Archive for the ‘Safety and non respect’ Category

In a wheelchair? Forget France.

May 2, 2009

France is absolutely horrible for people in wheelchairs (I’m not one of them, fortunately), partly for structural reasons (old buildings, small sidewalks, etc.) but also, mainly, mentality-wise. People WILL park on sidewalks, for example, in complete violation of the law and yet with almost total impunity, unless there is a physical barrier to stop them. (Not to mention fire fighter access issues). You often see wheelchairs going down the street, in traffic, because of all the obstacles.  I once questioned a lady about parking a narrow sidewalk, blocking any possible wheelchair traffic. She replied “You’re absolutely right. I have a nephew in a wheelchair, so I’m very aware of the problem. Oh, but I’ll be no more than five minutes (in this store).” That to me kinda sums it all up.

The case below is a bit differerent as it involves handicap parking. This seems somewhat obeyed, due to high fines, but as you will see, some people seem to be above the law.

The below letter in French was sent to the Mayor of La Tronche, a town adjacent to Grenoble, explaining (with photo) that I saw a municipal employee in official vehicule parking in last of 4 handicap parking places in front of Grenoble prefecture (Employee not visibly handicapped).  Email sent in November 2008, no reply as of Summer 2009.

Le conducteur n'avait pas d'handicap visible Le conducteur n’avait pas d’handicap visible


Monsieur le Maire de La Tronche,

Je vous envois une photo prise il y a deux mois environs juste devant l’entrée de la préfecture à Grenoble. Il y a 4 place de parking pour handicapé à cet endroit, et votre employé, qui n’avait aucun signe d’handicap quand il a descendu de la voiture, a pris la dernière des 4 places, toutes les places non handicapé à proximité étant occupées.

Je suis sûr que l’employé en question dirait qu’il s’est arrêté seulement 1 minute ou 2 ; en réalité c’était plus près de 10 minutes. Mais pour moi que ce soit une minute ou 5 ou une demi-heure n’est pas la question. Il s’agit non seulement du non respect de la loi par un employé municipal, mais aussi d’un mépris pour les gens réellement handicapé, qui pourraient d’ailleurs se trouver aussi pressé que votre employé. Car si votre employé se moquait seulement de la loi, il se serait garé à côté des places handicapées, dans la zone de stationnement interdit.

Je ne crois pas que ceci est l’image de votre ville que vous désirez diffuser, et j’espère donc que vous rappellerez à vos équipes par communication officielle que le respect des places handicapées doit être observé à tout moment, ainsi que toute autre loi de la république !

Je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur le Maire, l’assurance de ma considération distinguée.


CHU de Grenoble, Grenoble Hospital

November 8, 2008

I’ve been thinking for some time of starting this blog, but it took my experience yesterday at Grenoble’s Hopital Nord to get me really motivated. France is not a bad place, nor is the CHU Hospital. The pediatric surgery team was great, son’s surgery and recovery went very well. All in all a good experience. BUT, there were those few annoying and/or frightening details that seem to pop up on an almost daily basis. The first: When the (male) anesthiologist came to carry away our son, in his arms, to the operating block, I catch a whiff of musky perfume, the kind that gives me instant mild asthma and sometimes headaches. Now, it wasn’t horribly strong, just enough to make me uncomfortable in my breathing. But of course my thougts were with my son, who has “infantile asthma”, as we had declared to another anesthesiologist upon consultation prior to admission. Now, doctors should know that perfumes and asthma do not mix, so why in the hell would ANY doctor, let alone an anesthesiologist, wear perfume or cologne at the hosptial? Everything went OK for us, luckily, but suppose someone more sensitive than myself finds himself having an asthma attack moments before undergoing anesthesia, thanks to perfumed doctors? I haven’t complained to the hospital administration yet, but I plan to. (More to come on the problem of ubiquitous perfumes in France).

The second and more outrageous fact was the discovery of dozens of cigarettes butts (and smell of stale cigarette smoke) in one of the hospital stairwells that serve as emergency exits.  Having “time to kill” while my son was undergoing surgery, my wife and I decided to take the stairs down to the lobby (mind you, the hospital is 14 stories high, and with my wife and son spending 2 nights in the pedriatric ward on the 9th, we thought it might in fact be a good idea to see where the emergency stair exits were).  At each level as we descended we saw cigarette butts stamped out on the stairs or dunked in half-filled plastic cups of coffee or water bottles, and even tossed into black plastic trash bags with papers and and other trash (the bags apparently placed there by cleaning staff to try to contain the mess). On one level there was even an apparent “smoker’s seat”, a ratty old fabric seated chair, the back cushion of which appeared to have been burned or smoke damaged. Smoking is of course strictly forbidden in the hospital, and certainly none the less so in the emergency exit stairwell; and yet I sensed these were not patients or visitors that were sneaking smokes here. This hunch was confirmed when I saw the latex glove amidst the butts on one level, and the hospital mask amidst those on another. Here are a couple of photos:

Hospital emergency stairwell

Emergency stairwell

Smokering chair in Emergency Stairwell

Smoking chair in Emergency Stairwell

So what can I say? I’m not a fire expert and I don’t really know what would happen if a bag of trash or a lone upholstered chair happened to be ablaze when an emergency required a general evacuation via the stairs. But that’s just the point, we anglos tend to think safety first, better safe than sorry, rules are rules, etc. France is different though:  Safety is for others and generally speaking rules are seen more as “good practices” than mandatory, because there are rarely consequences for breaking them.