Jamais Deux Sans Trois: Road Rage, A Flat Tire (Bad Things Come in Threes)

Jules passenger looking over the vineyard in St Cyr sur Mer
"Precious Cargo." Jules, at Mas des Brun vineyard in St Cyr-sur-Mer (That's Jean-Marc in the pink shirt, behind his tractor)

TODAY'S WORD: Jamais Deux Sans Trois

    : bad things come in threes

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A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Last week may have been the most challenging since my husband left for New Zealand. On Sunday, owing to an old and faulty serrure on our front door, I found myself locked out of the house upon returning from church. I hurried around the corner to Mom’s, put all the groceries I’d just bought into her frigo, and ran back to carefully work the key lest it break inside the lock. Forty-five minutes later, the sluggish lock relented. Quel miracle! Another answered prayer, along with the relief of stepping into a cool house! Despite the initial victory, the week was full of trials, each day punctuated by some disaster or another, whether that was Ricci busting a stitch (she nibbled the area) following her operation or the bathroom sink leaking again. And can you believe it all ended with un pneu crevé?

I was lying in bed at week’s end, agonizing about the car when my daughter came into the room. It was 11 at night and she’d just finished a long shift at a bar in Cassis. “Don’t worry about the flat tire, Mom. I'll take care of it.” The next day Ms. Fix-It bought one of those aerosol tire inflators–le dépanne-crevaison for 15 bucks (everyone should have one in their bagnole!), filled the tire with air, and drove to a nearby garage to have both back tires changed. Next, she phoned Max’s girlfriend, Ana, to ask her to drive Grandma and me to the next appointment in Gardanne. (Having unknowingly pierced the tire on the way home from Thursday’s rendez-vous, Jules and I were lucky the tire didn’t burst, sending us skidding across the autoroute!) 

Autoroute south of france
Who wouldn't be skittish when 18 lanes merge after this toll?! Better hurry over to the right, exit Toulon!

"Mom, you are out of practice. Let Ana drive you this time!” As bad as the week was, it was a lesson in asking for help, something that is hard for so many of us. Why is that so? 

Meantime, there was at least one funny moment (and a few misunderstandings) among all the little fiascos last week. The first malentendu happened when Mom showed up at the house, ready for our ride to the clinic. After Mom had carefully washed from head to toe with iodine for her clinic visit, I was surprised to see her wearing the mink hat she had found at the charity shop a few years ago.

“Mom, you’ll need to take off that hat,” I said, remembering that only sterile clothes could be worn after the special antiseptic shower.
“Well, I didn’t know my hat was controversial!” came Mom’s response.

“Oh, Mom!” I sighed, growing increasingly agitated.

It wasn’t until two weeks later that I understood Mom’s words. It was a simple misunderstanding between us (she thought I was judging her fur hat, while my only concern was the iodine bath!). I wish, instead of getting mad, I had simply asked Mom, “What do you mean by that?”

Onto misunderstanding number two and three…

Back in Marseille, arriving for Mom’s eye appointment, I was slowing down in time to look for a parking spot when the guy behind me began blaring his horn. It's been a while since I've experienced la fureur routière, or road rage, given I don't drive often. I cannot share with you here the string of four-letter words he hurled at me, this after an already nerve-racking drive to Marseille. Finally, I pulled aside, letting Monsieur Gros Mot pass. That is when I noticed another patient returning to his car. Quelle chance!

Excusez-moi, Monsieur. Vous partez?” I asked the man who was paused at the wall beside his car, his back toward me. He didn’t seem to hear me so I got out of my vehicle and began to approach when I recognized his curbed posture. Oh! Le monsieur fait pipi… 

Discreetly as possible I returned to the car and, for his dignity and my own, peeled off out of sight to the lower parking lot where, lo and behold, I ran into Monsieur Gros Mot again. I studied my pire ennemi: a thin man wearing a cap. He had found a parking spot and was now darting into the clinic, late, late for a very important date! I made a mental note to have a word with him in the salle d’attente. It might be a very awkward moment but after chauffeuring my precious cargo to her doctor's appointment, only to be raged at, my adrenaline was just ripe enough to give Gros Mot a piece of my mind.

Meantime, Mom pointed out a parking spot under the shade of a mulberry tree, and with great relief our 45-minute trajet ended. We made it to Jules' appointment on time.

The doctor, wearing a surgical cap and glasses, seemed pressed, nevertheless, he was thorough. He hesitated before leading us past a full waiting room, to an office where he had another machine. There he took the time to examine Mom’s eyes until he concluded, “I cannot give your mom the eye injection today. She has inflammation in both eyes. C'est l'uvéite.” 

