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 Thirty-Three), I left the tasting and tour at Moët and rode over to Gosset for another such visit. To my surprise (and chagrin) three of the female members of our group (Anne, Ellen, and Maggie) showed up for the tasting. Over the next hour and a half, I tasted some marvelous champagnes, had my butt pinched, and discovered a passed out Ohmygod on the lawn in front of the tasting room. So pretty much a normal day with this group.
I realized rather quickly that I needed to get Ohmygod out of there immediately, before he decided to take it up a notch, thus ensuring that my long-awaited first visit to Gosset would also be my last. The question was how.
Jean-Paul, our guide for the tour, had just emerged from the building, followed closely by Anne, Ellen, and a clearly tipsy Maggie. They all headed straight over to us, and I prepared myself for the worst. In a somewhat demented way, I tried to mentally figure out the odds of who was going to embarrass me the most: Anne and Ellen who were likely shoplifting in the gift shop, an inebriated Maggie who moments before had been having her way with my butt, or Ohmygod who had the power to make the most innocuous situation into a three-alarm fire.
I had Anne and Ellen as a 10-1 long shot (based solely on the competition), Maggie was a solid 3-1, and Ohmygod was, as usual, even money.
Good thing I am not a professional odds maker as nothing happened. In fact, quite the opposite. As they were walking toward us, I mentioned to Ohmygod that we needed to get off the grass—the French tend to keep rather immaculate lawns, and the primary reason they remain pristine is that they do not let anybody on them—it is usually forbidden to walk on public lawns (and the lawn at Gosset indeed had the sign: “Defense de marcher sur la pelouse.”) We scooted over to the path and as they approached, I tried to catch Jean-Paul’s gaze so as to silently apologize for our infraction, but his eyes were riveted on Ohmygod as if he had just been brought out chained in a cage under the big-top.
There would be no need to apologize for being on the lawn.
I think that was the first (and only) time that I did not actually mind having Ohmygod around (yes, I realize that I never would have been in that position if it were not for him, but nonetheless I was experiencing an odd sensation of gratitude…). The normally professionally stoic Jean-Paul was clearly aghast at the sight of Ohmygod. As Jean-Paul tried to ascertain if the being before him was actually human, I scooted off the grass and over to the women.
It turns out that while I was frantically trying to locate my worst Canadian nightmare, the women were getting advice for Epernay lunch spots from Jean-Paul. Anne mentioned that they had settled on a little place in the center of town that was a big hit with the locals. Maggie then chimed in, saying that they had one of the best champagne-by-the-glass lists in Epernay. She then quickly asked if I would join them….
I had an appointment with Collard-Chardelle at one o’clock and it was already likely that I may be late. At best, I would have time to pick up a sandwich in a boulangerie, but I would have to eat it rather quickly as Villiers-sous-Châtillon is a solid 45 minute ride away.
But none of that mattered. Whatever reason I gave (legitimate or otherwise), Maggie would no doubt take as another rejection and I would then need to deal with that blow to her self-esteem somewhere down the road.
Nonetheless, I needed to decline the invitation, I just needed to do it in a way that caused the least potential damage (the truth of the matter was that I had long since stopped caring about Maggie’s fragile emotional state—I was concerned with doing my job and it is always better to manage the group when none of the members is on the verge of a complete mental meltdown, or so they tell me).
Just as I was about to open my mouth and put forth my best excuse, I hear:
A bit startled, yet I knew who it was who had just interceded: Ohmygod.
I cringed as he continued—while whatever I would have likely said would not have resolved the situation perfectly, I was quite confident that whatever he was about to say would only throw oil on the flame.
“He promised me that we would go on a longer harder ride after this tasting.”
I was stunned—there was no way that I would have ever considered such a ride, let alone promised him anything. Here was the guy who had caused me more angst in a dozen days than all the preceding clients over the last twelve years combined. As I considered my response (I was torn between a laughing snort and a primal scream), he turned to me and added:
Just as I was about to open both barrels on the guy, I glanced over at Maggie, Anne, and Ellen. Both Ellen and Anne had rather puzzled looks on their faces, apparently trying to determine whether what they just heard could possibly be true. Maggie, however, seemed to buy it. Or at least accept it.
