It is the beginning of another month and thus time for another installment of the Ohmygod saga (to catch up on the previous installments click on the Ohmygod menu up top). As you will recall, I used to be 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 previous installment (Part Thirteen), I met up with all three of the travelers on the trip at the Cave des Producteurs de Vouvray. After negotiating a less than graceful entrance, Ohmygod experienced his first (?) wine “tasting.”
I saw Ohmygod mounting his bike as I left the tasting room and I was immediately presented with a dilemma: I really did not want to ride with Ohmygod, but there was no graceful way around it. Now, I normally try to avoid riding with the clients on the trip–it is not that I am anti-social or even that I think am an elite, super-fast cyclist/snob (like the guy below). Really, it comes down to one simple fact: I really have a terrible sense of direction. For some reason, the clients on the trip expect that the “guide” should actually know where he is going.
At this point, however, it had nothing to do with my horrendous sense of direction–clearly Ohmygod was far worse off in that department than I, which was immediately reinforced when he finally started riding…in the wrong direction. And even if I were anti-social, Ohmygod would have me beat by a factor that would confound even the most capable mathematician.
No, it was not about either my deplorable navigating skills nor any erroneous perception of a disdain for social contact.
It was not due to the fact that my chances of crashing increase dramatically when Ohmygod is in the vicinity. It was not even that I was a little bit ticked off at him for the way he treated Yves during the tasiing.
I know I might rot in hell for this, but I just really did not want to ride with him simply due to his repugnant body odor, which was beyond intolerable.
No, I am not going to do well in the afterlife.
So I decided to kill a little time in Vouvray to allow Ohmygod to get a a considerable head start. We were going to Tours, which is only about 12k (7 miles) away–that was the good news. The other good news? There is virtually nothing to do in Vouvray other than taste wine.
So that is what I did.
There was a little bit of bad news, however: It was late and there were not a whole host of tasting room options–most wineries had closed up for the evening. The exception was the Château de Moncontour, a larger producer that makes some rather mediocre wines at the lower price points, but has some nice dessert (sweeter) wines. I figured I would loiter there for a bit and then make it into Tours with enough time to shower and head out for dinner.
I rode the few blocks to Château Moncontour and as I was locking up my bike, I nervously scanned of the area–I wanted to ensure that my most peculiar of clients was no where to be found. I had just been to a rather odd wine tasting, and I was in no mood for a repeat. So I looked around again to see if he was anywhere in the vicinity.
The tasting at Moncontour was very nice–the tasting room attendant was knowledgeable, kind, and evidently rather bored since I was the only visitor for the past four hours or so. He clearly welcomed me since I had more than a passing familiarity with wine and my French was good enough that he did not have to struggle with his English. He also took the opportunity to open up a few older bottles from their library that likely would land him in a bit of hot water, but he did not hesitate, and I had no intention of stopping him. After tasting through about ten wines, it was already past seven–he needed to close up shop and I needed to try and navigate the remaining 12k into Tours. The fact that I did not spit all that much during this most recent tasting compounded my already limited ability to navigate.
I eventually made it into Tours at just before 8:00, and as I stored my bike in the hotel garage, I noticed there were only two other bikes: those of Grumpy and Mr. Personality–Ohmygod’s bike was not there. When I last saw him in Vouvray, it was just past 6:00 and even the most challenged cyclist could complete the 12k journey in two hours (at least I thought). Were Ohmygod a “typical” client, I would have assumed that he had simply checked in, showered, and then grabbed his bike to explore the town a bit. It was an “independent night” (the clients were on their own for dinner) and normally I would not have been all that concerned.
But nothing about the previous few days with Ohmygod had been “normal” (and I would bet my last dollar that he did not shower).
I entered the hotel and asked the clerk at the front desk if Ohmygod had checked in. He hadn’t. I convinced myself that I should not yet be concerned and headed up to my room. After a quick shower, I headed back down to the front desk–still no Ohmygod.
It was now time to start to worry. Sure, Tours is a rather large city, with around half a million people in the metropolitan area, but the route to the hotel is not all that difficult, even by my standards (and I can get lost in a convenient store parking lot). After a couple of minutes of pacing, I realized that I was starving and there was little I could do at the moment. I left the name of the restaurant with the front desk and headed out to dinner. On the short walk to one of my favorite spots to eat in the city, I contemplated my next move should OMG not show up:
1. Hop on my bike and ride around town looking for him.
2. Hire a cab and retrace the route to Vouvray (half expecting to find him in a gutter).
3, Order a couple of bottles of wine at dinner and worry about it in the morning.