The eye doctor dictated a note to a colleague before giving me the address of a specialist in Gardanne. All I could think at that moment was, how am I going to drive there, given the morning’s stressful voyage? (Thankfully Jackie and Ana would solve this problem for me later that day.)

On the way home, hesitating at a fork in the road before the freeway entrance I hit a curb and the car lurched. Ouf! That was close! I made it onto the freeway and even passed a few semi-trucks. It wasn’t until later that evening that I saw the flat tire and realized our good fortune after Mom and I didn’t have our tire blow up!

There was a lot to be thankful for including the experienced eye doctor who had taken his time with Mom. 60-something with a wiry build and longish salt and pepper hair, it suddenly dawned on me: the doctor looked just like Monsieur Gros Mot back at the parking lot….

No! He couldn’t be! I thought, of the potential ironic twist in our morning adventure. Then again both men were pressed and in a hurry... Could it be that Gros Mot was the eye doctor who was late for the afternoon shift? The thought of a villain-turned-virtuous amused me to no end. Well, speaking of endings, Tout est bien qui finit bien! All’s well that ends well. We had a caring doctor (no matter who he might have been before he walked into that office). It all goes to show it is never too late to put your best foot forward, de faire de son mieux :-) 

Update: Ana drove us to the appointment at the specialist’s in Gardanne, where Mom received some bad news. It is a severe case of bilateral uveitis and she’ll need to go the the hospital in Marseilles for more tests and possibly some antibiotics to treat an infection. Please keep Jules in your thoughts and prayers. And thanks to our angel driver Ana, who offered to drive us to Marseilles for an afternoon of testing, this Tuesday, for Mom.

To leave a comment or a helpful correction, click here.



Click here to listen to the French pronunciation

jamais deux sans trois = bad things come in threes
la serrure = lock
le frigo = fridge
quel miracle! = what a miracle!
le pneu crevé = flat tire
le dépanne crevaison = aerosol tire repair and inflator
la bagnole = car (in informal French)
l'autoroute (f) = freeway
le rendez-vous = appointment
le malentendu = misunderstanding
la fureur routière = road rage
quelle chance!
= what luck!
Excusez-moi, Monsieur. Vous partez? = Excuse me, Sir. Are you leaving?
faire pipi = to go pee
Monsieur Gros Mot = Mr. FoulMouth
le pire ennemi = worst enemy
la salle d'attente = waiting room 
le trajet = trip, journey
l'uvéite = uveitis, inflammation of the uvea
ouf! = whew!
Tout est bien qui finit bien! = All’s well that ends well
faire de son mieux = to put your best foot forward 


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Ana and Max
My son Max and his girlfriend, Ana. Picture taken in a Photomaton, or photo booth. Did you catch a typo in this post? Thanks for letting me know in the comments.

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Une Friandise: Chocolate Sundaes following Jules's visit to the Ophtalmo

Jackie dessert
I typed the word friandise into my Google photo album search box and voilà, a photo of my daughter and one of her all-time favorite sweets appeared: strawberries with chantilly cream. 

Jean-Marc’s PROVENCE WINE TOURS begin again in May! Cassis, Bandol, Châteauneuf-du-Pape—don’t miss our beloved winemaker’s favorite stomping grounds for grapes! Click here.


  : a sweet treat

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

In the salle d'attente at the eye clinic in Marseille, everyone is wearing shower caps. A male nurse breezes in, administers eye drops to a half-dozen patients, and disappears. A faint scent of iodine lurks in the air--evidence everyone has (hopefully) followed instructions to shower with Betadine the night before and day of the ocular intervention. So much scrubbing seems a bit drastic given patients remain fully clothed during the 10-minute procedure to treat a certain pathologie oculaire caused by macular degeneration. I wonder, did Mom remove her hat? I had a lot of questions, but having delegated Jules’s doctor's visit to my daughter, I would not know every detail of the intervention. But I did get as much info as possible, so on with our story...

Back at Clinique Chantecler, Jackie, also wearing a shower cap, is sitting beside her grand-mère. For the entire ride to Marseille, Jules sat quietly in the passenger seat, nervously filing her nails (hard as a rock from the potassium tablets the opthalmo prescribed for her eye tension). The male nurse reappears, asking all the patients to hand over the box with the aflibercept injection they were prescribed (to be stored at home in the refrigerator and brought to today's appointment). Not surprisingly, half the room has forgotten to bring the medicine. Did they leave the box beside the cheese and the cornichons... as we might have? No, too many precautions were taken here at home…in the form of numerous sticky notes strategically placed around our house, in addition to my phone alarm. While I did entrust my daughter with expediting Grandma to the clinic, I didn’t leave every detail to her. 

