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-Nine), we all met up at a champagne bar where we popped a few bottles of bubbles before heading off to dinner. After polishing off the first bottle, Ohmygod was thwarted attempting to bring his bike into the bar. As I intervened, he recounted the story of his “harrowing encounter” with a “vicious pack of dogs” that happened to be safely enclosed behind a chain link fence.
At the end of the tag-team story of Ohmygod’s canine encounter, we all decided that another bottle of champagne was in order, particularly since we had a good 30 minutes until dinner. I perused the menu for a moment, even though it was not necessary—I knew precisely what I wanted to order: a 1996 Henriot.
Henriot is another of my favorite producers, although I have never been able to visit. The house’s wines are all fuller-bodied wines, with a strong backbone—great food wines. No, we were not yet eating, but I decided to splurge a little since, well, everyone was feeling rather jovial from the recounting of Ohmygod’s afternoon (the recent consumption of two bottles of champagne did not hurt either). On top of that, the champagne was a vintage—only produced in the best years, and this particular vintage, 1996 was exceptional—one of the best in recent memory.
After the wine was poured, Paul, who seemed the most inebriated of all, quickly grabbed his glass and downed almost the entire pour without so much as a blink. As he placed the flute back on the table, I informed him that this was likely the best wine we had yet had on the trip and he should try to at least taste what remained in his glass (yeah, I was being a bit of a didactic jerk, but hey, it was a ‘96 Henriot…).
He immediately turned red as he was clearly embarrassed by the public chastisement, which caused the others to look at me as if I were the second coming of the Marquis de Sade. Despite my admonishment and his apparent regret, he grabbed his flute once again and drained the remaining fluid in his glass.
“Oh, that was quite good” he said as he returned the vessel once again to the table. “In fact, let’s get another bottle!”
I glanced at my watch and took a quick scan of the others at the table to determine the level of their interest in Paul’s preposition.
Before I could raise the question to the rest of the group, Paul had flagged down the waiter, handed him his credit card, and ordered another bottle of Henriot.
Who was I to argue? (Did I mention it was a ’96 Henriot?)
The other bottle soon arrived, and although no one at the table noticed the new addition, all at the table seemed to develop an intense thirst; they began drinking from their own glasses with much more fervor. Although I was certainly enjoying the additional bubbles, my thoughts were fixated on dinner—we did not technically have a reservation, so I needed to be over there by 8:30, to try to get one of the tables that would be opening up when the British tour group left.
And 8:30 was quickly approaching.
Thus, my conundrum—do I herd my sheep and lead them over to the restaurant without a confirmed table or go over to the restaurant solo and trust that the others will follow after they drain the last few drops of the Henriot?
As I was weighing the pros and cons of both options, Ellen shouted: “Time for Tequila!”
Clearly, I needed to do some herding.
Luckily, CC and Maggie were not as apparently bombed as the other three and I decided to use the fact that they were still both vying for my affection to my advantage. I caught their attention and pointed to my watch to indicated that we needed to get up and get going to the restaurant. It was only a five minute walk, but given that many of the flutes on the table were still half full, I knew it was going to take a bit of an effort to overcome inertia.
CC and Maggie proved to be reliable lieutenants—CC focused on getting Anne and Ellen to drop their insistence to move on to Tequila shots while Maggie had her hands full with Paul.
No easy task.
Paul was already clearly bombed, but he was apparently resolved to finish all the half-full flutes on the table. He worked in a clockwise fashion around the table and after he drained the last drops of each subsequent glass, he exclaimed “Kill ‘em all!” By the time he got to the third glass, he was already shouting his battle cry, which was drawing considerable attention from the other patrons in the bar.
Our waiter, perhaps realizing that we were preparing to leave (or more likely hoping to hasten our departure), came over with the bill and handed it to Paul. As Paul was signing the credit card receipt, I motioned to the waiter to come over, which he did after Paul had finished. I asked him for the rest of the bill (the three [four?] bottles that we consumed before Paul bought the last one). The waiter informed me that he had assumed that Paul was paying for the entire bill when he had handed him the card, so there was no other bill.
Before I could explain, the waiter, who had clearly lost all patience with our table from the moment that Ohmygod tried to bring his bike into the bar, quickly turned on his heels and scurried off back to the bar.
At this point, every one was up and stumbling toward the door. Once we got outside, I went up to Paul who had his arm around Maggie, ostensibly for walking support. At first glance, it seemed as though Paul could walk perfectly fine on his own, yet had his right arm around Maggie’s shoulder, with his hand dangling atop her breast. Had Paul been straight, this certainly would be a more troublesome issue, but Maggie was laughing, clearly enjoying her role as an alcohol-induced version of Florence Nightingale.
Trying to ignore the precarious position of his hand, I notified Paul that the entire bill, not just the one bottle, had been applied to his card. Other than a slightly raised eyebrow, he did not seem to be fazed by the news. In fact, he stated “Oh, no big deal, it’s only money. Besides, half of it will be gone soon enough.”
Certainly a curious response, but seeing that there was no real issue (at least for the moment), I was more than willing to let it pass and bring it up at another, more sober, time. Maggie, however, picked up on it immediately.
“What do you mean? Are you in some sort of financial trouble?”
