A few moments before to the bar to assess the water damage, we entered the dining room, which held about 40 tables and at least half of them were occupied, yet the owner employed only a single waiter, a common practice in most of Europe.
(Why is it that a single French server can manage an entire dining room while the rough equivalent in the U.S. would require at least six waiters to cover an equally sized crowd?)
Before we all sat down, I ordered a couple of bottles champagne for the table. This was much to the chagrin of Ohmygod, who had sworn off the elixir of the gods. Unprovoked, over the course of the last couple days, he provided three different reasons (at three different times) as to why he was no longer drinking champagne:
- He saw it as some sort of twisted tribute to his mother who apparently claimed to receive headaches from champagne. (Truth be told, it is very rare to actually get headaches from champagne. It is not all that uncommon, however, to get headaches from cheap sparkling wine—in order to mask the problems with the wine, the producers add copious amounts of sugar, acid, sulfur, you name it….)
- He seemed to have realized that my earlier claim (that champagne was the local version of beer) was but a ruse.
- He proclaimed his refusal to drink champagne as some sort of bizarre protest in support of his Canadian country folk—he insisted that no one in Canada (except for the “kooks in Québec”) wanted to have any association with French products or culture (the urge to question why this solidarity did not manifest itself when considering signing up for his current trip was palpable).
After I ordered the champagne, and the waiter was about to turn to fetch the bottles, Ohmygod’s hand shot straight up in the air as if he were a second grader who suddenly either knew the response to his teacher’s query or realized that he desperately needed to make an immediate trip to the restroom. Startled, but unfazed, the waiter slowly turned and with a wry smile inquired “Oui…?”
I certainly knew what was next, as it had become a dinner ritual—Ohmygod was about to ask what beers were available (even though he had asked the exact question only moments before in the bar—apparently since we were now sitting in the adjacent room, he somehow assumed that the list of three beers in the bar did not apply to the dining half of the same establishment). Before he could utter even the first word, CC interjected: “Oh my God, if you order a beer, I might have to slap you silly. Do you have any idea where we are? You are going to have some champagne!”
Ohmygod, whose arm remained as rigid and vertical as a lightening rod, turned to CC with a look of a pre-teen who had just been told there was no longer a working T.V. in the house. Having captured his attention, CC (who clearly had decided to act in loco parentis) cast an evil glare his way that left no doubt that she meant business.
Defeated, Ohmygod slowly lowered his hand—but not on the vertical plane as most would. Rather, with his arm still erect, he slowly made a forward arc as if his arm were the second hand of a clock or if he were performing a slight derivation of a fascist salute. His hand landed on the table with an audible “smack” of petulant defiance that narrowly missed his water glass. CC snapped back in his direction as she raised a single finger, pointed roughly in his direction, and wagged it back and forth, marking her disgust with his show of resistance. It was at this moment that I had been summoned to the bar, so although I did not visually witness his response, I could have sworn that Ohmygod let out a bit of a whimper, similar to a dog at the table trying to beg for scraps.
After my assessment of the damage in the bar, I got back to the table just as the two bottles of champagne had arrived. Ohmygod, who normally exhibits horrible posture at the table, sunk even further into his chair upon sight of the bottles, resulting in his chin about 20 centimeters (8 inches) off the table. I walked over to him and said in just above a whisper, that I needed to talk to him in the bar. He first looked a bit terrified, once again in 2nd grade, and was ordered to go to the principal’s office. Quickly, though, his mood changed and his face transformed (no doubt he had just replayed my words in his head, and this time he registered the word “bar” and the glorious suds located there). He maintained his adopted age, but this time it was Christmas morning and his face could not hide his pure glee as he was about to descend the stairs to a living room filled with gifts. He momentarily glanced over to CC as if he were looking for permission, but she was otherwise occupied with the bartender opening the first bottle. Not wanting to wait another second (which could be accompanied by some sort of CC chastisement), he leaped out of his seat, on the verge of giddy. As we headed to the bar, I dared not look behind me for fear that I would see him skipping.
When we got to the bar, he still had his huge grin on his face. I took him to the corner of the room and pointed up to the ceiling where the water was still dripping. As I started to explain that the drip was coming from his room, his grin slowly faded, replaced by a look of bewilderment–he glanced at the untended beer tap no fewer than three times, certain that it was the reason he was there, but puzzled as to why no one was pouring him a glass. His level of distraction caused me to say his name aloud several times to try to win his attention. If he had worn his tie, I would I have tempted to yank it and yell “Heel!”
