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-Six), I arrived at our hotel in Reims to find Ohmygod’s bicycle lodged in the antique glass elevator in the lobby. After successfully extracting the bike, I was later waiting in the lobby when Anne and Ellen sat down next to me, clearly distraught. Before they could launch into their latest castigation, we were interrupted by the sight of a recently showered Ohmygod descending the staircase as if he were some tragically out-of-touch disco queen from several decades prior, trying to once again find glory.
As I was mesmerized by the Ohmygod’s ignoble descending of the spiral staircase that encircles the hotel’s iconic glass elevator, I did not realize Anne and Ellen sit down on either side of me, each with a flute of champagne. It was not until later that I registered this as rather odd since neither one of them had showed much interest in wine, let alone champagne, and they had shown even less desire to be social—least of all with me.
Ohmygod’s behavior was also rather odd (or, more precisely, he was acting a bit out of character—his behavior was always odd). First, was the aforementioned shower—apparently his first non-mandated hygienic act of the fortnight (I refused to determine if he had been brushing his teeth). Second, he descended the staircase with aplomb despite the rather slick carpet runner and the fact that it required at least a half-dozen circumnavigations of the elevator shaft, all while wearing cleated cycling shoes (apparently the introduction of a new “outfit” did not necessitate a change in footwear).
Third, and surprisingly most shocking of all, he was a good fifteen minutes early for our standing dinner rendez-vous, but I immediately dismissed any possible contrition on his part, much less a change in his regular approach to life (of being perpetually late and foul-smelling). Rather, it was more than likely that he simply had no idea how to gauge the time it would take to shower.
As he approached the three of us sitting in the small room off the lobby, sipping on the local elixir, he chose the table the furthest away. I immediately assumed that he was on his best behavior since he no doubt feared my wrath for having first lodged and then abandoned his bike in the glass elevator (I imagine the old woman-flattening episode was already far out of his consciousness—if it had ever even been there at all). I figured he reasoned that if he sat next to me, I would unleash what had become a nearly daily diatribe about his behavior.
He was right, but I was wrong—I doubt that he ever engages in much “Reasoning.”
After he sat down, and started in on his ritual of asking how many beers were available (there was only one: Fischer, but it would still take the better part of ten minutes to go through the routine), I noticed that both Anne and Ellen were visibly more upset than usual (this, of course, was a relative estimate as they both perpetually sported a rather nasty scorn).
I was near the end of my flute of champagne, so I had a choice to make after I finished it: either I was going to go up to the tiny bar and stay there avoiding any discussion as to the source of their sour moods, or I would stay and confront the situation head-on.
In either case I found myself in an eerily familiar situation: I needed more champagne.
I went up to the bar and flagged down my new best friend: the hotel worker whom I helped dislodge Ohmygod’s bike from the glass elevator an hour or so earlier.
As he was pouring my wine (for which he did not charge me—clearly Mme. Dampierre was gone for the night as I doubt he would have been so brazen were she still on the premises), I was contemplating my next move. For me, the decision was clear: although I would have loved to have been able to ignore addressing the angst that was clearly displayed across their faces, dealing with Anne and Ellen’s discomfort now would be much more pleasant (or at least slightly less offensive) than after they had a few more glasses of alcohol in them.
Nonetheless, I lingered at the small counter for a bit, chatting with the diminutive bartender. (It must have been a rather odd sight as I stand 6’4” and I doubt my interlocutor was much more than 4’6”.)
Eventually, I turned ready to head back over to the table, when I saw that Maggie had joined Ellen and Anne, thus causing me to reevaluate my earlier decision. With Maggie at the table, I imagined the recounting of their woes would be much more dramatic for the newly arrived audience.
So I stayed at the “mini” bar and kept chatting up the “bartender” hoping for another flute of champagne.
Moments later, I heard a gasp from Maggie, and I quickly turned, fearing that Ohmygod had somehow discovered a way to light his beer on fire. Instead, there was, well, nothing. I scanned from table to table and while I dare not use the word “normal”, it did not appear that anything was out of the ordinary (“ordinary” is, of course, a relative term).
As I was ready to chalk it up to just another pseudo-dramatic outburst, I saw it.
Or rather them.
Paul and CC were coming down the stairs and based on their giggling and frequent touching, it would not be a stretch to say that either there had been a “romantic event” between them or there would be in the very near future.
As if there were not already enough going on….
A quick recap of my dining companions for that evening:
- Maggie—an emotional wreck who was in some stage of the process of breaking up (or staying with) her fiancé after a semester-long affair with her dissertation advisor. She had also made a few overt attempts to get me into bed.
- Anne and Ellen—a married couple who made no qualms about how unhappy they were on the trip, never hesitating to lash out at me and the company. And they both seemed to be in particularly foul moods.
- Paul—a man who shocked us all when he told us he was married and had been making rather lewd advances at the emotionally distraught Maggie.
- CC—who likely just slept with Paul.
- And Ohmygod—in the last three hours he had pulverized an old woman with his bike, abandoned said bike wedged in an antique elevator, took his third shower in 16 days, and then dressed up like a homeless drag queen.
Yeah, dinner was going to be a blast.
After the two newly minted high school love birds made it to the lobby, I rounded up the group and we headed off to the restaurant. It was a good 10 minute walk from the hotel when I was by myself, which meant at least 20 minutes with a group of eight (I have found that with the addition of every 2-3 people to a group, it takes 25% longer to walk anywhere).
We walked up the large pedestrian section of the city, which, I have to say, is rather impressive.
I was at the front of the group and as it started to fan out a bit, I was suddenly joined by Anne and Ellen.