Jackie dug through her bag, where, beside her grandmother's medical folder, and her immigrant insurance card, she located the shot box. 
"Merci, Mademoiselle," the nurse smiled. Little did Jackie know she was earning brownie points for later, when her calm demeanor would earn her special hospital privileges. Turning her attention back to Grandma, who is feeling anxious about the upcoming needle in the eye, Jackie is reassuring: "Don't worry. I'm sure it will go quickly, Grandma. After, I’ll take you for ice cream!"

 The other patients, mostly senior citizens, seem intrigued by the two foreigners. One of them reaches out: "Votre grand-mère est anglaise?" Your grandmother is English?

"Non. Elle est américaine," Jackie answers. "Elle a un peu peur." With that, the other patients are quick to offer comforting words:

"Oh, c'est rien!" says the woman with the plastic shield over her eye. Another adjusts his surgical cap,  "Vous verrez, ça ne fait pas mal du tout." The woman with a bandage agrees: "je viens ici chaque mois." The youngest in the group, a businessman here during his lunch hour, smiles warmly, "C'est comme une lettre à la poste!"

Jackie translates each encouragement. "You see, Grandma. It'll be as easy as posting a letter!" But there was no time to explain the postal expression as Jules was soon summoned to the eye injection chamber (if words could paint Mom's imagination at this point.) 
"Mademoiselle, vous pouvez accompagner votre grandmère." Good news, the doctor just made an exception to the patients-only rule, letting Jackie assist her grandmother during the treatment.

(The next ten minutes were not so bad, Mom would later tell me. The hardest part was you had to watch the needle as it approached your eye...)

After the procedure, the foreigner and her petite-fille waved goodbye to the patients in the salle d'attente. At this point, Jackie might've patted herself on the back. But you know the saying: No good deed goes unpunished!  After helping Grandma back into the passenger seat, our Do-Gooder got locked out of the electric car! Now the challenge was for Jules, with one eye bandaged, to find the door handle. But even after the struggle to locate the poignée de porte, the punishment wasn't over. Our little Renault Zoe would not start. A few deep breaths later (and surely some bionic praying on Grandma’s part) Jackie solved the problem by removing the electronic key from its case and using it instead of the dashboard button.

The third strike came when Jules began to suffer a sudden mal de tête. Jackie, our quick-thinking ambulancière, wound the seat back as far as it would go, and soon Grandma fell asleep, only to wake when the two reached le péage in La Ciotat. Before Jules could remember her pain, Jackie reminded her of la friandise she'd promised.

Soon after, I received an update from McDonald's drive-through, "Here in 10," my daughter's text read. "The ice cream's on you, lol, I don't have the money."

I laughed, remembering Jackie had my Paypal debit card from when she did the grocery shopping earlier. I was so relieved the eye intervention was over that I couldn't have cared if the duo ordered sundaes for everyone in line--and knowing Mom she would!  Finally, my telephone chimed with a notification from Paypal that a charge for 7 euros just went through. Well, that was a good deal! After all, a medical cab would have cost many times the price, and it wouldn't have included a doting assistant or a visit to MacDo*! 

In retrospect, entrusting this special expedition to Jackie had been the right decision after all. Not only was it a needed lesson in delegation for me, but it was also an opportunity for grandmother and granddaughter to share meaningful time together. Jackie handled it all with professionalism, ensuring Grandma was in good hands throughout. And while I may not have indulged in a sundae myself, seeing the smiles on their faces was the sweetest reward of all.

Corrections and messages are welcome and appreciated. Please use this link


la friandise = a sweet treat
la salle d'attente
= waiting room
la chantilly
= whipped cream
Betadine = an antiseptic used before and after surgery
la pathologie oculaire = eye pathology
la grand-mère = grandmother
l'ophtalmo (l'ophtalmologue) = eye doctor
Vous verrez, ça ne fait pas mal du tout = you'll see, it doesn't hurt at all
la poignée de porte = door handle
le mal de tête = headache
l'ambulancier, ambulancière = ambulance driver
le péage = toll booth
MacDo = French slang for McDonald's

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Jules and Kristi painting
My precious Mom, in front of one of her paintings.

