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The Most Unglamorous and Glamorous Sides of France in the Same Story (Part II)

(This story makes a lot more sense if you read part I first!)

French facemask, Ottawa, November 2020
French facemask, Ottawa, November 2020


“Are you the woman who’s just called about thermometers?”

The pharmacien de garde, i.e. the pharm student who had been voluntold to keep the shop open on Sunday—a rarity in France where there are no 24/7 drugstores—could have been cast as “hot French guy” for a Hollywood movie.

“As I’m sure you know, thermometers are a hot seller this year. I only have two options left—sorry about that. Now, you can buy this baby first aid kit for €25 and it comes with a thermometer but it’s… ahem, an older model.”

“Please don’t tell me it’s a rectal thermometer.”

“Unfortunately, it is.”

“Welcome to the 21st century, baby,” I muttered.

The pharmacy student burst out laughing. “So, I’m guessing you’ll go with the second option, the quick-read digital forehead thermometer for €50—I know, I’m sorry, I didn’t set the price.”

“I’d pay up to €80 to avoid inserting anything into my bum tonight,” I admitted.

“I know how you feel. Wise choice.”

It only took me a minute after I paid and left to realize something was wrong. The box felt very light, almost as if… oh, shit! I turned around and rushed back inside the pharmacy.

“Did you forget something?”

“Yes, I should have asked—does the thermometer work with batteries? And if so, are they included?”

“Yes. And… no.”

“Damn. Do you know where I can buy batteries at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night?”

“Uh oh… everything is closed. It’s the same kind of batteries used for most remote controls, would you have that at home?”

“Not a chance, my mom doesn’t even have a TV.”

“Let me see if I have spare batteries somewhere in the back,” he offered.

Meanwhile, I took it upon myself to provide helpful customer service and I explained the available options to two separate last-minute customers also looking for a thermometer.

They both picked the modern made-in-China forehead version.

“I’m really sorry, I can’t find spare batteries,” the pharmacy student announced. “Look, I’m helping these folks and I’m closing. Here’s my cell number and address. I live nearby, come to my place and—”

One of the customers behind me started laughing and the pharmacy student suddenly noticed the double entendre.

“—come to my place FOR BATTERIES.”

I thanked him and told him I’d check at home first.

“I have a new thermometer!” I announced. “But we need batteries. If we can’t find any, no worries, I have the pharmacist’s cellphone number and address. Please, stop laughing, it’s not what you think it is.”

“I’m so proud of you, my daughter. A modern thermometer and possibly a good catch. If you weren’t already married, I’d be excited to see you marrying up!” my mom joked, clearly feeling just fine.

She was, by the way. Batteries were found in an old flashlight, I texted the pharmacist to thank him again and I sure hope the rectal thermometer was disposed of properly.

And this is somewhat a typical French story, which starts with the most unglamorous item and end up with a hot guy’s phone number.

Damn. We do make everything sexy—can’t argue with this stereotype.

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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