I braced myself.
They started out by complementing me, which threw me off guard as previous diatribes almost always started by questioning my intelligence. This time, however, they were apparently thankful for the advice I had given that morning regarding what to do for lunch.
As there were no real options from Epernay to Reims other than a couple of rather pricey restaurants, Ellen and Anne, per my suggestion, had stopped at the rather large supermarché just outside of Epernay (and right before the famed Champagne town of Aÿ) and purchased picnic provisions.
They rode for a couple of hours and stopped on top of the Montagne de Reims, near Les Faux de Verzy (an odd forest with trees right out of Middle Earth) to eat. Just as they had laid out their provisions, Ohmygod appeared as “if from thin air” yet again (at this point Ellen went on a three-minute diatribe enumerating all the times that a similar apparition had occurred—if true, it was rather compelling that Ohmygod indeed had an other-worldly ability to detect the two of them dining).
Up until this point, Ellen and Anne had done yeomen’s work indulging Ohmygod at nearly every meal. At first, they admitted, they enjoyed it–they found him quirky and funny so they did not mind at all his company while dining. (At this point Ellen tossed out “Since no one else would!” which was met with a glare from Anne. I was not sure if this was intended as a strike against our collective manners or an attempt to garner some credit for combat duty.)
It had been clear, at least to me, that Ohmygod always tried to sit near them since they would give him anything that they did not eat (often after he prodded them with: “are you going to eat the rest of that?”), which he would eat in his usual style (stuffing his face until no more food could possibly fit in his mouth, and then start talking with his Dizzy Gillespie cheeks to an audience that neither wanted to listen to him, or look at him).
All this time I thought that Anne and Ellen actually liked his company (and therefore deserved it), but I was mistaken: Anne indicated that they just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to get Ohmygod away from them. The stench was driving them to the brink of suicide.
At that point we reached the restaurant and as the rest of the group approached, I indicated that I would do my best to keep Ohmygod away from them for the next two days–at which point their trip would be over (but mine unfortunately would continue on to Belgium).
Just as we entered the restaurant, CC indicated that she needed to use the restroom, and after I pointed it out, Paul quickly followed her.
You have to be kidding me.
We were escorted to the rectangular table which normally sat six, but was set up for seven. Ohmygod sat first, at the far end of the table and I quickly sat down next to him (I figured tonight was the night to make such a gesture to Anne and Ellen since, at least by appearances, Ohmygod had showered and his horrid body odor might be minimal). Even before I could be settled in my seat, Maggie quickly took the seat opposite me.
Anne and Ellen filled in the next two spots, which left a seat across from Ohmygod and another at the head of the table for Paul and CC. Inadvertently, this achieved another of my goals for the evening–to keep Paul and CC apart so as to minimize the feeling that I was at my junior prom.
Ten minutes later, when the two of them finally returned, the adolescent grins on their faces quickly faded once they saw the seating arrangements. Paul reluctantly took the seat opposite Ohmygod, clearly disappointing his new-found dalliance.
Dinner actually went off without much of a hitch. Paul and CC carried on a mostly silent conversation from opposite ends of the table, consisting of furtive glances and hand gestures; Anne and Ellen sat silent most of the meal, which is how I imagine they spend most of their time together as they don’t appear to like each other very much; I suggested that Ohmygod order a steak frites, which he did (and therefore limited the possibility of him getting any sauce all over me); and as far as I could tell, Maggie only grabbed my knee three times under the table.
So yeah, it was a pretty “successful” dinner.
During dinner, I suggested that we all go to the Sound and Light Show just down the street at the cathedral–it was conducted in French, but the real interest was in the incredible lighting choreography. Ohmygod, surprisingly, was immediately interested, which caused all the others to immediately become disinterested. Thus sensing a moment where I could garner a bit of favor with the group, I made a loud pronouncement that I had already been to the show and I was just going to go and have a couple of beers to train for the Belgian trip. I encouraged all of them to still attend, of course, since it truly is an amazing sight.
At the mention of “beer” Ohmygod started panting like a dog when asked if she wants to go for a walk (as I had anticipated). I then asked if he would like to join me, and of course he said yes (I was tempted somehow obtain a leash, but that would have been cruel–I mean even Pavlov had some sympathy for his animals, right?).
We all left the restaurant together, and I led the group over to the cathedral at which point Ohmygod and I continued on.
Once on our way, Ohmygod confided that he really did not want to go to the sound and light show anyway, since we had seen one in the Loire valley (by the way, when he tells other people about the Loire trip he always says precisely the same words [which I have now heard 7-8 times and therefore I can recite verbatim]: “it was very interesting with all of the chateaus [sic] and castles and everything.” Each time I am tempted to point out the idiocy of the statement, but I refrain, ever trying to be the magnanimous guide).
We needed to pass the hotel to get to the bar, and I mentioned to Ohmygod that I was going to grab a book from my room. I thought about ditching him entirely, as I have done numerous times, but I figured if I did it again, I would surely rot in hell for being such an awful person, and since I had just visited the cathedral, God must surely have been paying very close attention to me at that moment — so I went to get reading material instead.
When I came back down stairs, Ohmygod had disappeared. I thought it was surely my lucky day and that my visit earlier in the day to the cathedral had turned my luck around. Just as I was leaving the hotel (still determined to have a drink), I heard the all-too-familiar “Hmmmm Chirp” that indicated Ohmygod’s presence. I turned and immediately noticed that he had changed his clothes.
Back into his cycling gear.
He had also seemingly wetted down his hair.
It now appeared matted down again, as if he had just removed his helmet.
Here we go again….