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 three 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-Eight), we rode through the Vallée de la Marne, where we stopped for a wine tasting at a random local producer. It turned out to be one of the more memorable wine tastings I have ever experienced. That evening, we were having a bottle of champagne before dinner, when I felt something under the table caressing my leg….
As I scanned the table, I came across a smile.
It was Paul.
I quickly looked away since I had not really thought about this possibility—there was no reason to be upset, but I was perplexed. I instantly wondered if I had done or said something to lead him on. I was also fairly certain that I had mentioned to the group that I was not married, but I was fairly serious with someone back in the States.
But did I mention that it was a woman?
As I was pondering my next move, I glanced up again at Paul, ready to quickly avert my eyes, hoping that if I acted as if nothing were happening, the situation would eventually dissipate. As I was about to nonchalantly look away, I paused…. There was something anomalous about his stare.
It took me a second or two more to figure it out—he was smiling, and I was looking right at him, but he was not looking at me. I could swear that he was looking at the person seated on my left.
Just as I was trying to figure out what exactly was transpiring, Paul’s foot stopped caressing my leg, the smile faded from his face, and his gaze was now focused on the front of the bar. In fact, that entire side of our table was now transfixed on that end of the room. Being seated with my back to the front door, I looked over my shoulder in an attempt to see what was causing the ruckus.
Well, I assume it was Ohmygod since all I could see was a bicycle wheel inching its way through door. I hopped up, realizing that the potential for the situation to derail out of control.
I made my way to the front to witness the host trying to prevent an unusually disheveled (yes, even for him) Ohmygod from bringing his bike into the restaurant. Ohmygod was equally determined to bring is bicycle along with him. While the host’s attempts at English were not great (no doubt due to the duress), they were admirable when compared to Ohmygod’s attempts at what seemed to be communication.
At best, Ohmygod was attempting to converse in a strange mélange of English, French (?), and an unidentifiable language that struck me as potentially Middle Eastern. At the other end of the spectrum, it sounded as if he may have been emulating some sort of wild beast that was gravely injured but desperate for survival.
Either way, it was impossible to understand what he was trying to convey through his shrieking. Quickly, the waiter and what I presumed to be the manger or owner of the wine bar came over as reinforcements for the clearly overwhelmed host. There were no fewer than eight hands now on the bike’s handlebars: with Ohmygod’s two trying for some reason to shove the bike inside and the other six determined to prevent just that.
I contemplated returning to my seat at this point since it seemed like the employees had the situation more or less under control and, to be honest, I really had no desire to admit that I was in any way connected to the lunatic who was trying to invade the bar.
Clearly, that was not an option since all the eyes at my table were now transfixed on the altercation and they were looking to me, no doubt, to somehow resolve it. Reluctantly, I stepped into the fray, trying to get Ohmygod’s attention so that he might calm down a bit once he saw I was there.
After calling his name several times with increasing volume, he finally relented and seemed to call off his attempted invasion of the bar. After untangling all the combatants, I was able to persuade Ohmygod to back up and we took the bike outside.
Once outside and back near the curb, a nearly hyperventilating Ohmygod started to recount what had transpired in the previous few hours.
After leaving the tasting at the Roger’s, he headed back on the road to Epernay with Anne and Ellen. He said he usually rides ahead of them since “they ride far too slow” but they catch up to him eventually when he stops to “decipher the terrible directions.”
Well, on one such stop, he was attempting to retrieve his map from his bike and found himself surrounded by a “pack of ferocious dogs.”
At this point, I looked at him, glaring with incredulity—outside of the gendarmes, I have found little in France that I would label as “ferocious” (and the gendarmes are not so much ferocious as inflicted with Napoleon Complex). He ignored my disbelief and continued, stating that he tried everything to get the dogs away from him: swinging his bike pump in an effort to hit them (it eventually flew out of his hand after one such attempt), he threw the remnants of that morning’s breakfast (that he had stuffed into his bike jersey pocket) in the hope that they would eat that instead of him, but they were clearly not interested in croissant (I wonder if the body odor stench that clearly would have been imparted on to the bread turned them off). Last, he said he took his cable lock and to try to fend off the “rabid hounds” and he actually struck one right in the nose, but the “incensed mongrel” then leapt up and bit him on the finger.
He then showed me the mark that was created by the attack, and as I searched for any evidence of a bite (there was none), he insisted that we go to the hospital immediately for fear of rabies.
At that moment, CC joined us outside, and I could not be any happier to see anyone else at that point—I needed reinforcement. After giving her a brief recap of the story, CC rolled her eyes, looked at Ohmygod’s wrist, rolled her eyes again, and started to slap him in the back of the head, but then thought better of it and stopped inches from his matted hair.
