A Far More Successful Week

Women Wearing HijabMy dealings this week with the RAMQ (Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec) have restored my hopes with bureaucracy in Québec after my pull-your-hair-out frustrating experience with the SAAQ (Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec).

One thing that really bothered me at the SAAQ is that three out of the four people with whom I had the most dealings at that agency, in addition to being arrogant, somehow managed either to make an inappropriate remark about non-Québécois or to demonstrate that stereotypical narcistic view francophones here are often accused of having. At the RAMQ, on the other hand, I spent a lot more time than everyone else in the waiting room, as my request was clearly more involved and complicated than seeking some kind of reimbursement. However, when my number was finally called and I sat down at the assigned wicket, I was somewhat surprised but pleased to be greeted by a lovely, smiling young woman wearing glasses and a hijab.

She was in the advanced stages of training, so another woman about my age sat next to her and verified that she was doing everything correctly. The thing is, she was! She was utterly competent, always two steps ahead of her mentor, explaining everything to me clearly as if she had been doing this job for years. Her French accent was neutral: not overly Québécois, but certainly not European, either. She was a pleasure to deal with, and she set me on my way in 15 minutes. (Of course, it helped that I had all the necessary documents.)

I needed to take a leak before leaving the building and heading back home, but before entering the washroom, I realized I had forgotten my bag at her desk. I turned around, went back to her desk, to find she was already serving someone else …in fluent English. Although I suspect she is not first-generation to Québec, in my eyes she perfectly illustrates the benefits of “reasonable accommodations”: the public service has a stellar employee who’s a net asset to our society, and her hijab is, as it should, as banal as someone wearing a discreet gold chain with a cross. Whoopy ding!

Cleopatrick also had a successful, productive week, and directly and indirectly, his encounters within the cultural mosaic of Montréal have provided him with renewed energy in his endeavours. He came back with an interesting factoid about this neighbourhood (Côte-des-Neiges), namely that over 110 nationalities are represented within its boundaries. My sister who was visiting last weekend noticed the difference between now and when she lived in this neighbourhood 30 years ago. At that time, the neighbourhood was still predominently Jewish, but today, within a few blocks of the Snowdon metro as we went on a quest to find her a hair brush, we surely came across people from every continent, yacking away in their native tongue as well as French or English while paying for their new wares. It’s wonderful!

Next Wednesday I hope to have some time to go downtown to take a Spanish placement test. If I can’t make it on Wednesday, I can go any other day but will have to pay $20 for the test. I may just do that if I have to, because getting into a class in September is more important to me than a lousy $20.