how to get a free physical in 15 minutes or less

  1. Get on a plane to France (I didn’t say it was going to be cheap, just quick).
  2. Take the tram to the stop “Doyen Brus” in Bordeaux, get off the tram and proceed directly to “Medicine Universitaire” for your scheduled appointment. Don’t forget your student card.
  3. Follow instructions and answer ‘no’ to every single question.
  4. You’re done!

In order to swim with the swim team here, I needed to a have a physical done, and today was the magical day. And yes, I really was in and out of there in about 15 minutes. The staff might not have been as warm and fuzzy as their American counterparts, but now I have time to go to the library and search for some of the tens of books we’re supposed to read for classes! And write this.

I normally write about food, but my experience at the doctor’s office was so vastly different from any experience I’ve ever had in America that it deserves to be noted.

There are a few more details involved than those listed above.

At 11:30 a slightly frustrated gray-haired lady came out of her office, gave me the once-over, and beckoned. “Venez-vous, mademoiselle.” We sat down at her desk and she proceeded to rattle off all of those questions that normally take up about four sheets of paper at the doctor’s office in the US. Well, instead of struggling through them by myself for 15 minutes, together she and I got them all answered in no less than 3 minutes. Then she told me to take of my shirt and lay on my back on the table.


Taking off any sort of garment is not standard procedure in the US.

After rubbing my chest with alcohol (NOT a pleasant experience), she then attached 6 electrode-type patches to my chest and put clamps around my ankles and wrists…and told me to relax. Yeah, sure. Mercifully though, the handcuffs were short-lived. A minute later, she had a printout of my heartbeat in her hand. The experience kind of reminded me of those articles that pop up in the sports section periodically, about basketball stars who drop dead in the middle of games because of heart defects. Granted, I know nothing about cardiology, but the whole time I was thinking about what would happen if the electrode-clamp contraption was a standard part of US physicals. Would there be fewer of those stories?

Anyways, after giving me a whole 15 seconds to remove the electrodes and find my clothing, we rushed off to the actual doctor, who looked nothing like any doctor I’ve ever seen. He was wearing blue jeans, a black t-shirt and a olive green jacket, complete with combat boots. He looked like a contract killer, not a doctor. He also kind of acted like one? Besides two questions, the only words that came out of his mouth were “parfait…parfait.” At least I breathe perfectly though.

He then printed out the waiver that I need for the swim team and turned back around, continuing to tinker away on his computer. I sat there, waiting for something else to happen. You know, the ‘goodbye, thanks, and have a nice day, that typically gets exchanged?”. But no. After a few instants he swiveled around and peered at me, which I took to mean “ok, really. Why are you still sitting there? You’re done.”

So I picked up my backpack and left.

There was no suggestion of paying from anyone, nor did I see a cashier anywhere. All the swearing that I did over leaving my insurance card at home was for naught; no one cared about it. They got all of the bases covered, from breathing to blood pressure to heart rate, and I walked out of there in 15 minutes with exactly what I wanted. There was absolutely zero waiting, they were incredibly efficient, and while the overall experience was a little lacking in the ‘warm fuzzies’ department, but there might be something to the French system.  

What is the most interesting experience you’ve had at the doctor’s office?


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