Ohmygod, although I did not think it was possible, seemed even more overwhelmed than before. At this point I stepped in and told him to go back to the hotel, unlock my bike, use my lock to secure his bike to mine, and get ready for dinner (I was going to tell him he needed to take another shower, but I was worried that would be the final blow and render him effectively unconscious).
I walked him to the corner, pointed out the restaurant (we had another hour before dinner), and then showed him the hotel, whose sign was visible from the corner
I am not sure if he even heard me, but his head made a subtle movement that either indicated some sort of ascent or was due to his neck finally succumbing to the weight of all that matted hair it had been supporting.
I was dubious, but he headed off in the right direction (after almost being struck by a cab as he absent-mindedly crossed the street), and I headed back into the bar.
CC was back at the table where she was wrapping up her abridged version of my already brief recount of what Ohmygod had told me. While Maggie and Paul were mostly shaking their heads, Anne and Ellen sat there with their mouths agape.
As I sat down, the waiter brought another bottle of bubbles, this time a Veuve Clicquot. (I know there are a lot of wine snobs out there that are less than fans of the Veuve, but I am not one of them. Sure, there were more interesting and esoteric wines on the list, but I am a fan of the Veuve and not one of those that disparage her simply because she is popular.) Immediately, even before I could take a swig of the wine, Anne started berating me (objectively, it was more of a “questioning” or a “clarification” but Anne’s persona and voice intonations always make her questions seem like an inquisition)—she wanted to know more about what Ohmygod actually said happened.
I initially thought that she was just protecting Ohmygod—I imagined that, despite my best efforts, many in the group had picked up on the fact that I was less than thrilled with the Canadian member of the group. Thus, I tried to recount a more in-depth version of what I had already told CC. About half way through, Ellen interjected, while shaking her head dramatically:
“Ah come on, that’s total bullshit!’
Sensing the possibility that the whole situation could start screaming downhill rather quickly, I did what most people would do—I grabbed my champagne and downed it (subtly, of course). If this was headed where I thought it was going, I was determined not to face it sober.
Just as I was reaching for the bottle to pour myself some more Veuve, Ellen continued:
“Come on, that is not what happened—we were there for Chrissakes! Why on earth are you changing the story? Are you trying to protect him?”
I stopped mid-pour and asked: “Protect him? Whom?”
In unison, as if it were rehearsed, both Anne and Ellen shouted “Ohmygod!”
OK, now I was really confused and it was not due to the bubbles as I was decidedly still sober—but took another large gulp to help remedy that predicament.
Without prodding, the dynamic duo recounted their version of the encounter as if they were a Vaudeville comedy team, finishing each others sentences, with near perfect timing.
Anne: “Ohmygod had ridden ahead as he always does…”
Ellen: “… and then he stopped once he knew that he had no idea where he was going…”
Anne: “…despite the fact that we just needed to go straight on the same road for what seemed like forever.”
Ellen: “He was just a little ways ahead of us when he stopped in front of a large house with a couple of dogs in the yard.”
Anne: “The dogs ran up to him and started barking as we pulled up right behind him.”
Ellen: “And, as usual, he either had no idea that we were there…”
Anne: “…or pretended not to notice us.”
Ellen: “He then seemed to freak out a bit at the dogs barking and so he took his bike pump and chucked it into the yard…”
Anne: “…as he yelled ‘Fetch!’”
Ellen: “One of the puppies thought about going after it, but…”
I interjected: “Wait, puppies?!?”
Ellen (who appeared noticeably agitated by the interruption): “There was an adult dog and two puppies.”
Anne (a little less perturbed): “He then took a nasty looking sandwich out of his back pocket and took a bite…”
Ellen (who seemed to quickly get over my transgression): “… but it must have been horrible since he then threw it across the street.”
Anne: “Ha! Yeah, that really seemed to get the dogs going—they started barking a bit more…”
Ellen: “…which seemed to really agitate Ohmygod to no end—he kept telling them to ‘Shush!’”
Anne: “I guess he does not like little yappy dogs.”
It was then Paul’s turn to interject: “What kind of dogs were they?”
Anne: “Those little hotdog dogs.”
Ellen: “If you say so.”
Anne: “Anyway, he became increasingly pissed off at the barking, so he took out his lock and started swinging it at the dogs…”
Ellen: “…but he was not coming close to hitting the dogs…”
Anne: “…so he tried to use it like a whip and a yo-yo at the same time, trying to get closer to the dogs…”
Ellen: “…and then the lock hit the top bar and bounced back up and smacked him in the hand…”
Anne: “…this made him drop the lock and he then took off riding as if he stole something…”
Ellen: “…and he rode right into a ditch…”
After the laughter and sniggering died down a bit, I had to ask one more question:
“You said the lock hit ‘the top bar’. What did you mean by that?”
Ellen: “You know, the top bar that holds the fence up.”
Anne: “Huh hell! Pay attention!”
Ellen: “The dogs were behind a chain-link fence….”