Since I didn’t tell you with whom I was having lunch in Paris yesterday, what I am now about to relate will in no way cause a privacy issue.
I’ll keep the details to a minimum, the point being that both she and I learned a great deal from an ordeal and I thought I would pass our new found wisdom along to you. (Many of you may be more informed and proactive than we were on Tuesday.)
As I said, she and I met for lunch in the arrondissement where she and her husband have rented an apartment for their two-week Paris vacation. Just after we finished our omelettes and our coffees were placed on the table, I asked her a simple, banal question — something about her family — and she said, “I don’t know; I don’t remember.”
Then she asked me where we were and how she came to be at table with me. As you can imagine she became frightened and her anxiety transformed into panic. She had no idea where she was staying, nor did I. I did however have the telephone number of her apartment.
When the moment didn’t pass I called the SAMU, the equivalent of 911 in the States, and we left in an ambulance for a hospital. While we were dealing with the immediate problem, My-Reason-For-Living-In-France called her husband non-stop until several hours later he reached him to explain how to find her.
Neither my friend nor her husband, whom I met for the first time in the emergency room, speak French.
MRFLIF is, by nature, calm and he explained to her husband that she was fine, and gave him the name of the hospital telling him how to spell it and advising him to write it on a piece of paper to give the the taxi driver.
All is well, she is fine. It was terrifying and her lovely husband was wracked with worry.
The moral of this story: When traveling always, always have every last detail of who you are, where you’re staying and any medical information with you at all times. Also, particularly when in a country where you do not speak the language, buy one of those throw-away cell phones programmed with the essential telephone numbers relevant to your stay. If you’re with a friend, husband, companion. . .make sure that person has a phone to answer when you call.
It’s not the first thing an emergency room attendant will ask one to produce in France, but it’s no doubt a very good idea to have one’s insurance documents in order while traveling.
After the ordeal, she and I made a sort of pact that we will never travel without being prepared with more than all of our perfectly coordinated navy blue and black ensembles. She is lovely and mad for la mode.
Et voilà, all is well that ends well. This is a story with a happy ending.
P.S: I know many of you are world travellers and I’ve most certainly not included all the precautions one should take before international vacations. Please add more to the conversation so that we can be better informed and safer.