Doctors are supposed to have patients—or at least patience till they have the paying kind. And I’m a doctor. Well, let’s be honest here. I’m not that kind of doctor. I’m a Ph.D. And if the faux acronym means “piled higher and deeper”—it really means Philosophiae doctor, one learned in philosophy, or love of wisdom—that which is piled higher and deeper is not hundred-dollar bills. My late mother once opined that with handwriting like mine, I could have been a real doctor and made real money. She also allowed as how, after I would bring home a date, “She’s a nice girl, dear, but you could do better.”..
But enough small talk! Let’s get down to business. To quote our current President (for whom we give thanks each day!), “Here’s the deal.” Cedar, my wife, and I have a 45-year-old French goddaughter, a lovely actress and beautiful soul named Marie. She has been trying since last July to visit us, but alas, in these 15 months of Covid, making the eight-hour flight from France to Denver has been impossible. Even now, with the disease winding down in the U.S., the frontier between our two countries remains firmly closed. So today, to fulfill my promise for yesterday, I tried calling the French Embassy in Washington, DC. My question was to be, “When do you think our border with France will reopen?” Was to be because I discovered that the French Embassy would be closed for the next ten days. Resourceful Yale graduate that I am, I found a phone number online for the French Consulate in nearby Denver. (I live in Boulder, Colorado.) It too proved closed. A recorded American voice suggested I try the French Consulate in L.A. So that’s what I did. Good thing my iPhone was well-charged. A lovely alto voice in French informed me that I was number nine in line and it was estimated that my call would be “treated” in seven minutes. After 20 minutes of tinny jazz and being thanked every ten seconds for my patience, I was told that I was now “numéro un” and would be treated in a mere three minutes. French arithmetic?! And sure enough, three minutes later, the music stopped. I was really excited now. Then a soprano voice came on and, though my sound was turned to max, I couldn’t make out her garbled recorded speech. Then there was a click, and the call was dropped without an au revoir.
But I had a plan! Marie’s other question was whether, if she took a flight from France via Germany to, say, Mexico, from which she thought she might be able to get into our country, would she need special papers for Germany? No diplomatic missions this time but the Deutsche Lufthansa. German efficiency would be just a few short minutes away. Well, not so fast, Herr Feldmann! The tinny music this time was arguably worse, four bars of pseudo-jazz repeated over and over again. When they finally picked up maybe ten minutes later, I was ready to confess to any crime, real or imagined. But wait! At least I had some news for Marie this time, and the news was good. As a transit passenger she had nothing to worry about. No special papers were required. So, English-French dictionary in hand, I emailed Marie “les resultats de ma recherche.” She responded, “No problem. My friend Dr. Hubert will give me Moderna shot numéro un next week, and we’d simply leave everything up to ‘les vents du desin.’ [the winds of Destiny].” Oui, oui, Mademoiselle! I guess you’re the real docteur here.