The school finished for the holidays on a Wednesday. It began again two weeks later on a Thursday. I agreed to do a 10k run with the assistant from Sartène on the Sunday in Porto-Vecchio. After signing up, I found out that to do the run I needed a medical certificate so I booked an appointment for the Friday at 13:30pm with a doctor in the old town. The English, English teacher who lives next door recommended him to me. “Tell him you know us” she said.
I arrived at the doctors at 13:25pm, sweaty and clutching my bicycle helmet. I was worried I had not left enough time to get there. At the Marina, I was forced to get off and push my bike up the vertical hill to the old town above, where the doctors was.
I sat down and started reading a few months old L’Obs. It was mostly about the Nice Attacks and on every other page some sociologist/politician/commentator/spin-doctor would give his and occasionally her opinion on how to tackle the threat of Islamic terrorism in France. I finished it and put it down on the coffee table and checked my watch. It was 13:50pm. There was at least three other people who had been waiting before me still there in the waiting room too. I picked up an old l’Express and began reading. Picture from the Nice attacks filled the first ten or so pages and the rest of the magazine followed the same format of L’Obs, except they had found even more experts to interview. I put the magazine back on the table. It was 14:20. One woman who was there before me still hadn’t been seen.
At 14:40, the doctor came out and called something which sounded like “Over Faith”. Everyone looked at each other anxiously. He repeated it. It turned out to be my name. I shook his hand and followed him to his office.
Once inside the office, he asked me if I was English and I said yes. He then sat down at his desk. I sat down at the other side. He looked at me with a bored expression on his face. I looked back at him. He looked at me.
“I need a medical certificate for a run I’m doing” I said in French. He didn’t change his expression
“You need a certificate for participation in athletics” he asked or said. It wasn’t clear.
After asking me some basic health questions, such as if I smoked, he listened to my heart beat and took my blood pressure. I thought the appointment was nearly over when he asked me to do 10 squats.
“Do ten squats?” I asked.
“Yes” he said, monotone. I did the first three when he stopped me. “You need to go deeper” he said, as if this was a high school PE lesson. I continued. “That’s okay” he said after I had done the tenth. “Lay on the chair” he said. I went over to the chair and laid on it. He had his back turned to me. Without saying anything, he turned to face me and placed two metal clamps on my ankles and another two on my wrists. I could now not get up from the chair. At first I considered asking him what he was doing. Later on I considered screaming.
The doctor turned away from me again and picked up another bigger clamp. He placed this across my chest. I tried to breathe deeply and stay calm. Hopefully this would be over soon. The doctor then attached the metal clamps to a machine and I closed my eyes, waiting for the electricity to scorch my internal organs. The doctor clicked the switch.
“Bonne journée” I said. The doctor said nothing. I shook his hand and left his office clutching my medical certificate. Thankfully the doctor wasn’t a sadistic murderer. He was merely a unscrupulous, xenophobic misanthropist who likes cheating foreigners out of their money. He charged me 37 euros for the certificate which I found out the assistant in Sartène got for 23 euros.
On the Sunday we did the run. I finished in 52nd place overall and if I was a woman I would have finished in 8th place out of all the women in the race, which temporarily made me think I could always go into competition running if the whole university thing didn’t work out. Unfortunately I’m not a woman so I would have still only finished in 45th place out of all the men in the race, without mentioning that the mean age of entrants was definitely a good few decades older than me.
There was free beer after the race and I leaned on the wall eating an apple and sipping a can of Heineken, waiting for the other assistant to finish.