Diary of a Greeter

Leg 3 - Gmunden

Dear Diary,

I will never. Drink. Again.

This has to have been the longest two days of my life. And most painful. Did I mention the pain? I guess I should start at the beginning.

I had just got the last of that pearl-pink makeup scraped off and was heading out to do the eat-sleep-mingle with the racers when Amanda ambushed me. “You’re with the fucking crew, right?” she demanded.

“Uh, yeah, sort of. Why?”
I hadn’t seen a lot of Venice myself, so I said sure. After all, what could go wrong? Amanda even said she knew some Italian. How bad could it be?
“Fucking Sequesterville bus doesn’t leave ‘til four a.m. Why sleep, I figure. Chris and I are hitting the town, but JB says we need a chaperone. You’ll do. Let’s move.”

I hadn’t seen a lot of Venice myself, so I said sure. After all, what could go wrong? Amanda even said she knew some Italian. How bad could it be?

Well, it turns out the only Italian she knew was Martini and Rossi. Chris wasn’t much better; he could order tequila, but do you think he could get directions to the men’s room? Still, we ended up having a pretty good time, until we stumbled into this one little bar. Over in the corner was the whole commedia dell’arte troupe from the last Fast Forward. They had been drinking too, but obviously not enough. Harlequin took one look at me and pounced, accompanied by two of his gondolier buddies. “So, found your union card yet?”

I was busted. I knew it. In desperation, I played my last, best card: a very special URL I got from Mike Boogie the last time I was at Belly. Genuine Pam and Tommy Lee wedding night. Suddenly, I was the most popular guy in the bar. They made me a life member of their guild on the spot.

That would have been great if it had stopped there, but they insisted on toasting the event with grappa, which I believe is Italian for “Who hit me on the head with a hammer and then pissed in my mouth?” I have a vague recollection of staggering back to the Pit Stop with two gondolieri, singing “mostrimi il senso andare a casa.” All else is darkness.

When I regained consciousness, I was in the back of a production van crossing the Dolomite Alps into Austria. A very stern looking Phil was in the passenger seat. I asked him where that nice sheepskin coat he’d been wearing was. “It had to go to the cleaners,” he replied, with a very significant look. I figured that unconciousness was the best choice under the circumstances, and passed out again until we got to Vienna.

We pulled into this little cobblestone square just before sunset. Phil explained that the teams had to go on a walk through the sewers, but they were closed between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. JB wanted to be sure that no team tried to get a head start, “and we know you’ve been having trouble with the local unions,” Phil added, with an evil grin. “Perhaps it’s best you lay low over night.” And with that, he pointed to the stairway down. “Sleep well. Try to breathe through your mouth.”

The less said about the next sixteen hours, the better. Let’s just say there’s a reason sewer rats have such bad attitudes. By the time Phil let me out the next morning, I would have been willing to wash his coat myself and then join the Salvation Army. “No hard feelings,” he said. “In fact, I’d like you to help me check the arrangements for the next roadblock.”

I knew that we were alright then. This was a rare treat; helping Phil with an honest-to-goodness racer Roadblock. He told me all about the Donauturm on the drive over, how the 352 metre tower the Viennese affectionately call konkreter turm, or “concrete tower” (poets all, those Austrians) was built in only 20 months. When we got to the observation level, he helped me into my safety harness before we went out on the deck. The harness was a little wacky, but I just figured it was an Austrian safety thing. The view was magnificent. As I looked around, I asked Phil, “So, what’s the Roadblock?”

“This,” he said. And pushed me off.
And I screamed. Oh, did I scream. I think the first thing I screamed was “It’s only a fucking coat you Kiwi psycho!” but after that it was just the regular screaming.
And I screamed. Oh, did I scream. I think the first thing I screamed was “It’s only a fucking coat you Kiwi psycho!” but after that it was just the regular screaming. Then there was some bouncing, some more screaming, and I settled into a nice scream-bounce rhythm. As it became clear that I was not in fact going to make my name by landing in Greeterplatz, I settled in to a relieved gibbering. By the time they lowered me to the ground I was effectively speechless. Between the grappa, the night spent in a Viennese cesspool, and the shrieks of terror, I could barely whisper “You win. I’ll buy you a new coat.”

The rest of the leg was anti-climatic, for me at least. I still had no voice by the time we got to Gmunden. Phil nicely explained to JB how I had volunteered to help him out with the sewer and the bungee, and they arranged for one of the drivers to put on a dirndl and handle the talking. I got to hold the umbrella and try to remain upright – a real challenge, under the circumstances.

First to the mat were Steve and Josh. And I tell you, I’m clearly not the only pisstank on the race. Steve’s shirt was stained and reeking of cheap wine; it looked like someone had poured a whole tray of drinks down the front of him. If he can do that and still finish first, my hat is off. He’s a better man than I.

Next was Monica and Sheree. Is it just me, or are they getting louder? Their “Wooo!” nearly split me head, and woke up at least three babies within earshot. Speaking of babies, Reichen and Chip were next in. Watching their whole hug-shake-kiss-do-we-don’t-we-whatever they do at the mat makes me wonder what they think they are trying to hide. That they’re gay? Dudes, it’s not working. The other day, outside Ulan Bator, one yak herder said to his buddy, “Yo, Chip and Reichen are gay.” Cat’s out of the bag, boys. Just roll with it.

Tian and Jaree were next. I don’t know about you, but I’d try to muster a bit more enthusiasm for fourth place. Maybe it’s just me, but something isn’t right between those two. Ah well. Memo to myself: if things go on like this, one or both will need a little comfort before the race is over.

Millie and Chuck were next. They probably would have been faster, but Millie had this whole step-step-PUFF, step-step-PUFF, routine with her inhaler that seemed to hold her back. They checked in, and she was off to the doctors for some free oxygen. Reichen invited Chuck over for a beer while he waited. Hmmm.

I didn’t really get the whole human cannonball thing with Al until now. He and Jon charged the mat and nearly took out Phil, dirndl-girl, me, two cameramen, and an entire buffet table of wiener schnitzel and sachertorte. I guess they were really hungry. Phil reminded them that they had to check in before they could eat, and they calmed down.

Two guys I didn’t recognize were next. One of them said “Sweet.” Oh yeah, like that’s going to make an impression. Shortly after they left, Kelly and Jon appeared and said that their eighth-place finish was “good.” Well, yeah, sort of, if by good you mean “not as sucky as it could have been.” But I’m not sure that’s how most people understand the word.
Steve and Dave shambled up to the mat. They didn’t so much look like death warmed over as “death warmed over, and then left to cool off on a back burner until it gets that yucky film on top.”
Next came the saddest moment in the race. Steve and Dave shambled up to the mat. They didn’t so much look like death warmed over as “death warmed over, and then left to cool off on a back burner until it gets that yucky film on top.” Phil paused long enough for them both to mainline some Gatorade (four-and-a-half minutes) and then uttered the fateful words: “You’re team number nine.”

I thought they were going to cry. “What do we have to do to get off this walking nightmare you call a race?” Dave cried, as a production assistant strapped him to a gurney and wheeled him off for some morphine and an IV. “This is inhuman!”

“Better luck next time, boys,” said Phil. “Now bugger off. I’ve got to kick Cindy and Russell to the curb.” I think he enjoyed that part, particularly when he asked her what she’d learned about Russell and she replied with such a stream of invective that I thought Amanda was back in the race. I think they’re going to edit it out, but it was pretty sweet.

And now? Blessed unconciousness awaits. Followed by the next leg. See you them.