Although #3 was certainly appealing for several reasons, I knew in the end I was going to start with #1 and end up with #2 should #1 prove to be unfruitful. Regardless, I would not be much help to anyone if I did not have something to eat, so I would put my plan into action after a nice meal.
I entered the restaurant and I was immediately greeted by a very friendly face. The owner of the restaurant, Paula, a striking redhead who was probably in her mid to late forties came over and gave me her customary three alternating cheek kisses. (The number of kisses seems to vary in France—most of the time it is two [at least in Paris], but here it was three. I have also seen four—I have no clue how they decide how many to give, but I certainly love the custom.) I had been to her restaurant countless times over the years and I like to think that we had become good friends. She led me outside where she quickly set up a table that seemed to be used only in emergencies–it was small, and barely large enough for one diner, but I felt honored–as if she had it there just for me. After a minute catching up (her husband was quite ill) she ran off to manage the near overflowing crowd in the restaurant. I watched her a bit as she floated from table to table, taking orders and delivering steaming dishes fresh from the kitchen. It always amazes me that restaurants in Europe can be so deftly managed by just one server while the same size establishment in the U.S. would be poorly administered by four or five.
Right when I turned my attention to the lively crowd meandering in the street before me, Paula reappeared with a bottle of wine—she indicated that it was a newer producer and they were making a fantastic dry Vouvray that I really needed to try. As she poured the wine, she mentioned that the it would pair fantastically with the filet de sandre (a white freshwater fish), which was just caught that morning. Thus, with no need to contemplate my meal, I turned my attention to the delightful Chenin Blanc and the steady stream of passersby.
My reverie was halted when cab pulled up on the pedestrian street, abruptly stopping right in front of the restaurant. While many of the pedestrians glanced at the cab with considerable scorn, I was fixated on the rear end of the vehicle, instantly realizing that my quiet evening was about to take a rather drastic turn.
Ohmygod’s bike was protruding from the trunk.
After what seemed like minutes (no doubt caused by Ohmygod trying to produce the exact fare in order to avoid giving the driver a tip), prolonging my anticipated agony, the rear door swung open violently, almost making contact with a mother who was attempting to circumnavigate the cab with her stroller. Ohmygod emerged as the true anti-diva: stained cycling clothes, prodigious stomach, matted hair under his clipped on helmet, and still wearing his safety sun goggles oblivious to the twilight sky.
He took two steps, then slipped on the third (he was, of course, still wearing his cycling shoes) nearly tumbling into one of the other outdoor tables. Had I been a casual observer of the situation, I would have been convinced that it was a staged comedy routine or that someone was in the process of being “Punk’d“.
He scanned the diners outside, looked directly at me, but nonetheless proceeded inside the busy restaurant. I was not quite sure what was happening: Was he looking for me? Did he not see me through the half inch of grime on his glasses? Regardless, one thing was clear: I was not going to have to organize a search party to find his stinking carcass. Of course, there might be a far worse mess to clean up as he was a “bull” that seemed to find “china shop” after “china shop.” And his current soon-to-be-disaster-area was owned by someone I considered to be a good friend.
My first impulse?
I was confident that Paula would (maybe) understand–I was just not prepared or willing to clean up another disaster. I figured that the French police should have to bear at least part of the burden.
As I was contemplating my escape plan (and finishing my glass of wine–no need to go full-on reckless), Paula emerged from the restaurant with a perplexed look and Ohmygod in tow. She led him over to my table and asked me if I knew him–she seemed confused as if she were convinced that there was no possible way that the two of us could possibly be connected. When I flashed a reluctant smile and nod, she quickly grabbed another chair and Ohmygod started to sit down.
As he attempted to navigate his lycra-clad rear-end into the newly placed chair, his foot slipped on a cobblestone. He instinctively reached out in search of stability and leaned on the table. The table, of course, was not built for such an event, and quickly tipped over, causing Ohmygod to fall as well.
Paula, who had headed back inside, heard the ruckus and spun quickly around where she saw me sitting with a glass in one hand and the bottle of Vouvray in the other, sipping the wine as if watching a croquet match.
This was not my first rodeo.