So I had my out. The question was whether I wanted to take it. Riding with Ohmygod is not only dangerous (he is likely to crash into you at any moment), but particularly unpleasant (no matter where he is, he always manages to be downwind of you and since he rarely bathes, let alone washes his clothes). Once again, I needed to come up with a compelling lie fairly quickly.
When I looked over at Ohmygod, ready to tell him that there was no possible way we could ride together for fear of the apocalypse, I glanced over at him. He looked like a six-year old who had just asked his father to go out and play catch and was eagerly awaiting the (hopefully positive) response.
I guess we were going to ride together.
We all just stood there for several moments, and I was pondering what exactly had just happened. Jean-Paul, essentially an innocent bystander, eventually broke the trance by asking the women if they wanted a ride down to the restaurant. They graciously accepted (well, at least Maggie did—Anne stood there picking at something that had likely been lodged in her teeth since breakfast and Ellen turned a bit white as she thrust her hand into her pants, appearing as though she were checking to insure an item was still located safely inside.
Ohmygod and I walked over to our bikes in silence. I was going to make sure that I was not going to ask him what the hell just happened before Jean-Paul’s car was clearly out of sight. As we hopped on our bikes and headed out of town, I weighed my options:
- Option #1—I could take Ohmygod to the tasting.
- Option #2—I could try to drop him (ride so hard that he couldn’t keep up).
- Option #3—Try to reason with him. After all, I was going to another tasting and he had already made it quite clear that he was done with champagne.
- Option #4—I could fall to the ground, assume the fetal position and cry as I resigned from my job as guide, applying for workman’s compensation and eventually admitting myself to a mental hospital.
Despite the last of those being the most closely related to what I most wanted to do, the only viable options were #2 and #3 (there was absolutely no way he was going to go to a tasting with a small independent producer with me.
Not one way.
My first impulse is always to opt for the more communicative approach, but up until that point, my impulses, when it came to Ohmygod, had done me no favors.
That meant that I would have to try to drop him. I had tried that once before on the Canal d’Ourcq just outside of Paris and, well, I was not able to leave him in the dust. That’s one of the peculiarities of cycling—the person on the front is working up to 30% harder and the person in the second position can draft, maintaining the same speed as the lead rider with much less effort.
Or maybe I was just a wuss.
I could not try to reason with him first and when that did not work try to drop him—that would be far too obvious. No, I needed to start from the go with Option #2 and hope I could lay enough of a hurting on him that he would give up and stop following me.
Yeah, that was my best plan.
I headed out the eastern edge of town and on to the D1 toward Villiers-sous-Châtillon. I thought about trying to lose him in town, but I was actually looking forward to fair fight out on the road. All this time I had fancied myself a competitive cyclist and if I could not drop a nearly 50 year-old Canadian who still lived at home with his mother and had a bowling ball for a belly, well it might just be time to pick up another sport. Like pétanque (a French game similar to Bocci Ball), checkers, or competitive eating.
No, I was ready.
As I turned on to the main road to the west of Epernay, I glanced back to give him the “Here-we-go-better-buckle-up-knucklehead-it’s-about-to-get-real-hard” look, he was not there. I slowed and turned both my shoulders to get a better look.
I had not looked back for a few blocks, but I was not going fast at all. Like I said, I was not trying to drop him in town. Although that would achieve my ultimate goal, where is the sport in that? I wanted to inflict as much pain as possible before he succumbed to the inevitable.
Yes, I might need professional help.
I waited there for a minute then circled back. I expected to see him either wrapped around a fence post, sprawled out in the middle of the street, or at an intersection with his finger up his nose to his elbow.
After a good five minutes of looking, I gave up. My two main goals had been achieved: I was on my way to an appointment at a small, independent Champagne grower/producer, and I had been able to rid myself of both Maggie and Ohmygod. I was looking forward to a couple of hours of tasting great juice and riding my bike. In Champagne.
Yeah, for that moment at least, life did not suck.