (7 pm). Meantime, it was only 1 pm in the afternoon, and I hoped Breathy Nurse would come back to her senses in time to check on the whereabouts of my surgeon....

Oh, there he was now! "Hi, Doctor!" I managed to lift my head, but my chirurgien breezed by, disappearing around the corner. In his wake three nurses appeared, chattering about their plans for lunch...

Lunch! Yes! So it was l'heure du déjeuner! Oh, gosh, I hoped my doctor was headed for the cafeteria. He was on his way to the mess hall, wasn't he? After all, what brilliant surgeon could operate on an empty stomach? Let me rephrase that: I know just how shaky and good-for-nothing I get when lunch hour arrives....

Then again, I hoped Doc didn't eat too much! I always feel so lazy and slack after that regrettable second helping. And what if there was wine at the cafeteria? Would Doc help himself to it? A glass? Two? A little wine might steady his surgical hand, but if he threw down half a carafe... well then...

Just when my mind began to draw up all sorts of Dionysian disasters--or wine-fueled fiascoes of the surgical sort--I heard a deep voice beside me....

"I am your infirmier-anesthesiste." It was a male nurse, who had come to hook me up for the general anesthesia. Oh no, I thought, not you! And it could have been any nurse-anesthetist: male or female or garden gnome. It wasn't their gender that I held against them....

"Let me see your arm," the nurse ordered, and his eyes followed the green line from my hand, down to the top of my wrist, where, a little farther along the top of my forearm--in that awkward spot--he pushed in the sharp aiguille.

I really felt only the needle's pressure and I thanked the nurse for the absence of douleur.
"Je suis trop fort." "I'm a pro!" he told me, and swaggered off.

 "I'm a pro!" I whispered to myself. "Je suis trop forte!" I affirmed, lest any pre-op fears remain. If it worked for the confident nurse... it might just work for me. Now to figure out how to swagger on into the bloc opératoire....


In the next episode we will, hopefully, bring this saga to a close! In any case, Friday's installment should bring us up to date with the post-surgery letter. And then I ought to tell you about yesterday's check-up, where I saw beneath the bandage for the first time in two weeks... and wondered what the results might have looked like... had I chosen the gut surgeon, after all.

Le Coin Commentaires

Corrections, comments, or stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box.


French Vocabulary

un brancard (chariot-brancard) = stretcher or bed on wheels

le bureau = office

le cinq à sept = amorous tryst

le chirurgien = surgeon

l'heure (f) du déjeuner = lunchtime

une aiguille = needle

la douleur = pain

Je suis trop fort! = I'm so good at this!


  Harvest King (c) Kristin Espinasse

 A proud Chief Grape congratulates this year's Harvest King: Jamie Song. See another picture of Jamie, at Vince's blog.

   Exercises in French Phonics
Exercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
"high quality material, good value for your money" --from Amazon customer reviews. Order your copy here.


It might be worth your while... to meet the character in the following story. You'll never look at a plastic flower in quite the same way... Click here and enjoy the photos, from Caromb, which accompany this tender tale.

If you enjoyed today's edition, please take a minute to forward it to a friend. Merci beaucoup!

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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I am so glad to hear this saga is coming to a close - it really makes very depressing reading day after day. I used to enjoy your posts but not lately, sorry.

David Simmons

As a retired surgeon, I'm enjoying your travelogue. FYI, I never ate lunch during a work day and never drank alcohol when working or on call.

David Simmons

C'est dommage, but my url was incorrect. The corrected url appears below.


I love the hospital posts! I look forward to hearing your adventures. I am a nurse so maybe that is why I am glad you made a story out of your experience. To me it is very interesting to imagine health care in other countries. You make the staff come alive and I can picture it quite easily. No matter what country, there is a common thread between patients and their healthcare providers. Yours sound like good people.


Hi Kristin, Hoping that all is well and that you are healing beautifully. Anxiously awaiting update. Be well. Mary

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Salut Kristin,

There seems to be a problem with the link to "See another photo of Jamie". It takes me to the "Drunk Birds"

À bientôt


I love your descriptions of the hospital personnel and how people like "breathy nurse" get your mind racing. It sounds like you're doing well - long may it continue.

Jean-Marc has a wonderful voice!


Kristi, when it comes to something as simple as lying on a hospital stretcher, or even making a glass of lemondade, you have such an enormous talent for keeping us readers hanging on every word. I hope you say to yourself, "Je suis trop fort!".

Happy to hear that things are coming along smoothly and this will all be over soon.


Bruce T. Paddock

With all due respect to Sandie, I must disagree. Nothing you've written so far has been depressing, despite taking place in a hospital. It has all been upbeat and uplifting.

While reading about Madonna of the Gurney in the last post, I marveled — yet again — at the good fortune you have, Kristin. I don't know if you have more interesting characters passing through your life, or if you simply spare the time and attention to find what's interesting about the people who pass through your life. Either way, it's a gift.

(After a moment's thought, I'm pretty sure it's the second one.)

Kristin Espinasse

Sandie, Patientez-vous, or wait a bit... and well be back to regular stories (hmmm... ) soon. Meantime, enjoy the optional reading links and/or heres a link to the archives where you have your pick of stories:

David, how can you go a whole day without eating? :-)

Herm, Ive fixed the link - thanks!

Bruce, thanks for confirming what I hope is true: these stories are not meant to be depressing -- but uplifting! I love the character in the people I meet... and everyone, Im finding, has character!

Thank you for all of your feedback and for taking the time to comment.  


Chère Kristin:
I join Bruce Paddock to say that you've got a talent in telling stories, in a humorous way. I really enjoy your description around you, in all situations. More power to you, Kristin.
Je suis impatiente de connaître la suite de ta longue histoire. Mais, en même temps, je peux patienter.

Sharon - Montague, Michigan

Kristin, I am amazed at how you find wonderful stories in your daily life and in trying situations. You have a tremendous imagination in spinning an ordinary day into an amusing story. Thank you and heal fast.

Ara Driscoll

What's the difference between attendre and patienter?

Bill Facker

What makes your blog so very special is your willingness to share all and bare all. The good, the bad, and the ugly .. keep it coming Brave Writer!


....Sandie......Maudit.......without the darkness we have no light, dear Kristin! You are all light and gladness, so please just follow your nez and tell us what you feel like telling us. This is YOUR blog. If someone doesn't like it - pfffft - they can's easy. Most of us are perfectly content to read what you see fit to narrate. Vas-y - it's a wonderful read for the majority. Pas de censure!!


Please keep writing about your treatment and recovery. First off this is your blog and you are writing about your life; at the moment I imagine this is whats front and center. Second it actually is interesting to learn how the medical care system functions in another country. Just like anything else you write about regarding France, its gives insight into something many of us will never see for ourselves.


You are telling your story beautifully and with such good humor - you are a story-teller. Stay well.


I've never found your stories may be boring or just unrealistic if they were nothing but good and fun all the time. The way it is you stay very real to me. Thank you for keeping on.

Andrew Whitby


I have enjoyed your writing so much and now I want to retire to the South of France! In fact, I think I will do just that. I still have 10 years but now I have a retirement goal! Thanks for your always fascinating stories and teaching me French words.



Preparation at the hospital sure made me smile. It's a wonder you didn't have to take a number! So happy that is now a memory and the healing process is over. Pictures say it all and the one of Smokey is just too much! What a smart dog. He is certainly in the right family.


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