"Alternative Blackboard" (seen yesterday, in Avignon). Alternative. I love the word, ever since discovering alternative music back in high school, thanks to the guy for whom I ditched the prom (we listened to The Smiths, instead). The following story (not about the guy or ditching) was written a few years ago... it's called Beauty and the Buck and it's simply an alternative to the story column below, or part 5 (or 6?) of The Hospital Chronicles... I just hope you'll read the example sentence, below, which may spark your interest for the story that follows!

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draguer (drah-gay)

: to hit on someone, to make a pass

draguer en voiture = to go cruising for chicks or guys
draguer dans les boîtes =  to cruise nightclubs
se faire draguer par une fille/un garcon = to get hit on by a girl/a guy

Audio File & Example SentenceDownload MP3 or Wav file

Au retour de l'hôpital, on a dragué mon ambulancière!
On the way home from the hospital, my ambulance driver got hit on! 


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

Let Beauty Transport You

You have met almost all of the characters that I encountered at the hospital in Avignon. But I haven't yet told you about Camille (kah-mee). Lovely, lead-footed Camille, the ambulancière who came to collect me after chirurgie and recovery.

Camille wasn't as playful as High Heeled Simone or as sure-footed as Nurse Swagger. She was certainly as trusting as L'Infirmière-Trianglist, but without the chutzpah we witnessed in Madonna of the Gurney. We won't compare her to my surgeon, whom we have not read about... though she is even younger than he. (Come to think of it, that makes me sound old, but that couldn't be, for, as The Gut Doctor said: "We don't typically see patients as young as you...")

Young Camille arrived on time. It was I that was running behind and I wasn't so much running as I was sleeping... until a nurse, whom I had not seen before, threw open the door. "Madame Espinasse. Mais! Vous n'êtes pas encore prête?!

I looked down at such unprêtedness, which was written all over my paper-clad body (still dressed in the ink-blue hospital gown). And then it hit me: I had fallen back to sleep after the snack that Infirmière-Triangliste had given me. 

I sat up so fast that my head began to spin. "Doucement!" the nurse warned. Looking past her I noticed my first guest, which turned out to be the driver who had come to take me home. I waved excitedly. "Prenez votre temps," the driver said, greeting me.

I dressed quickly in the tiny bathroom and, when I could no longer resist, I looked into the mirror... That is when I realized our dilemma!: how to get from the hospital room to the car without showing the Hideous Surgical Wound--the one which was glaring back, from the middle of my forehead, from behind the see-through surgical glue! The shock of seeing the visible wound was quickly replaced by the stress in trying to figure out how to hide it from the innocent bystanders whom I might pass on my way to the car. I had no scarf, no hat, no fringe, or bangs, to cover the unsightly area. In a desperate effort to conceal the frightful wound, I gathered a long lock of hair from the right side of my head... and swung it round, and over to the left side, just as I had seen men of a certain age do... only the result was absurd.

Conscious that my driver was still waiting, I grabbed my things and, using my hand to cover my forehead, I quickly followed l'ambulancière out to the car, passing only a few accidental gawkers along the way.

Once in the car, in the front seat, I struck up a conversation with the driver, not willing to let my mind linger on the image I had seen in the mirror.

"Ceci c'est une ambulance?" I began... Camille corrected me. This was a spiffy VSL, or véhicule sanitaire léger--a kind of medical transport used for patients who can sit up. I realized how lucky I was that our insurance covered part of this transport from the hospital to our home, 40 minutes north--for we were smack in the middle of the harvest (Chief Grape couldn't pick me up) and, though it was very kind of her to offer, I didn't want Aunt Marie-Françoise to have to leave work early, to fetch me.

I was grateful for my chatty conductrice, whom I tried to listen to for the duration of the drive. I learned that Driver Camille has seven cats, still lives with her mom, has just passed her ambulance-driver's exam (...!), lives in a nearby village, would like to learn English, loves her job and especially her clients! This next-to-last point was illustrated by the way she weaved in and out of traffic while holding an ongoing dialogue with her dizzy passenger. In this way, Camille managed to take my mind off more than my wound (thoughts of which were simply replaced by thoughts on mortality as we spun past sports cars and sandwiched in between semi-trucks, while exiting the freeway...)

Veering off the autoroute, via the exit ramp, I noticed two sets of ogling eyes in the truck beside us. "Regardez!" I said to Camille. "Oh look! You have a couple of admirers!"

