Diary of a Greeter

Leg 4 – St. Remy-de-Provence, France

Dear Diary,

After my near-disaster at the last Pit Stop, I decided to take it easy this time. This was entirely voluntary; that injunction Wardrobe took out, barring me from coming within two hundred yards of Phil if I had any detectable alcohol in my system, had nothing to do with it. And I have to say, I think the repeated breathalyser tests were uncalled for.
It was nice to hang around and chat, with no one calling anyone else “dumbass.” Or “dickhead.” Or, for that matter, “nympho,” “arrested adolescent,” “cougar,” “closet case,” or “castrating bitch.”
In any event, staying on the wagon helped me develop a much clearer picture of the remaining teams. First and foremost, with Russell and Cindy gone, the average temperature in the Pit Stop went up ten degrees. It was nice to hang around and chat, with no one calling anyone else “dumbass.” Or “dickhead.” Or, for that matter, “nympho,” “arrested adolescent,” “cougar,” “closet case,” or “castrating bitch.” I was just as happy to not have to learn any more about those two. But I did pick up on a few details about some of the others.

Millie, for example. The wheezing, the hoarseness, the shortness of breath? She calls it asthma, but from what I saw it’s spelled s-c-h-n-a-p-p-s. You would think that Chuck would be keeping an eye on her, but he was off playing cards with the Chipsters and the Goats. They all wandered off in a pack, and Reichen was saying something about dealing him in and showing him how to take some tricks. Hmmm.

As to the Goats – I think I finally figured out which ones they are. And their nickname has nothing to do with facial hair, and everything to do with eating habits. Just before the card game, I saw one of them (Jake? Danny?) put two schnitzels and a baked potato on a kaiser roll, cover it all in mustard, and tamp it down his throat. Meanwhile, his partner in crime was putting away three muffins – complete with the papers. Not the brightest lights, those two, but I swear they must have brass colons.

Then there’s Jon. Not the clown, the other one. (Actually, he’s a bit of a clown too, but still.) They say “don’t hate the playa, hate the game,” but I’d like to make an exception for this guy. I know he’s getting married and all, but that’s no excuse for him keep trying to turn the race into one long stag party. If I were Kelly I’d be getting pretty ticked off at the way he’s always oozing over to Tian and Jaree. I half expect him to unbutton his shirt, put on some gold chains, and invite them up to see his etchings. You just know he’s aching for some hot three-way action. To which I say, “Hey pal, wait your turn”

Anyway, what with having to eat, sleep, and mingle, twelve hours isn’t too long. Soon enough the teams were on their way to Paris and Le Mans, and so was I.

A lot of work goes into the Race, and there’s no room for slackers. This means that while my main job is greeting, I invariably get assigned odd jobs. That’s also JB’s way of hiding me from the local union types. There hadn’t been any trouble in Austria, but we were back in France, where they have unions for everything there and are always looking for an excuse to burn down a McDonald’s. I had to find a cover, so, I threw on some overalls and helped haul tires around the track.

After a couple of hours, one of the drivers sidled up to me.

“Peux-tu m’aider? J’ai envie. ”

“Uh, pardone?”

“Je devrais aller à la toilette.”

“Um, dooze hoore mwan sank?”

“Merde! I ‘ave to take a crap, you eediot. Cover for me!”

Which is how I found myself all kitted up and sitting in a race car when Chuck arrived. He climbed in and seemed really excited, until he looked over and caught me counting the dials, looking at the pedals, and muttering, “Which one did he say was the clutch?”
“Hey Chuckie,” I whispered, “Get a load of zis. You want to talk about hot and tight?”
“Uh, monsewer, do you, uh, know, uh, how to drive this?”

“Bien sur, mon ami,” I replied, trying to think garlicky thoughts. “I ham the hexpert, you know. Vroom vroom!

He wasn’t buying it. “Can you unbuckle me please?”

I had to think fast. I didn’t want my new driver buddy to get in trouble – or me, for that matter – and a crowd was gathering. Fortunately, help was at hand. Tucked down beside the seat, the driver had left an old copy of Paris Match, complete with the requisite telephoto paparazzi shots of topless Eurotrash frolicking at St.-Tropez.

“Hey Chuckie,” I whispered, “Get a load of zis. You want to talk about hot and tight?”

