My father, a doctor, recently related to me an unusual and historic case concerning a patient a colleague of his had treated. The man had just graduated from college and had backpacked around Western Europe for a few months before returning back to Irvine (where he had also gone to college) to start his job at Google's new office. He had hit the high points of what used to be the Grand Tour, and had spent most of his time in Paris, his first and last stop, and reported that he had particularly enjoyed the narrow, crowded streets of the Latin Quarter, which are completely unlike the broad highways of Orange County, as I hope none of you has any cause to experience first-hand. As many people in his situation do, he picked up a few affectations while abroad; in particular, although he had never been a smoker before, he returned devoted to Gauloises. (He was not a particularly original fellow.) They reminded him, he said, of the chimneylike Parisians whose eccentricities, so unlike those of his friends in the States, had enchanted him.
Now, perhaps unsurprisingly, not long after his return, after he settled in to his work routine, he started experiencing shortness of breath and sometimes sharp pain when he inhaled deeply—which he found himself doing more often, despite the pain, since during the slightest physical exertion his breath was so rapid and shallow that he was left gasping when it ceased. He blamed the cigarettes, of course, and vowed to stop smoking, only to discover when he did so that his symptoms worsened. It was at this point that he went to my dad's colleague to see what might be ailing him.
This doctor had an inkling what might have been causing it, but it had never been diagnosed in the States, and internationally only very infrequently, so he wasn't certain. He knew, however, how to figure out if it was indeed what he expected. While the man sat in his skivvies on a table, he tut-tutted, paced a bit, hmmmmed, and expressed other concern-behavior, and then told the man what he wanted him to do: he thought that what was wanted was exercise: conditioning for his lungs. But not, obviously, strenuous exercise; that would only bring the situation to disaster. So he wanted the man to go on walks, and to ensure that he didn't strain himself too much even while walking (
how likely, thought the man to himself as he heard the doctor's somewhat embarrassed explanation of all this,
is it that I'll walk too fast?), he had a somewhat odd prescription for him: he was to go to a pet store and procure a tortoise, which he would take on walks with him, and than which he was not to go faster. The doctor instructed him to come back in two weeks and let him know how things were going.
Two weeks later the man returned, with tidings that, it must be admitted, stupefied their bearer. While on these walks down Irvine's unwalkable boulevards, going nowhere, since there's nowhere to go on foot, bearing a tortoise on a leash, and uncertain whether the scoffing glances he received were because of his unusual choice of travelling companion, or his unusual choice of travelling by foot, his condition was much improved—seemed even to vanish. Indeed, even though he gave in to the near-overwhelming temptation while on these strolls to smoke a cigarette or two, no ill effects attended this action; indeed, while dragging on the cigarette, he seemed to feel even better than he did before!
I suspected as much, the doctor said, when the man had finished his report in wonderment.
While you were in Paris, you picked up a nasty case of flâneurisy.