“I guess you could say that” Paul responded with a chuckle. “One of the main reasons why I am on this trip is to get away from another failed marriage.”
Immediately, several follow-up questions popped into my head, but as a tour guide, I have always found it best not to probe too deeply into the lives of clients on the trip.
Maggie, however, was not bound by any such convention.
“Huh? You are married?”
“I guess, technically” Paul responded, “Wait, what time is it in Boston?”
“Almost 2:30 in the afternoon” I interjected.
“Well, I guess that means that I am not ‘technically’ married either. I’m a free man!” with that, Paul pulled Maggie a little closer and kissed the top of her head.
“Oh, I am so sorry!” empathized Maggie as she smiled, grabbed the hand that was on her chest, and kissed the back of it. “Had you been together long?”
“Yeah, we first met when we were freshmen at Yale, and we dated there for a few years, but went our separate ways after graduation. We kept in touch for a while, but after we both got married, we lost touch. Then, just about two years ago, we ran into each other at a Starbucks in Boston. Soon, we were having this torrid affair, like we were back in college, behind our spouses back. We both got a divorce within a year and I asked her to marry me about a year after that. It was great for about….”
Although I certainly heard it too, I was steadfast to leave it alone. But not Maggie, she pounced:
Paul seemed a little confused, if not taken aback, “Yeah, my wife, Selena.”
Maggie, incredulous, asked again “Wife?!?”
“I guess I should say ex-wife at this point” he responded.
No sooner were the words out of his mouth then Maggie had lifted his arm up off her shoulder as if she were about to perform a Tae Kwon Do self-defense maneuver. Paul initially stumbled a bit, probably more due to the swiftness of the action than to the 5 or 6 flutes of champagne that he had recently consumed.
After she dropped his arm, she swiftly moved around in order to face him, and grasped both of his wrists: “You mean you are not gay?”
Clearly a bit flustered, Paul seemed at a loss for words. Then, in a voice that was somewhere between apologetic and perturbed, he said “Um, no, I am not gay—sorry to disappoint you….”
At this point, anticipating a night, and trip for that matter, spiraling quickly out of control, I jumped in between them, and grabbed Maggie by the hand. I pointed out that the restaurant was just a block ahead and pulled Maggie up with me as I led the way.
Maggie certainly seemed to be perturbed by the recent revelation, but was starting to calm down a bit. Still, she tugged on my hand and asked in a soft voice: “He’s not gay? How is that possible?” I shrugged—I really did not want to play my own hand all that much, but I had to at least acknowledge that even the most casual observer would have been at least mildly surprised to discover that Paul had been in two heterosexual marriages.
“I guess you never know…” was the best I could muster.
“No! You can know! I feel so deceived! He was giving me dating advice—how best to deal with my fiancé. I told him some rather intimate details that I never would have said if I thought he was straight. And he was just grabbing my boob!”
How do you respond to that?
That was what I came up with: “Yeah”. I guess I do not have to worry about becoming a therapist any time soon.
As we were a few meters from the restaurant, CC, perhaps seeing me still holding Maggie’s hand, came running up, and put a hand on our adjacent shoulders as if she were about to push us apart, and interjected “Wait, Paul isn’t gay?” and then added “Oh, I thought you should know—Anne is puking her guts out in the bushes back there.”
I turned to see Ellen, standing beside a hunched over Anne, covering her own mouth with her fingers, as if to prevent her own vomiting episode.
I let go of Maggie’s hand and turned to better assess the situation. I froze for a moment, not entirely sure what I should do.
My first impulse was to run.
My second impulse was also to run.
All I could think of was running. I decided that I was a pretty fast runner—really fast, in fact.
Finally, after I was able to clear the visions of my freedom from my head, I told CC to keep Maggie away from Paul and vice versa (the last thing I needed was any more groping at this point). She nodded assent, flashing an “OK” sign with her fingers as she winked. As I started to walk away, she reached out and patted me.
On the butt.
Fortunately, Ellen looked like she had been down this road before as she had already pulled out a package of Wet-Naps and was now holding Anne’s hair with her other hand. She glanced at me and also gave me a wink to let me know that she had it under control. I asked her if they still wanted to go to dinner, to which she responded:
“Hell Yeah! Just give us five minutes—we’ll be right there.”
I debated resisting for a bit—the last thing I needed was to have another vomiting exercise in the restaurant, but I figured I already had enough on my plate without getting into an argument with Ellen.
I looked at my watch and it was already 8:45 and I was worried about even having a table, so I sprinted back to the restaurant (yeah, I was fast—they would have never caught me…), past the three others, where CC seemed to be doing a fine job keeping the situation under control.
I opened the door to the restaurant and greeted the host. He informed me that the table was ready and waiting for me. In fact, he added, that one of our party of seven had already arrived.
Given the myriad headaches that had just occurred, I had completely forgotten about my nightmare-in-chief.
I froze. I did not want to look to see what kind of destruction he might be causing in the dining room.
My first impulse was to run. But this time I was going to run and hide.
Resisting any further impulses, I took a couple of steps and peered into the dining room. I could not help it—I needed to get an idea what was ahead of me.
Then my night got a whole lot weirder.
There, seated at the table was Ohmygod. Hair combed and pulled tightly into a ponytail, collared shirt, necktie, drinking a glass of…