I am back from my trip to Paris and last week, while in the glorious City of Light, I thought I would revisit the story that I started writing almost from the onset of this blog (which is a few short weeks away from its tenth anniversary). Since that revisit was fairly well-received last week, I thought I would dip into that well once again this week with the second “chapter” if you will of the story (the first installment can be found HERE).
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 two 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 first installment, I was in the office in Paris where I first encountered Ohmygod and realized that the next few weeks were going to uniquely try my patience.
This installment starts the way most of my bike trips began–a train ride.
There were several trains down to Blois on Saturday, and we were not scheduled to do any riding until Sunday for the trip. Thus, Friday evening I gave my three clients the choice of staying in Paris through Saturday afternoon, or heading down to Blois early and spend most of the day in the Loire Valley. Both Grumpy and Mr. Personality quickly decided to stay in Paris and opted to take the last train of the day down to Blois. Ohmygod, not surprisingly, could not make up his mind. As of Saturday morning at 10:00, he remained undecided. He showed up as I was gathering all the bikes and gear necessary for the trip. I asked him again what he was going to do. Before giving me the answer, he engaged me in a perverted game of twenty questions:
“What is there to do in Paris?”
–You mean the most visited city in the world? Not much.
“What is there to do in Blois?”
–Why did you sign up for this trip again? Did you read any of the materials?
“Is one train better than the others?”
–(I eventually discovered he meant the quality of the train–he wanted to be on the newest one so as to assuage his fears of a crash.) Seriously?
“What is there to do in Blois?”
–You already asked that.
After that, I mentally checked out and tried to look very busy. I was busy, actually, so I did not feel all that bad.
Finally, after hearing that the other two clients were staying in Paris, he decided he would also take the last train of the day at 5:00. This instantly caused concern since Ohmygod did not even have a casual relationship with the concept of punctuality. Thus, I explained to him that if he missed the train, he would have to pay for his own hotel in Paris that night and the train ticket down the next day. His face instantly lost all color and his eyes grew to the size of ping-pong balls. There was little doubt that this got through to him and that he might actually be on time. He then asked me if he could stay in his Paris hotel until it was time to leave since he had “already seen everything there was to see in Paris.”
I pondered challenging his decision-making process, but even though I had only known him for three days, I knew it was pointless. I told him that he could not go back to the hotel (unless he wanted to pay for another day–I decided I would use this newly found superpower at every chance as spending money was clearly his Kryptonite) and that he was going to have to find something to do. He then asked if he could just take the early train to Blois and hang out in the hotel there. I panicked. I knew it was likely wiser to get him on the early train since that would reduce the probability of something going horribly wrong (as in missing the last train of the day), but I was taking that early train and there was no way in Hades I wanted to sit with him alone for the trip.
So I lied.
I said absolutely not–he waited too long to make his decision and there were no longer any seats on the train. I knew I was going to rot in hell for lying, but it was so worth it.
Ohmygod stood there for a moment and I thought he was going to actually challenge my ruling–but I stared him down with a very authoritative gaze and he skulked out of the office to who knows where. I glanced at my watch and realized I now had but a few minutes to shuttle all of the bikes over to the Austerlitz station to get them on the 11:00 train. Thanks to Ohmygod, I was now running a good 30 minutes late. If I were going to make the train, I would have to hustle. I cursed his name for the third (eighth?) time and it was not even noon yet. That would be a record for the trip (a record low that is).
I rode two bikes over to the station (riding one and holding the other–we call it “double riding” which is not all that difficult but it seems to cause bystanders to gawk in awe), took the métro back to the office, and then double rode the other two bikes and all the gear back over to Austerlitz. Thanks to my morning tête-à-tête with Ohmygod, I had all my crap and the bikes on the platform only a couple of minutes before departure (normally, I like to get there at least 20 minutes early so as to hopefully stop sweating before boarding the train). As I started to load the bikes onto the train, the conductor came over to inform me that bikes were not permitted on the train. He was right, I knew that bikes were not allowed, so I played “stupid American” (speaking broken French with a horrible American accent and looking pathetic—it seems to come naturally to most people born in the U.S.).
I then went through several attempts of pleading, explaining that I was a tour guide and that the clients were down in Blois waiting for their bikes.
That seemed to make it worse, for some reason. I realized any future effort was in vain–he was not going to let me on the train and as a parting salvo, he threatened to call the police if I tried to get on the train. Had it not been for Ohmygod, I was convinced, I would have been at the station at least 30 minutes earlier and the conductor would have been nowhere in sight, enabling me to load them onto the train with nary a worry (local trains are usually in Paris stations at least a half an hour before departure).
Since the next train was not for several hours, I decided to schlep two of the bikes and all my luggage back to the office.
Karma is a bitch, as the saying goes–I knew I should not have lied to Ohmygod earlier. Hopefully, this was all there was to the payback….