Camille looked surprised, until I set things straight: "Well, they sure aren't waving at me!" And, zut, if that wasn't the wrong thing to say. It would only put Camille in the awkward position of having make excuses for her good looks, the ones she was just becoming aware of.

But, true to her outer beauty, she managed to react with grace. "I have never had this happen to me before," she giggled, looking back at the fan club who were now disappearing into the horizon as we exited the freeway. I took my eyes off the fans and refocused them, as if for the first time, on the lovely brunette whose job it was to transport me. I admired her fresh beauty, and I sensed her naïveté. I thought about the long road ahead of her, in which there would be, among joy, hurts, disappointments, fears. But naïveté can also be a wonderful quality, and, along with that lead foot (I had to check my seat belt once again), it will help her over life's hurdles... now if our darling driver would only mind the speed bumps a bit, for a smoother ride for both of us! 

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome in the comments box


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The classic Bescherelle, the complete guide to French verb conjugation. Read the five-star reviews, and order, here.

French Vocabulary

ambulancier, ambulancière = ambulance driver

la chirurgie = surgery

mais! vous n'êtes pas encore prête? = But! You aren't ready yet?

doucement = take it easy

prenez votre temps = take your time

ceci c'est une ambulance? = this is an ambulance?

la conductrice (le conducteur) = driver

zut! = damn!


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It's been over five weeks since my surgery. I went to the doctor's office, yesterday, to have another look beneath my bandage. Though I'm still nervous about what I saw, I'm keeping my hopes up. Meantime, I took a stroll through Avignon, post doctor visit, and came across this philosophical writing on the wall. The chalked-up words read: Garder le moral si possible (Keep your chin up, if possible), son âme à l'equilibre (and keep your soul balanced). The next tip I found particularly helpful: "Le truc c'est de pas y penser" (the thing is not to think about it). 

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Maria Cochrane

Kristin (just lost my post as it was in progress)...Are you sure that Zut! means Damn!...I've been saying that in my classes to my American students for 20 years!! Rassure-moi, stp! I thought it was more Rats!

Kristin Espinasse

Maria, I always thought it meant rats, too--and it does (also heck darn drats), only, when I went to double-check in my Robert Collins dictionary, damn was the first translation. Zut alors!

Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ

I felt I was riding along with you and Camille on the way home from Avignon. You really brought her to life. Hoping all goes well with your healing.

Sophie Day

Anxiously awaiting your return to life on the farm. Les chiens me manquent!

Bruce T. Paddock

This is another one of your best, Kristin. Humor, local color, and the meaning of life, all wrapped up in one.

Sarah LaBelle

I really like your posts about la chirugerie. They catch your feelings as they happen, in an uncomfortable place far from home. You are doing something essential on your own. You are sharing as it happens, before you know the end of the story.
Thanks for sharing all these moments.

Rod Crislip

my surgeon,whom we have not read about,though she is even younger than he...

Jules Greer

Hi Kristi - my phone is now working....loved this post. I'll be home in five minutes.



Kristin Espinasse

Yay! Mom, Ill call you in a minute!

Rod, thanks for the grammar help. Will fix that at the next chance.


I applaud you for writing about the surgery so soon after it happened. You are brave in so many ways! Merci!

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Delighted to see you are taking time out for photographing! Loved the story of "lead-footed Camille"!


Another great 'hospital' anecdote! :) You have a beautiful way of describing people.

David Simmons

I find the juxtaposition of French words in English sentences is a nice "truc" that helps an American learn French vocabulary.

Incidentally, unless you were unable to stand on your feet and walk, it surprises me that you were entitled to an ambulance ride home from the hospital after forehead surgery. If you took an ambulance home from a USA hospital in those circumstances, you'd have to pay for it out of your own pocket, and it would be 450 US dollars just to be driven next door...

mary paulson

Kristin, I enjoyed the ride home with you. Your words painted a picture in my minds eye.They always do. Hope the healing is soon behind you.Take care.

Sally Vegso

Your readers might want to read the book, La Seduction, by NY Times writer, Elaine Sciolino. "Le regarde" is written about. Your ambulance driver has grown up with this bit of culture but I am wondering how you think of it. My opinion has changed since reading the book. Why has the USA made this gesture so threatening?
Sally Vegso

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
Enjoyed this post!


Hi Kristin,

The link above takes you to a news story about a study showing that drinking coffee may help prevent basal cell carcinoma. So keep sipping your cafe au lait every morning!


....I think those guys were ogling YOU, beautiful Kristin! Back from 10 days in the States, I'm catching up on your lively's like a sip of champagne to read your vignettes! What a buzz! Thank you!

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