April 13

Denis, who lives in Paris, has asked me to stop talking about shopping and tourist stuff in Paris all the time and consider more serious questions, such as the miracle of French socialized medicine.

Well, I'm glad he asked that question. I've been sick ever since I moved here. I'm convinced it's going from L.A. to a tightly packed city, where you can't avoid people or their germs. First it was a cold that lasted three weeks and made it hard for me to climb my beloved stairs, then a stomach bug.

Finally, I got the name of a doctor here from a friend, and went. The first thing that struck me was that the doctor had no staff, not even a receptionist. When you call her office, you get her, in the middle of an exam. She's curt and just says, "OK, come at 5 o'clock." She gives you the door code, because her office is in an apartment building with no concierge.

Anyway, there were a couple of people in the waiting room when I got there. I sat down. A few minutes later the doc, a tall young woman with a surgical mask, burst out, saying she'd take us in the order of our arrival. When my turn came, I sat down at her big, messy desk. There was an eye chart on the wall and examination table behind me. She asked me about myself, my complaints, what medications I took. She did not rush. In fact, we had a nice conversation about the difference between French and American styles of mammography.

She knew I needed an antibiotic but also prescribed something to dry me up and a nasal wash (which I quite like). Then, at the end of this very pleasant session, she asked for 25 euros, about $30.

Downstairs at the pharmacy, I discovered that all medications in France cost the same, no matter where you buy them. For three presciptions, including the antibiotic, the price was about $75, which seems lower than in the U.S. I was delirious, and not with fever.

All that remained for me to do was file out-of-network claim forms with my stateside health insurance provider. That took till dinner, and I'm not expecting much of a reimbursement.

I don't know the ins and outs of these things, but you have to like a system that treats a stupid foreign woman with the flu so gently.