June 22, 2016

Air Issues

There has been a recent spate of serious problems caused air. Well, at least that's what French people seem to think. Air -- it's freshness, it's temperature, it's movement -- is a national obsession. Every Frenchwoman walks around her entire home every morning and opens the windows for five minutes, no matter the weather. It is extremely important to air things out, one medical expert commented on the radio this winter. The show host asked, "But what if it is very cold outside?" combining two thorny issues: aire freshness and the need to never waste a single speck of heat or electricity. The medical professional said that even when it is minus 10 Celsius, you must open the windows in the house. "Cinq minutes. Pas plus." This morning, the same show was dedicated to air pollution and all the havoc it can wreak. The wet weather has confined children and adults alike to long stretches of indoor time, resulting in much speculation about the damage all that recycled, un-fresh air was causing on the local population. 

But it got more serious with my own child. My three year old had a red and irritated eye; like any parent, I feared conjunctivitis. To the doctor we went. It was a Saturday, so we went, naturally, to the doctor's personal house for the check up. He poked and prodded, and did some very scientific stuff, namely rubbing his thumb and index and middle fingers together beside each of my son's ears and asking him if he heard the same volume in each ear. The technique reminded me of my own hearing check as part of my "fitness to drive a 9-person vehicle" exam. In my case, a different doctor stood behind me at various distances and called out numbers in a whisper, asking me to repeat: "Dix-neuf! Quatre-vingt-cinq!"

At the end of the exam, the doctor said he didn't think there was anything to worry about. "Perhaps," he mused, "il a pris un courant d'air." 

Maybe my son had caught a current of air.

OK, I thought, so he's fine. Nonetheless, we had a prescription for the pharmacy, so we went there. The ladies expressed concern for le petit mignon, and asked what was troubling him. I pointed out the eye in question, and the ladies, almost in unison, said, "Perhaps il a pris un courant d'air."

Breezes, winds, gusts, draughts, and gales in this country were beginning to make me nervous.   

We trundled back to the car and drove out of town, stopping for a minute in front of a friend's boutique. I told her, pointing back at the little one in his car seat, that we had just been to the doctor for a second time in three days. 

"Encore!" she exclaimed, clearly upset and worried for his health. "Qu'est-ce qu'il a le petit lapin?

[Side note: I love how French people call my kids "little rabbits."]

I again pointed to his eye, and she stood bolt upright, authoritatively, and said...

"I think that he caught un courant d'air."

I waved my thanks and quickly rolled the window up, trying my best to protect my offspring from the vagaries of the invisible gas that surrounds us on Earth.

A day later, we had guests over for lunch. It was cold at the beginning, and people were concerned we might need to close the walls of the tent we had erected to protect us from the elements. One woman described how the previous evening she had gone to a concert in town, and the entire group of a hundred or more had to be enclosed under the tent because the air and wind were so cold. As our afternoon wore on, the sun finally won the battle, and temperatures rapidly rose. We had never closed the walls of the tent, but it was nonetheless a bit hot underneath, just on the edge of being uncomfortable without ever getting there.

The following day, the woman's husband came by to get some items he had loaned us for the gathering. He informed me that his wife was not well, and had taken to her bed. Worried, I asked what the cause might be. We loosely speculated about it being the food ("Maybe she had bad digestion," quite possibly the gravest of situations for an honorable French person to be in) but, as he was in perfect form, he didn't seem convinced. Upon a little more reflection, he said, "It was very cold, then it was very hot under the tent. Je ne sais pas...peut être elle a pris...un courant d'air."

Right now, my son is feeling much better and is currently outside in the sunshine and light breezes, running and playing with his brother and mother. 

Pray for them. Meantime, I will be inside.


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