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 Fourteen), I rode into Tours, looking forward to “night off” at a restaurant of somebody who had become a good friend. Instead, I arrived to find that Ohmygod was no where to be found–until the moment that I had just sat down with a bottle of wine….
As Ohmygod lay there sprawled out on the ground, apparently waiting for the chalk outliner to come and perform his job, Paula looked first at him, then me, and back at least four times in rapid succession. At first alarmed, her face slowly started repressing a grimace. Perhaps it was due to the lack of shock on my part, or, more likely, my gesture of raising my glass toward her to indicate both “cheers” and my approval of her wine suggestion.
Before I could find a suitable spot to place both the bottle and my glass, a man whom I assumed was the busboy appeared and quickly righted the table and wiped it clean. Paula disappeared in a flash, no doubt having assessed that there was no impending danger and needed to tend to the other diners in the restaurant. I did not fault her for this in the slightest since she had only just met Ohmygod and therefore not aware of his extraordinary ability to wreak havoc in even the most mundane or innocuous surroundings.
After righted once again, I placed the bottle and glass back on the table, the silverware and napkins were replaced, and Ohmygod was presented with a menu. As I looked up, I saw that the cab that had delivered Ohmygod was finally pulling away–with Ohmygod’s bike still protruding from the trunk. I motioned to Ohmygod who turned and looked as the cab slowly made its way up the pedestrian street. He then picked up his menu to continue, no doubt, to mentally assemble his list of questions to pose to Paula once she returned to take his order.
Realizing that he was not about to move and seeing the cab drift further and further away, I jumped up, sidestepped a few pedestrians and set off after the taxi. After a couple of blocks, I was able to catch the attention of the driver and he stopped just before turning off the pedestrian street near the Place Plumerau. After a brief conversation with the driver, I pulled the bike out of the trunk–which was no easy feat since Ohmygod’s panniers were still attached to his bike. I threw a leg over the bike, deciding to ride it back to the restaurant.
I pushed down on the pedal, moved about three inches, then the bike seized up.
And I fell over.
I hopped right up–I was not hurt, but there were a few Frenchies who were certainly enjoying my rather ignominious face plant. I dusted myself off and examined the bike, expecting the worst. There was actually nothing wrong with the bike with one significant exception–there was a cable lock that was running through the rear wheel.
I cursed Ohmygod’s name for the 87th time in three days, this time for feeling the need to lock his bike in the trunk of a cab. I tried to unlock the bike–it was locked with a company lock, which all have the same combination. I tried it at least 12 times but it would not open. I stood there for a second pondering my options: I could leave the bike there and tell Ohmygod to go back and get it, or I could lug it the three blocks back to the restaurant. I was hungry (and very “thirsty”) so I decided the latter.
First, I tried to hoist the bike up over my shoulder, but as I lifted it up, it was clear that his bike weighed a stinking ton. Sure, the bike on its own was heavy, but there must have been some lead in his panniers. I briefly considered looking into his bags, but I quickly realized that at best I would be horrified and at worst knocked unconscious from the stench. So I lifted up the rear wheel an inch of the ground and rolled it the few blocks back to the restaurant. As I approached my table, I saw Ohmygod sitting there, oblivious to the world.
With his helmet still on.
He also had my wine glass in front of him, filled to just below the rim with what appeared to be the remainder of my bottle of Vouvray.
I seriously looked for a rock to throw at him, but I realized with my recent run of luck, it would likely just glance off his helmet and end up toppling the glass. Even though I was beyond ticked off at him, I figured that the wine was so good, it should be consumed–even if it was by the wine anti-Christ. I parked the bike and walked over to the table, ready to give Ohmygod a piece of my mind and demand to know why he sat idly by as I ran off to rescue his bike. I had it all planned out–I was going to dramatically rip the menu out of his grubby, glove-clad hands and….
Then it hit me.
I was going to have dinner with Ohmygod.
Even if I carried out my plan of self-righteous castigation, at the end of my enraged soliloquy, I would nonetheless be confronted with the prospect of dining with him. Alone. I knew he would not skulk away after my eloquent tongue-lashing. Nor would he request another table. He would simply look at me as if I had two heads and then ask Paula what beers they had on tap. So my goal of giving him the verbal dressing down that he deserved (not just for the most recent incident but all of his indiscretions as a collection) in the hope of affecting some sort of change in his behavior would never be realized. I knew that I was never going to see any remorse in him and therefore never feel vindicated.
My next impulse was to just calmly walk away. I could easily come back the next day and pay Paula for the bottle of wine as I explained to her why I really could not stay. She would certainly understand since there is little doubt that she would have had her own taste of the “Ohmygod Experience.” I quickly realized, though, that this was nothing to inflict on your bitterest rival, let alone someone you considered a friend.
I really had no choice.
Defeated, I slouched back into my seat, no longer having the desire nor the determination to lash out at him. As suspected, the bottle of delectable Vouvray had been emptied into my glass even though there was another unused glass (his) directly adjacent to my own. Instinctively (or perhaps reflexively since I knew my lot for the rest of the evening) I grabbed the unused glass and pulled it toward me. Upon noticing that I was once again across from him (though honestly, I can not even say with certainty that he knew I had even been gone), he reached for his (my) nearly full-to-the-top glass. As he seemed ready to pour some of the wine from his glass into mine, he stated:
“You should have some of this. It’s pretty good.”
