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 Twenty-One), I dropped off the first two groups of clients at the head of the Canal d’Ourcq to begin the ride out to Champagne. On the way back to hopefully (?) find Ohmygod, I found Maggie (previously known as Marie) at a Parisian intersection trying to find out where she was in Paris by looking at her map of Champagne.
After determining that she had indeed bought her desired provisions, I decided that it would be more prudent to get Maggie back on the bike path, and pointed in the right direction before I returned to the office to see if Ohmygod would grace me with his presence–it was a bit strange but I might have been missing him a bit.
OK that was a lie.
Even with Paul’s game of 20 questions, Maggie’s obsession with getting lost, and Ellen’s vocal displeasure with her genitals, we still had a ways to go to get to Ohmygod levels. So as I rode back to the office, I was actually hoping that he was there since putting any effort into finding him (or bailing him out of his self-inflicted predicament) was well beyond what I was willing to consider at the moment.
I pulled up to the office. No Ohmygod. It was already getting close to 11:00 and I needed to get a move on—I was hoping to ride the entire distance (about 90 kilometers—skipping the optional train ride to avoid a bit of traffic) and factoring in a stop for lunch, I was quickly running out of time. I got all my gear ready for departure and as I was just about ready to leave, Ohmygod pulled up—a full three hours later than the first group.
Upon his arrival, he was quick to tell me that after an hour looking for it, he concluded that his bike lock had been stolen. Several thoughts raced through my mind: One, it was a combination bike lock, which would theoretically render it useless to anyone (e.g., a crook) who did not know the combination. Two, why on earth would they steal the lock and not the bike? Three, why did it take him an hour looking for the lock to determine that it was missing? (The rooms at his hotel are notoriously petite.) Four, even if he had spent an hour looking for the lock, why was he three hours late? And five, how on earth has he been securing his bike while riding all around Paris? I really did not have time to delve into all of these thoughts, but I could not entirely let it pass, either. I elected for the last of these questions since I was rather curious why his bike had not been stolen if it had not been locked for a significant amount of time. He said that the lock was just stolen overnight, while he was asleep; he distinctly remembered locking his bike up the night before.
OK, so let me get this straight: Someone came into the hotel at night, made it past the hotelier at his desk, went into the basement where the bikes are stored, was able to unlock your bike (although since he had changed the combination to 1-1-1-1, this conceivably would not have been all that difficult), and only took the lock, which costs about 8 Euro ($10) retail.
After performing the Ohmygod shake (hand on the forehead, shaking the head slowly and barely perceptively, while uttering “Ohmygod”), I informed him that he could not go on the trip without a lock since if his bike got stolen, he would be responsible for paying for a replacement. As I handed him another lock, I told him that he would be charged for it ($10) and he was not allowed to change the combination this time. At first he appeared somewhere between hurt and bewildered, and emitted a little whimper, but I am not sure if it was due to the requirement to memorize the combination or the economic hardship (he had a remarkable ability to quickly convert any monetary amount into the number of beers that could be purchased). Just as I was beginning to feel slightly bad for this brief, yet deserved chastisement, he produced a prolonged belch, and I concluded the lock incident barely fazed him—it was just gas.
[Later, that evening, when I arrived at our destination in Jouarre, I received a note from the office—Ohmygod’s hotel from the prior night had called–they found the lock under his pillow.]
Instead of addressing his proclivity to burp directly in my face, if there was any hope of hitting my favorite lunch stop before they closed at 2:00 (I could write an entire book about the French and their seeming refusal to make money, but that will have to wait), I simply informed him that I was leaving. I added that getting out of the city could be a bit tricky, so it would be in his best interest to come with me. I did not give him the chance to raise any sort of objection (nor dispense any more gas): I immediately went outside and climbed on my bike.
Surprisingly, Ohmygod followed without uttering a sound. Actually, that is not entirely true. He had recently adopted a curious verbal tick whenever he was in motion: it was somewhere between a “hmmpf” and a chirp that came out at precisely 4 second intervals. It was either some sort of elaborate evolutionary echolocation that he unconsciously developed to help him avoid bodily harm, or he was just weird. Until he starts wearing a cape and gets a pair of fangs, I am going with the latter.
Given the events that had already transpired that morning getting the “easy” clients over to the start of the ride, I felt rather confident that Ohmygod had his own incident in store for me–and it was going to be a doozy. thus, at every stop light, I would pause before I turned to look for him, sure that there would be some sort of carnage in his wake. We stopped at least eight times on the way to the canal, but with each occurrence he was right behind me, with no apparent ill effects (I mean other than the long scraggily matted hair, the odoriferous food-[I hope]-stained florescent bike jersey, and safety-goggle sun glasses).
I was stunned when I made the final stop at the head of the canal trail and there he was, right with me. This caused me to feel a bit of anguish since I had not really anticipated such an outcome–I am not entirely sure what I thought would happen, but I was fairly sure that it would have involved a couple emergency vehicles or a multi-car pile-up. Now that we were both standing there, relatively unscathed (if you discount my singed nose hairs for making the rookie mistake of standing down wind from him), I was not sure how to proceed.
Then it hit me, and I actually started to cry: I was likely stuck with him for the rest of the day.
