It’s the end of another month and thus time for another installment of the Ohmygod saga (the previous installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, and Part Five ‘B’ or you can check them out in the menu up top). As you will recall, I was a cycling tour guide in Europe for several years. Through that job (yes, it is a bit difficult to call it a ‘job’) I met countless interesting people and have a few compelling stories to tell, but most of them pale to the story of Ohmygod, one of the clients that I had for two weeks. Some may wonder about the moniker, but the name chose itself really; it is what I uttered repeatedly during just about every interaction with him.
In the last episodes, as we were preparing to leave Blois, I learned that Ohmygod had been robbed, only to discover that the ‘robbery’ was a case of Ohmygod leaving his fanny pack at the previous night’s bar.
Well, my own little Tour de France continues. Yesterday we left Blois after spending two nights in the former royal capital of France. Even though the town is not necessarily all that high on the ‘must-sees’ in the Loire Valley, I really like the town–mostly because I have spent so much time there over the years and really came to know it well. The castle in Blois is also very cool–more from its historical significance than from its architectural beauty (although one of the staircases is very famous for those who are into staircases).
As you recall from the last installment, on the way out of town, I found Ohmygod’s ‘stolen’ fanny pack at the bar where he left it the night before. As I hopped on my bike, I was already contemplating the story that I would tell him when I returned his precious ID. I first thought I would fabricate an intricate tale that involved me tracking down the perpetrator of the theft and eventually recovering the stolen goods. After a bit, I discarded this option for several reasons: 1). I could not decide if I had convinced the ‘criminal’ to return the items or if I used some sort of force to wrestle the pack away from the scalawag. 2). I really did not want Ohmygod to feel indebted to me in any way–I was afraid of how such adulation would manifest itself. 3). I certainly did not want Ohmygod to think that I was some sort of magician that could cure his conundrums since there were no doubt to be countless more.
For a moment, I considered not returning it at all until the end of the trip. I thought this might cause him to be more cautious, keeping him on a rather short leash. After the briefest of reflections, I realized that this would undoubtedly backfire in some twisted way–I envisioned his arrest for some sort of public indecency at which time he would need to produce his identification. I would have some explaining to do if I ‘miraculously’ produced the documents at that precise time.
In the end, I decided to go with a slightly altered version of the truth (the ‘slightly altered’ part was omitting what happened to the missing cash that I gave to the bartender since Ohmygod did not pay his tab–I was just going to wait and see if he dared to bring it up).
The ride was to be a beautiful one, ending in Chenonceaux, the town of my favorite of the Loire châteaux. Along the way, we would pass a few other well-known castles (most notably Chaumont-sur-Loire) and have possible detours for a few others (e.g., Amboise, the town where Leonardo da Vinci spent a good chunk of his life and whose château I did a report on in 9th grade French class). In Chenonceaux we always stay at one of my favorite hotels/restaurants anywhere. A beautiful, old hotel run by two of the nicest people you could ever meet. The restaurant is fantastic–impeccably prepared meals with an impressive wine list featuring wines made within just a few kilometers of your seat.
I usually stay in each town until after lunch and then power through the ride, making it to the next town a bit before dinner (but hopefully after all the others made it in–my job is to trail the route and pick up any stragglers along the way which inevitably slows me down considerably and makes me rather grouchy–something we would all rather avoid). Leaving Blois, however, I always plan on having lunch at my favorite little restaurant in Amboise, so I left pretty soon after I heard Ohmygod struggle to get on the road. Ohmygod, despite his affinity for wearing bike clothes everywhere he goes and having more gadgets on his bike than most airplane cockpits, is really a terrible cyclist. He has clipless pedals which are not particularly difficult to master (usually, new users fall over once and then quickly get the hang of them), but he manages to fall every single day when leaving for the ride. Each time it happens, he pops right back up, examines his well scared knees for any signs of fresh blood and then mumbles the same sentence: “These pedals must be defective.” After the first such time I offered to take a look at them, but was rebuked–possibly since he knows it is user error, not manufacturing defect (although it is pure folly to try to read his mind).
Once I recovered his fanny pack that contained his identification (his social security card, birth certificate and half of a driver’s license), I considered racing after him on the road to return it, but the absolute last thing I wanted was to catch up with Ohmygod and be forced to ride with him for the rest of the day. Instead, I mapped out a southern detour to get a bit more riding in, swinging by the town of Cheverny and its castle, and give Ohmygod a lengthy head start. I figured that I had some good karma saved up for finding his fanny pack, and besides, Cheverny produces a bit of wine which is very tasty (mostly a Sauvignon Blanc dominated white and a bit of rosé–the red is rather regrettable, however) and I figured I would take in a wine tasting or two while there. I would then head back up and across the Loire river to Amboise for a nice lunch of trout and Cheverny rosé.
The day proceeded swimmingly–not a cloud in the sky, temps in the mid 20’s (around 80F) and no sign of Ohmygod anywhere. After lunch, I swung by Chaumont and then added on a few extra kilometers to just surpass 100k for the day and I pulled into the hotel a little before 5:00. As I ‘parked’ my bike in the hotel garage, I noticed that Ohmygod’s bike was not there yet–causing some concern since I did not see him anywhere along the route.
As I was heading toward the lobby, I ran into Grumpy and Mr. Personality who apparently had arrived considerably earlier, they appeared to have showered, and were dressed for dinner. They informed me that they were headed out to look around town a bit and maybe grab a beer before dinner. They seemed to have survived the previous night out with Ohmygod and were clearly in fine spirits. They had got out on the road a little on the early side to check out a few more castles, or, more likely, to have a pleasant ride without the third member of the crew. I asked them if they had seen Ohmygod during the day, and after a brief shake of the head (the type of shake that people do when they are either disappointed or incredulous) they indicated that they saw him briefly outside of Amboise, headed in the wrong direction, oblivious as they both waved and shouted his name.