Eventually, it got through to him that a) there was a problem in his room, and b) he was not in the bar to get a beer. It was clearly evident which of the two disappointed him more: as we left the bar to go up to his room he was looking over his shoulder at the beer tap as if he were hoping that it would follow us up the stairs.
As we approached his room, it hit me: the place was no doubt a complete pig sty (I had visited his room before
), and although it was by no means a stellar hotel, I really liked the owner and I was no doubt going to be embarrassed when he witnessed the way that Ohmygod had treated his room. Ohmygod was barely moving as he labored up the stairs–initially, I thought he was perhaps embarrassed about having us all in his room, and was hoping to delay the event (perhaps like the condemned as they made their way to the gallows). More likely, he was saddened by his unrequited thirst back in the bar.
As Ohmygod fumbled to unlock the door, I considered turning my head and averting my eyes from the disaster that undoubtedly awaited on the other side of the door. But when you know a train wreck is coming, it is very difficult not to watch.
He opened the door.
The room was actually fine–I dare say it was even in better shape than mine was at the time. Maybe this was not going to be so bad after all–perhaps the leak was an interior plumbing issue and had nothing to do with Ohmygod at all.
Then we made our way to the bathroom.
To say that it looked like a bomb had just gone off is an insult to bombs everywhere. All three of his cycling shorts and jerseys were strewn about–not as if he had just washed them (the stench suggested otherwise), but rather as if he had been wearing all three simultaneously and suddenly needed to remove them instantly–due to either a violent need to get his bathing over with as quickly as possible, the sudden realization that a colony of fire ants had just invaded, or the promise of intense, passionate sex.
OK, that last one made me throw up a little bit in my mouth.
I can’t begrudge the Petit Ecolier choice…
There was also two empty beer bottles, a third of a baguette and an empty jar of nutella (no indication on whether the jar was emptied by the other 2/3 of the bread, but my guess was “yes”), a French newspaper (?), an open box of Petit Ecolier cookies, with a half a cookie left, a jockstrap (ew), his bike (?!?), and about five centimeters (two inches) of water on the floor. The “shower” was a bathtub with a hand spraying device (which was dangling over the side of the tub, but no water was emanating from it). The owner, to his credit, paid no attention to the ancillary damage, but asked me what happened.
The tub looked something like this.
I then translated the question to Ohmygod, he went into a several minute virtually incomprehensible diatribe, concluding with him turning on the water to the shower head. Instantly, water not only shot out of the head, but also out of an apparent hole in the hose very near where it attached to the faucet. The owner acted quickly, shut off the water, and started apologizing profusely. He was turning a bright shade of red, embarrassed about the malfunctioning hose. Since he had only just met Ohmygod, he obviously did not suspect that the hole in the hose was likely caused by some act of the room’s occupant—I was betting that he had used it as some sort of climbing rope so that he could get into the tub, or perhaps as a tether as he tried to reach the remaining Petit Ecolier over on the vanity. Regardless, there was no doubt in my mind that he was at the root of the mishap. The owner had already summoned a housekeeper, however, and she arrived with a mop and a stack of towels, and set about cleaning up Ohmygod’s mess, so I felt no need to further interrogate my anti-diva.
Instead, we returned to the dining room, where they others seemed to be having a grand time (champagne has that effect on people). Luckily, they had not yet polished off both bottles, so I was able to get a flute as soon as I sat back down. We were seated at a rather large table in the center of the dining room, and fortunately, Ohmygod was as far away as possible given the set-up. I was sitting at one end of the table and was quickly engaged in conversation with CC, Paul, and Maggie. CC was laughing about the climb up to Jouarre and mentioned several times how I had “rescued her” by coming back down and taking all her gear and bike back up. She went so far as to say the words “my knight in skin-tight armor” after the third mention.
I did not have much time to ponder this potentially troubling development before our meals arrived, which luckily gave me the opportunity to change the subject. I was anxious to hear what Paul thought of the food, as he had told me that he fancied himself a bit of a gourmet chef wanna-be and one of the main reasons he came on the trip was to play close attention to the food and how it was prepared.
Our pleasant conversation continued for a few minutes before I was nudged by Maggie, who then motioned down to the other end of the table. The sight was not pleasant–Ohmygod was gorging himself–he seemed to be a contestant in an eating competition as he was packing as much food as he could into his mouth without seemingly chewing. I was aghast, but as repulsive as it was, there was something odd that I could not quite place to the way he was devouring his plate of beef bourguignon.
Then I noticed his fork and knife. They were still at their proper table placement.
He was eating the dish with his fingers.