I then made a decision of which I am certainly not proud. Since we were at the head of the canal and the next 30 miles or so would be spent riding along its banks, I figured even Ohmygod could not screw this one up. Therefore, even though my job was to stay with him, I decided to start riding and then drop him like a bad habit. In cycling circles to “drop” someone has a specific meaning. Simply put, when someone gets “dropped” they are no longer able to maintain contact with their riding partners. I decided that I would simply start riding hard, and the rest would take care of itself. Yes, I knew I would be going to hell for this (and could probably get fired for it–although I doubt that would happen), but I thought I would have a pretty good case when confronted at the pearly gates (or wherever such a verdict was rendered).
My plan was rather simple, I would start riding and gradually increase the pace. I figured it would only take a few kilometers to create a little gap, at which point I would ramp it up a little more, crushing his spirit, creating even more of a gap. By the time we reached the town of Claye-Souilly (where I liked to eat lunch), I would be out of sight and could pull off discretely to have a nice quiet solo lunch. It was a perfect plan.
It was also the recipe to have an eternity of meals with Lucifer, but I saw that as close to an equal trade-off.
We hit the path and I started off rather easy–the key to the plan was to gradually increase the pace–I could not make it obvious. My initial pace was certainly modest, around 25 kph (about 15 mph), which I increased to about 30 kph (18 mph). He was still there–I could hear his chirping. Up to 35 kph. I listened (if i looked back, it would be clear that I was trying to drop him).
Up to 40 kph (25 mph).
Counted to four.
I could not believe it–he was keeping up! Going any faster was clearly not an option since there was no way that I would be able to maintain that kind of pace–for my plan to work, it had to appear as though I was just riding “normally”. Riding any faster would no longer be considered “normal” since I would not be able to maintain it for very long. As I was contemplating altering my plan, the unfathomable happened.
He passed me.
That’s right, the beer-bellied, matted hair, odoriferous ogre that was Ohmygod passed me.
Normally, among cyclists this is appreciated, if not expected—the rider “on the front” has to work around 30% harder (due to wind resistance) and it is considered common courtesy for each rider to take their turn at the front. If I were smart, I would have just let him go. I would have let him “drop” me. That way, when he was out of sight, I could peel off and have my peaceful lunch in Claye-Souilly.
That’s if I were actually able to think logically. The mortal enemy of logic is ego and I do not suffer from an insufficient level of ego. Just as he was passing me, good old ego took the helm:
“If I let him pass me, I will look like a total schmuck! What if he told the others? Doesn’t he realize I shave my legs? I do that for a reason, Bozo! Who the HELL does he think he is? Oh, and he’s Canadian!!!! ARGH!”
Fortunately, just as ego was about to kick it into high gear (pun intended), he did exactly what I should have anticipated as soon as he passed: He slowed down. He was no longer benefiting from drafting off of me, and needed to work harder to maintain the same pace. He would not just slow slightly, though. He would actually lower his pace precipitously, causing me to brake to avoid colliding with him (and likely ending up in the canal). If this were to happen on a “normal” ride among the silky smooth leg shaven crowd, the offender would be chastised for breaking the group’s rhythm (which is actually a tactic regularly employed in racing to help teammates break away).
Realizing this, ego, who was not quite ready to give up the ship, instructed me to pass him right back. “Show him who’s boss!” (There was an additional benefit/exigency of maneuvering back to the front–when Ohmygod was in the lead, the stench was unbearable, when I added in his inhibition to belch in public and that my face was only inches from his rear end, well, do the math….)
As soon as I would pass him, Ohmygod (who, to his credit, had clearly done some group riding) would then get immediately right behind me, benefiting from the draft (and given my well above average size, the draft behind my carcass is considerable). The draft was apparently sufficient enough to convince Ohmygod that he could once again move to the front, where he would then lower the pace. Again. (I said that he had clearly ridden in a group before. He likely also ticked off everyone in that group.)
This pas de deux continued for several miles, and each time I passed him back, I would shoot him my most menacing glance, clearly expressing my displeasure. Immune.
The good news? Before I knew it, we had covered the close to 40k and we were in Claye-Souilly. I told my riding “partner” that I was stopping for lunch and out of habit, asked if he would like to join me. He shrugged as if he were a teenager, faced with the prospect of being forced to go out to dinner with his parents, or otherwise not eating at all. Facing another trip to my newly created Room 101, I had to think quickly–how was I going to convince Ohmygod to not join me for lunch?
“The place is somewhat expensive, is that OK?”
This clearly got to him, but he nonetheless nodded sheepishly and asked “What kind of food is it?”
I resisted the urge to respond flippantly and said simply “French.”
This clearly had him on the ropes, I needed to go for the knockout, even though I knew what I was about to say was a complete fabrication, thus ensuring my reservation in the afterlife….
“Oh, and they don’t serve beer.”
He immediately recoiled in fear as if I had told him that their specialty was grilled human flesh. It worked, he scurried off after merely raising his hand as if to say “Stop, I have heard enough.” He hopped on his bike and peddled away.
I knew I was going to pay for it, but I was actually a bit proud of myself: I had successfully got Ohmygod halfway through the ride, had not crashed despite his repeated attempts to take out my front wheel, and I was now going to have a delectable lunch.
With a large carafe of wine.