IN CASE YOU DO NOT ALREADY KNOW, LAST FRIDAY’S POST WAS INDEED AN APRIL FOOL’S JOKE!
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 Forty-One), I learned that Paul had set his room on fire trying to dry his shirt with the hair dryer. When he found the bathroom ablaze, he extinguished the fire with the hand-held shower head, but that resulted in a flooded bathroom floor. Although I would have to figure out a way to alert the hotel staff of the debacle, the incident did serve to rid me of another headache: Maggie, who had been naked in my bed had disappeared by the time I had returned to my room to change for dinner.
I got dressed quickly, briefly lamenting on how wrinkled my dress shirt had become after several weeks in a suitcase. I briefly pondered using the iron in the room, but given the recent chain of events, I was pretty certain that I would absent-mindedly leave it plugged in and in turn start another fire.
I opted instead for the irreverent unkempt look, which I rock from time to time.
It was the last night of the trip and the last time I would see two-thirds of the group; Paul, CC, Anne, and Ellen would be leaving in the morning. “Luckily” I would still have Maggie and Ohmygod for another week in Belgium and Germany as well as a few more new clients that would be meeting us in Bruges after our train ride in the morning.
I raced downstairs to find the rest of the group assembled in the lobby with the exception of Paul and CC. As had been my modus operandi for most of the trip, I once again opted for ignoring the current situation entirely, acting as though nothing had happened. While falling short of bliss, this approach had served me well the past two weeks and although the author of the current situation had shifted, I once again found myself in the unenviable situation of having to inform a hotel of a near catastrophe at the hands of one of our clients.
I imagined that telling the stooge who occupied the front desk at night would only cause him to panic and call Madame Dampierre immediately. The possibilities of what would follow could only be negative: either 1. Madame would come over immediately to personally deliver my a lasting tirade; 2. She would call the police who would come over looking to arrest somebody for arson; or 3. She would kick us all out of the hotel in a huff, forcing me to scramble and find six hotel rooms after eight o’clock on a Friday night.
Of course, the most likely scenario would include all three options.
No, I decided that letting the hotel know now was really in nobody’s best interest, so I was going to do my best to put it out of my mind for the remainder of the evening.
And nothing says “forget about your troubles” like a glass of champagne.
Surprisingly, with the exception of my two amorous arsonists, everyone was waiting in the lobby patiently, I glanced briefly at Maggie, but there was no indication that she wanted to acknowledge what had transpired on her end either, which was perfectly fine with me.
Then I saw Ohmygod, who for some reason was once again wearing his tie, even though I had stressed that he did not need to wear it, which I said in part because it was the single ugliest tie I had ever seen: maroon polyester with fat turquoise and yellow diagonal stripes.
This time, though, he was not wearing his “dress” shirt (which was white with blue, green and pink vertical stripes). No, he was wearing the tie with… his stained yellow cycling jersey. He was not wearing his “dress” pants either (a lovely polyester, black and white checked–not quite the type worn by chefs in restaurants, but close), but full length cycling tights—I guess he found them “classier” than shorts.
The tie, however, was still tied in what I would call the “Ohmygod (lack of) style”–the skinny part was about three inches longer than the fat part of the tie.
For a moment I thought he might be wearing the tie as some sort of protest or perhaps mocking the idea of wearing ties in general, but frankly I refused to grant him that much credit. What is far more likely is that he never heard my assurances that a tie was not necessary and instead recalled the week in the Loire when I chastised him relentlessly that the tie was always required on the last night of a trip. He must have figured that the tie and only the tie were required or. perhaps more likely, his “nice” pants and shirt had managed to escape the stench of his suitcase and made a quick get-away. They were likely now happily living with a nice homeless person.
And we were going to dinner.
The tie, however, had a new feature: there was a rather large stain, about the size of a golf ball. At first glance, it was close to a perfect circle and it was precisely in the middle of the tie. In fact, it was of a shape an in a spot that if it had been my first time seeing the cravat, I might swear that it was part of the overall hideous design.
But I had seen this particular tie around the same neck (albeit the previous time there was also a collared shirt employed) just seven days prior without the added circular colorful feature. I did not stare at the stain long enough to be sure, but I was willing to bet a large sum of money that the mark in question was caused by a rather large dollop of ketchup.
There was another addition to the tie that I had trouble understanding: it was incredibly wrinkled to the point that it made my wrinkled clothes appeared freshly pressed. I had no idea that polyester could wrinkle that badly, but then there were a whole host of aspects to Ohmygod that defied conventional wisdom.
What made its appearance even more fascinating was that there was no way it could have happened in my presence as the only other time I saw him wear the tie, there was never any ketchup on the table. I briefly wondered about his secret life on those nights when he was on his own for dinner (one or two nights out of every trip week, I got a “night off” when dinner was not included), but I quickly realized that I simply did not care—he gave me far too many reasons to pull my hair out when I was in his presence, speculating about what he did while alone would likely cause a nervous breakdown.
I thought about inquiring about the series of events that led to the staining of his already hideous tie, but I decided to save it for the dinner table. The others would no doubt wonder where CC and Paul were, and I could use the inquiry as a diversionary tactic.