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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la piqure


Have you been vaccinated lately? As an adult, the DPT vaccination "rappel" or "booster" is every ten years... more in today's story. Thank you, David and Susan Howell, for the photo, above (part of Saturday's Cinéma Vérité gallery... Don't miss it!

la piqûre (pee kyer)

    : prick, sting, bite;  injection

faire une piqûre à quelqu'un = to give somebody an injection

Audio file: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or WAV

Je ne me souviens pas de ma dernière piqûre contre la diphtérie, le tétanos ou la polio. Et vous? I do not remember my most recent injection for diphtheria, tetanus, or polio. What about you?

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

According to a vague notion that has surfaced in the forefront of my brain, it is time, once again, for a children's vaccination. High time! 

I sklunk into the doctor's office like Mère Indigne, but our family physician quickly puts any misplaced guilt to rest. "Ne vous inquiétez pas." Apparently, I am no later than the average French parent.

Thirteen-year-old Jackie takes a seat on the vinyl-covered examination table. The doctor has just yanked away the wrinkled paper cover from the previous visitor, replacing it with a fresh paper.

After darting around the eclectic room (an extension to the doctor's private home) Doc returns, having produced a piqûre. I automatically look the other way and advise Jackie to do the same. Doc agrees, but Jackie can't help herself. One understands, after all: who can resist the natural instinct to keep one's eye on the enemy?

I remind Jackie that she won't feel a thing ... thanks to the topical anesthetic or "numbing" EMLA patch I stuck on her upper arm one hour earlier.

And, just as hoped, in the time it takes Jackie to ask "Est-ce que ça va me faire mal?" the doctor is already tossing the syringe with the needle into the special wastebasket.

Next, our doctor consults Jackie's carnet de santé, specifically the page titled:

Vaccinations antipoliomyélitique

I hold my breath as the doctor counts, with the help of the fingers on her left hand. 

"Cinq. C'est ça. Elle est bien à jour!"

Ouf, I let out a sigh of relief. "But why 'five'"? Aren't they different, the vaccinations? " I ask, looking at the foreign names in the health-history book. 

My question sets the doctor counting again, this time aloud, sans doigts. I realize she is counting the age and the corresponding vaccination (one at three months, one at 18 months, and one every five years thereafter... Voilà, cinq!)

And when I point to the strange and differing "vaccinations" in the health record, Doc explains that those are simply vaccination brands: "Pentacoq", "Revaxis", "Infanrix"....

Such names had heretofore conjured up in my mind mysterious potions for mysterious diseases. Turns out they are, basically, the same group of three vaccinations (the ones with the "coq" ending have the anti-coqueluche (Whooping Cough) vaccination to boot.

 The next rappel, Doc explains, will be in Jackie's 18th year, and then every 10 years thereafter.

I am struck by the "every ten years" part... in time to factor myself into this equation. I hadn't thought about the dreaded "booster" shot since waiting--tetanisée, paralyzed with fear--in a line of shaking classmates... sometime (just when???) back in grade school.

"Does that mean I need one too?" I ask our doctor.

"It would be a good idea!" Doc replies.

"But is it obligatoire?"

"No," she admits, it is not mandatory. At my age it is facultative, or optional. But it only takes a few frightful examples, and the reminder of increasing world migrations (here, the doctor cites the increase of refugees) to convince me.

As the doctor scribbles a prescription for Revaxis, she hesitates:

"I forgot to ask... Would you like me to prescribe one of those no-pain patches for you, too?" 

"Mais oui!" I answered, once again feeling guilty.


Le Coin Commentaires 
How to you feel about adult vaccination? Did it, as it did for me, conjure up the idea of a voyage to a Third World country (something needed only for such a trip), or have you, too, been wondering lately about your own health records?

What do you think about those "facultative" vaccinations? 

Also, are you good at keeping health records? And do you have a special "records book"? Thank you for participating in today's discussion in the community corner. Click here to access the comments box.


French Vocabulary

une mère indigne = an unfit mother

la piqûre = injection, shot

Est-ce que ça va me faire mal? = Will it hurt me?

obligatoire = mandatory

le carnet de santé = health-records book

cinq = five

c'est ça = that's it

Elle est bien à jour = she is well up to date

ouf! = phew!

sans doigts = without fingers

le rappel = reminder, booster

tétanisé(e) par la peur = paralyzed by fear

mais oui! = yes, indeed!


Bilingual Poem....
Thanks to Patti and "Dnny" for translating this beautiful poem... click here to see the poem and to add your own translations or suggestions. 

"Fleurs, Abeilles" (c) Kristin Espinasse 

Some say bee piqûres aren't all that bad. What say you? What about any natural paths to immunization? Do they exist? Comments welcome in the comment box. Click here. 

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
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