I informed them that we were eating at the hotel around 8 and I proceeded to the lobby to grab my key. Oddly, there was no one at the front desk and after waiting a few minutes and looking around for the owner, I went behind the desk and looked in the register for my room. I had stayed in the hotel so many times, I was sure they would not mind–after all, all the keys were hanging on hooks to the side of the front desk. I headed up to my room for a quick shower.
As I came back down to the lobby, the owner of the hotel (a woman who is usually quite professional and reserved), frantically called me over, with a puzzled and concerned look on her face. For a moment, I was worried that I had broken protocol by grabbing my own key. I quickly realized that it was something else entirely.
I wondered what, I mean ‘who’ this involved?
As soon as I got to the front desk, I noticed that she had a guest in her office–someone sporting the distinctive yellow vest of an employee of the PTT (the French Post Office). I was oddly relieved since I knew that this was likely not about Ohmygod–it was probably a translation issue of some sort.
The hotel owner introduced me to the postal employee, Anne, (who was also her cousin) who told me there had been an ‘incident’ at the local office. Anne was very nice and apologetic as she informed me that Ohmygod made quite the entry into town (I say ‘town’ but Chenonceaux is at best a ‘hamlet’ since I doubt there are even 300 inhabitants–the Post Office along with the castle, two hotels and a bar formed the entirety of the town). Apparently, upon arriving in Chenonceaux, Ohmygod stopped first at the PTT, where, after waiting ‘patiently’ in line for all of 37 seconds, he barged to the front of the line almost knocking over the lady at the front of the line who was the grandmother of the two ladies standing before me. In somewhat incoherent French, he demanded to speak to the ‘patron’ (‘owner’ in French). After that, Anne became very confused since she does not speak English all that well and neither does Ohmygod (and his French is horrible). After what she estimated to be close to ten minutes of Ohmygod’s animated babbling, Anne called her cousin (Sophie) at the hotel to come over and help since Sophie’s English is near flawless.
At this point, Sophie took over the story and informed me that Ohmygod was demanding to see either the “magistrate, duke, bishop, or prince” so that they could force the police to locate his stolen identification. To my credit, I did not even smile, let alone laugh, but I would have had both of their expressions not been so stern. Much to Sophie’s horror, she eventually discovered that Ohmygod was one of our clients and that he was due to stay at her hotel that night. Eventually, she managed to extricate him from the PTT and get him to come over to the hotel. She noticed that my key was gone from the wall (she then shot me a quick smile to let me know that my minor protocol violation was no problem) and she tried calling my room, but there was no answer (I was likely in the shower at the time).
I apologized profusely for the entire incident, informed her that I had recovered the missing documents earlier in the day, and was going to give them to Ohmygod tout de suite. As I was about to turn and walk away, she help up a finger to indicate that was not quite all. Ohmygod clearly made quite an impression on Sophie. In the two minute monologue that followed she used the word “bizarre” at least five times, noting that he did not seem to have showered anytime recently. It seemed clear that she was concerned about the hotel and the effect that Ohmygod would have on everything from the other patrons to the linens.
I debated going to Ohmygod’s room immediately to return his fanny pack and address the hotelier’s concerns in some way, but I needed fortification. Much to my surprise, Sophie must have sensed my state of mind and suggested that I have a Kir by the pool while I waited for him to shower.
I did not have the heart to tell her that I highly doubted that he was showering–nor did I want to turn down the Kir (a cocktail that originated in Burgundy which blended an acidic white wine, Aligoté, with Crème de Cassis, a black currant liqueur), so I smiled pathetically (and hopefully gratefully) and sat down on the terrace. Soon, Sophie arrived with the beverage, which was fabulous–the acidic nature of many of the region’s wines lend themselves naturally to Kirs (I was also desperately craving any sort of mind altering drug and was willing to sniff glue if need be).
After a few minutes, as I was enjoying my Kir and contemplating another, Ohmygod showed up, his matted hair and lingering stench proving that he had come no where near a bar of soap much less a shower. I first handed him his fanny pack which he received with about as much joy and gratitude as if I had just handed him last week’s Le Monde newspaper. I then, without pausing for a second, suggested that he go to his room and have a quick shower before we sat down to dinner (in about an hour). He stated that he would shower later and instead sit down for a beer.
So I decided to do something that I never have had to do in my life, including the three years I spent as a teacher/dorm parent at a boarding school (living in a dorm with 36 pre-pubescent boys).
I told him he HAD to go and shower, that it was a requirement for dinner. I did not mention that his fetor was overwhelming, nor the grave concerns of the hotel staff, but had he resisted any further, it certainly would have come up.
An hour (and about three Kirs) later he came down. In bike clothes. Albeit different gear than he had been wearing for the last two days, but nonetheless. It seemed clear that he had showered since his beyond shoulder length hair was no longer matted to his forehead. Or his back. In fact, it had quite a bit of volume. So much so that Mr. Personality (the other two had joined me by the pool) commented that he looked a bit like Cher with grey hair. This, along with seeing Ohmygod descending the exterior staircase like a demented diva, caused Grumpy to aspirate his beer all over me and the table. Sophie quickly appeared with a towel, and I had considerable difficulty trying to discern if she was fighting back tears or ready to burst out laughing.
Dinner is going to be great.