I motioned to the group that we were heading out at which point Ellen pointed out that neither CC nor Paul had yet arrived and suggested that we wait. She seemed sufficiently appeased (or hungry) to acquiesce once I pointed out that I had left directions to the hotel at the front desk (which was true) and that Paul and CC would join us a little later (which I desperately hoped not to be true).
As we strolled out the courtyard and onto the bustling pedestrian-only street, I was dying to tell someone about what had just happened. The problem was whom do I tell? Approaching Maggie would force me (or her) to address the other situation (“Remember when you were buck naked in my bed and I left in a hurry once Paul burst into the room?”). Ann and Ellen were not an option since frankly, they would likely use the opportunity to complain about something themselves—either how expensive everything was in France or the relative discomfort they were feeling in their genitals from all the riding.
And then there was Ohmygod.
I do not believe in absolutes, but “never confide in anyone who is going to dinner wearing a stained, hideous polyester tie with sullied cycling clothes while reeking to high heaven” might be a good place to start.
I led the group out of the lobby and into the pre-dusk evening. Champagne is one of my favorite places to be during the summer months. Not only are there always bubbles in the air, but it stays light well past 10:00. The city is about an hour’s drive (or train) north of Paris, which itself is farther north than Fargo, North Dakota.
I had decided on a relatively new restaurant in town: Vérsion Originale, which was only about a ten minute walk from the hotel. The style was French, with a bit of a modern twist, the wine list was loaded with some of my favorite bottles at reasonable prices, and even though I had only been a few times, it was already my favorite restaurant in town.
It also did not hurt that I had a bit of a crush on one of the servers.
Before I made the reservation a couple of hours before, I pondered for a while whether it was wise to take my motley crew to my favorite establishment in town since the odds were fairly good that I would never be able to return. After some brief soul-searching, I remembered that the restaurant had one of my favorite bottles of wine on the menu: the Collard-Chardelle Saveurs d’Autan, which was produced just outside of Epernay in the town of Villiers-sous-Châtillon. They age the still wine in large oak casks before making the final blend that then goes through the second fermentation in the bottle.
Some of my favorite champagnes are aged in oak; Bollinger, Vilmar, and Krug come to mind. There was a time that all champagnes were aged in oak, but today it is but a handful as the vast majority of champagnes are aged in stainless steel.
Even though I only recently “discovered” Collard-Chardelle, I would rank it as among my favorite champagnes–the oak adds another dimension to champagne, a roundness that coats the mouth. They also tend to age better due to the micro-oxygenation that the oak provides. For a reason that I have yet to figure out, it is actually cheaper at the restaurant than it is from the winery.
If it was going to be my last supper at Vérsion Originale, at least I was going to be drinking my preferred elixir.
We made our way across the pedestrian area of town and sauntered into the restaurant. The object of my latest desires, the person who served my group the last two times I was in town, seemed not to be there, which was actually a relief. I am not sure who said it originally, but grandfather always used to tell me that you are judged by the quality of company you keep.
I scanned the table.
I sure hope my grandfather was wrong.
The dinner actually went rather well. In fact, it went off without so much as a hiccup. Maggie made no untoward advances, Anne and Ellen did not complain about a single thing (other than wondering why all champagne had bubbles), and Ohmygod actually ate with utensils.
I asked about the stain on his tie, and I was right, it was ketchup. He then let on that at every chance he would go eat at McDonald’s. After the first visit, he started wearing his tie since, as he put it, “They are much classier than the McDonald’s in Canada…in France, they serve beer!”
Just before we were served dessert, Paul and CC entered the restaurant. “Stumbled into” would be more appropriate as they both had been clearly drinking. As they approached the table CC tripped again, Paul caught her, and as he stood her upright, he put half his tongue in her mouth.
Shortly after they two sat down, Paul made an announcement:
“I just wanted to let you all know that this week has been the most fun I have had in some time, so earlier today, I called and signed CC and I up for the next week in Belgium.”
No one really knew how to take that news, including me. Had the events of the last three hours or so not happened, I would have been delighted to have Paul on for another week. Given the other people currently on the trip, he was easily the least of my worries. After torching his bathroom, however, he jumped up several spots on that scale.
Then there was CC. As soon as Paul was done speaking, she turned as white as a sheet, clearly, this was the first that she had heard of the plan. Paul, apparently oblivious, turned, to get the attention of our server, and once he did, he commanded a bottle of “your best champagne.”
Paul, clearly in a good mood, started laughing and leaned over to kiss CC, sure that she was just as elated as he was. That did not go so well. Just after the 1996 Dom Pérignon Rosé was served, CC stood up and sprinted out of the room. Paul scanned the table as if looking for some sort of clue as to what he should do next, eventually, he got up and raced after her.
A split second later, dessert was served.
By the woman who I had lusted after for a few weeks now.
Within moments, Anne and Ellen started grilling me as to what was going on (and how much another week would cost), Maggie (I think) grabbed my knee, and Ohmygod started eating his Île flottante.
With his hands.
I grabbed the Dom and took a drink.
From the bottle.