Even before I could revisit my previous assessment of the wine (if Ohmygod liked it, clearly it must be rather ‘hoppy’), I was stunned by the fact that he had uttered two sentences in succession in an apparent desire to communicate, or at least convey some sort of message.
I declined his offer of a splash of my own wine from my own glass even before I noticed what must have been backwash floating near the surface. I did see this as an opening, however–shortly after I had met him it became clear that he was not the overly communicative type and I never really tried to have an in-depth discussion with him. Well, it looked as though I was going to get my chance tonight.
I started small:
“Should we get another bottle of wine?”
I was shocked. I was near certain that he was going to ask about having a beer:
“You sure you would not rather have a beer?”
“They don’t sell any here–what kind of restaurant does not sell beer?”
I never really knew that Paula did not have any beer at the restaurant–and why would I? Tours is in the Loire Valley, one of my favorite wine regions in France with some outstanding wines without the cost and pretension of some other regions. I resisted the snarky comment that I chose the restaurant precisely because they did not have beer, but I sensed that the two of us were close to having a moment, so I let it pass.
Paula soon returned and looked at Ohmygod’s wine glass and then back at me. She and I shared a little chuckle as we both rolled our eyes at precisely the same moment. As she picked up the empty bottle, she raised it a little higher as she looked at me. I nodded and she was off to fetch another bottle.
Since it was technically my night off, I resisted helping Ohmygod with the menu, but I realized that I was being rather petty. I was also starving and I knew that Paula would not serve me until Ohmygod’s meal was ready as well. If I waited for him, we would be there a while–even though Ohmygod was convinced that he spoke French fluently, in reality he barely spoke English.
And Canadian English at that.
After translating the menu for him, I suggested that he get what I had ordered, the filet of sandre (there were many benefits to leading trips in Europe, not the least of which was developing the ability to order rather well in restaurants). I should have known it would not be that easy, and after nearly ten minutes of countless questions (answers to which I largely made up), he ended up ordering the sandre.
Once the order was placed, there was an awkward moment about what would happen next. For me, those moments between ordering and eating are usually filled with idle chat: the ride that day, the town we were in, even the weather. So I asked how his ride was.
“Are you going to walk around the town at all tomorrow?”
“We certainly have had some good weather these last few days–it can be rather hot this time of year.”
“If you say so.”
I was just about to give up entirely when he put his wine glass in a depth grip and poured about half of the nearly full glass into his cavernous mouth, swallowing in one gulp. At that precise moment, Paula returned with a shocked look on her face, no doubt witnessing the spectacle. As she set the wine down on the table and proceeded to open it, Ohmygod began to stare at the bottle the same way a tiger might view an injured antelope. At this point it was clear to me that I was going to need to engage him in some sort of conversation, less he continue to consume the wine like a man near death in the dessert once he stumbles upon an oasis (and given past history, I would be stuck with the bill and be completely sober).
I decided to take a rather bold tact.
“So how is your mother?”
For some reason, I envisioned his mother as an older, frail woman who was likely near the end of her life (no doubt aided by having Ohmygod as a son). I had even hoped that Ohmygod, who was quickly approaching 50, was still living at home at least in part, to help care for her. (Although I realized that this was complete folly since the only thing that he could care for was…Ok, there really is nothing that I would entrust to his “care.”)
“She’s fine, I just spoke to her. Why?’
Clearly, I was going to have to proceed with a modicum of caution, but I was determined. Besides, there was really little choice since I had exhausted most other avenues for discussion the last few days and he had already told Grumpy that he hated all sports, particularly hockey (I am no huge fan of hockey, but then I am not Canadian, either).
After several false starts, I discovered that his mother was not particularly frail, nor was she destitute. In fact, she was a leading criminal attorney in Toronto. Yes, Ohmygod’s mother was one of the more powerful women in the entire province of Ontario, Canada. I barely had time to digest this point when he added that his younger brother was a judge and his sister a physician.
I was stunned.
He poured himself some more wine. Again, up to the rim.
I (almost) did not notice.
It turns out that Ohmygod had no desire to go into the high powered professions of his mother and siblings (there was no mention of a father, and I was frankly too stunned by the other information to ask). Instead, in high school he had a job working at the school’s own radio station and he liked it. He did not really have to interact with people all that much and as a result, he has worked in radio and TV all his life. He was currently employed as a bit of a grip/gaffer combination at a local cable television channel. I asked him what the difference was between a grip and a gaffer, and his eyes lit up as he proceeded on a several minute explanation of the differences between the two (basically, a gaffer is in charge of all things electrical, while a grip is responsible for the mounting of cameras and lights–or maybe it was the other way around).
At the end of his description, I could not resist, I just had to know:
“It sounds like you have a good job, why do you still live with your mother?”
At this, he bowed his head, as if he were embarrassed, and I immediately felt horrible. Then his hand emerged from his lap with a rather large piece of fish, which he promptly stuffed into his mouth. This was quickly followed by what had become his signature move–a death grip on his wine glass, followed quickly by the draining of most of its contents.
Then he belched.
“It’s a nice house. And she does not charge me any rent.”
At the end of the meal, we headed over to his bike, and he undid the lock.
“[Ohmygod] do you change the combination of the lock?”
“Why on earth would you do that?” As I was about to embark on a harangue about the problems that this creates, he interrupted me:
“Those other two guys on the trip knew the combination–and I don’t trust them….”
I figured it was best just to leave it at that….