While he stared, transfixed, at what was alleged to be Princess Stephanie’s left nipple, I slowly reached out of the car, picked up the tire iron, and cold-cocked him. He collapsed faster than the Western Front in 1941. I quickly jammed his helmet on his head and hit the gas.

It turns out that driving a race car isn’t that big a deal. Or, it isn’t supposed to be. After all, they are final tuned models of precision engineering, carefully maintained by expert mechanics. Or, as I said, they’re supposed to be. My race car, of course, had been carefully maintained by expert mechanics and Chuck. Who, mere seconds before I smoked him, had replaced all the tires. Which explained why, as I rounded the final corner at Le Mans and edged the needle up past 200, I was slowly passed on the left. By one of my rear wheels.
Luckily for me, the only panicker in the car was drooling on his chest and asking Millie why she had turned out the lights. I barely had time to ask myself “Steer into the skid?” before we started pirouetting like a cow on skates. Three and half revolutions later we slid ass-backwards across the finish line. Lucky for me, Chuck woke up as we slid to a stop, and I was able to explain the blackout and the vomiting as a result of motion sickness.

While he was off booting in a trash can, Millie slid up behind me, wrapped her arms around me, and cooed “Thank you so much for taking care of my Chuckie. How can I ever thank you?” Than she put her hand somewhere that I didn’t even think Chuck knew existed, let alone her. I was about to reply, when the fire truck pulled up to extinguish the car, and she and Chuck took off. I watched them go, thinking “Tian who?”

I figured I had better head out myself, before Jean-Luc found out what I did to his ride. After hearing about the race car (and let me just say, thank God for insurance waivers!) JB wasn’t about to let me anywhere near the rappelling, so I just cruised to the Pit Stop. This meant I actually got a decent nights sleep. Of course, they turned right around and made me look like hell for the greeting. I didn’t know Bob Dylan had a younger, more European, brother, but there I was.

First to the mat this time were Tian and Jaree. After my little encounter with Millie I was starting to cool to them, but they upped the stakes with a bit of kissing. “You snooze, you lose, Jon,” I said to myself. I had a nice little reverie going until it was rudely interrupted as Millie, Chuck, and the Clowns stormed the mat. I said last leg that I figured the Clowns were heading for the buffet table, but now I think they just like freaking Phil out. They’ll probably cut it, but I took advantage of the occasion to introduce Millie to the French custom of kissing hello. Chuck blushed, but she was fine. Memo to myself: see if the Kama Sutra is implicated in any traditional Indian greetings.

Reichen and Chip were next, and they looked like hell. I had heard that the rappelling was tough, but they were scratched, their shoes were soaked, they had leaves in their hair… they looked like they’d gone on some forced march through the woods. I wonder what that was all about? They were followed shortly by the Goats. Actually, the smell of the goats was first, and with them about two minutes behind it. With all the sweat pouring off them, you’d think they had gone up and down the mountain twice.
When the ambulance pulled up, I knew that Steve and Dave had to be close at hand.
I had a bad moment when I heard cries of “dumbass” and “moron” coming up the drive. I thought that Russell and Cindy were crashing the race and Phil might have to bring the brow down on them. But no, it was just Jon and Kelly. You know that “ticked-off” I was talking about earlier? Here it comes. These two are set to explode.

When the ambulance pulled up, I knew that Steve and Dave had to be close at hand. “You’re team number 8,” said Phil.

“I’ll see you in Hell, Keoghan,” snarled Dave as he rolled up his sleeve. “Now, make with the drugs! Try this arm, I think there’s still a good vein left.” Steve just wept silently. Poor bastards.

It was a good thing I had gotten some rest. Night had long since fallen and I saw the sun peeking over the horizon when a phalanx of police cars escorted Steve and Josh up to the mat. While a production assistant tried to figure out how to roll back the odometer 5000 kilometres to avoid penalty charges from the rental company, Phil broke the news. “I’m sorry to say, you’ve both been eliminated from the race.”

“That’s okay,” said Steve. “At least I don’t have to travel another inch with this ungrateful little serpent’s tooth!”

“Ungrateful? I’ll show you ungrateful! You’ll have to lock me up in one of your Goddamn cells if you want me to spend more than another minute with you, you old fart!”

It was beautiful. It made me want to rush out right away and have a vasectomy. It’s a shame they had to reshoot it.

That’s all for now. See you around, diary.