If I’m not already dead, I will be when my sister reads this. Technically, she is my half-sister, but I can’t imagine being any closer than we are. A tad bit strange is the fact there is eighteen years between us. I was pushed from the nest when my father and his second wife needed my bedroom for the nursery. So we didn’t grow up together, but we managed to bridge the years mostly with teasing.
In 1992 Beth had just turned eighteen, and she was joining my father and I on a trip to Paris, France and Rothenburg, Germany. It was my first trip to Europe, and her second. The big difference this time, was that she was legally of age to drink in Europe. Back in Tennessee, the drinking age was still twenty-one. She was seated by me for the flight over, and we celebrated her new found adulthood with a little split of champagne. That was the start of her coming out vacation.
The first evening we were there, she caused a car accident. My father and I had already crossed the street, so we didn’t see it, but she was overjoyed. A carload of four guys were ogling her out the window and ran into the back of another car. You would have thought she won the lottery if you just measured her joy over the incident. Father and I denied seeing anything, and we are holding to our story. A few days later, while my father was taking his afternoon nap, Beth and I decided to go exploring on our own.
Paris has little outdoor street cafe’s all over the place. I don’t remember the name of the one we went to, but I’ll never forget what happened there. As Beth and I ordered our glass of wine, she was eyeing all the guys who weren’t accompanied by female companions. At the table next to ours, she struck gold with a couple of young guys. The dark haired one, I’ll call Swarthy. He could speak a tiny bit of English, but with a very heavy accent. His wingman, who I’ll name Bumbling, couldn’t speak or understand any English. After a few long glances from Beth, Swarthy felt emboldened enough to turn around and start a conversation. Before long, he was turned around to our table, but bumbling was still sitting at the table next to ours.
He ordered a round of drinks for Beth and I, and I’m sure in his mind he assumed I was bought off by that drink. The conversation started off innocently enough, with questions about where she was from in America, and what she thought of Paris. I was pretty much invisible as all questions and looks were directed at her. When it got to the question about how long she would be staying in Paris, the tempo of the talk changed. She managed to get across the fact we were leaving for Dijon, France in the morning. This put a time limit on their plans. Swarthy would talk to Beth in broken English, and then tell Bumbling what was being said in French.
From there the conversation went to invitations for Beth to come back to their apartment to “experience” Paris. Beth in trying to be polite didn’t start out with direct no’s, just reasons she couldn’t accept each of the changing offers. It became you come back with us, and I make you feel good…no problemo. Turned down by Beth it became, I go to your hotel and we make love…no problemo. At this point, I’m getting very uncomfortable, and I ask Beth if she would like for me to leave. She mumbles something about killing me if I take one step away. Swarthy comes up with some more variations on the sexual invitations, and by this time Beth’s patience is worn out and it is just no’s that Swarthy is getting.
Bumbling is looking lost in all of this, and Swarthy turns back to the table and has a rather long talk with his wingman. A big smile comes across Bumbling’s face and he gets up to stand by Swarthy. Then, thinking he has the ultimate enticement, he suggest, “Ménage à trois?” Bumbling, finally hearing a bit of French he understands, starts nodding his head like a bobble head doll, on the dash of a pickup driving down a washed out dirt road. I’ve had enough, and I stand up. Beth takes my signal and get’s up too.
We start walking down the road to cross a bridge that will take us back to the Hotel. As I look back, I see that her wannabe paramours are following behind us. I tell her to keep going, and I turned back to face them, crossed my arms, and planted my feet. No translation was needed. They knew quite clearly I was putting an end to them following my sister. After a quick conference with each other, Bumbling and Swarthy turned back to seek new prey at the street cafe.
Since I didn’t grow up with my little sister, I didn’t have any chances to be her protector. So I felt pretty good about having a chance to do so this day. I could tell, she realized that she had gotten in over her head, and was appreciative that I was there too. We made our way back to the Hotel without incident, and imparted our tale to our father that evening. No problemo!
The saying “no problem” is used quite a bit. We found every reason on Earth to say it to Beth that evening, always adding the “o” that made it so special. At first she thought is was funny, but it soon started to wear thin. Neither our father or I was going to give up that easy. The next day’s trip down the autobahn at 100 plus miles per hour were also dotted with as many “no problemo’s” as we could muster. She was sitting in the front seat, and our father was driving, so he got the bulk of the fist hits, and I got most of the threats.
Fifteen years later, whenever we want to get a rise out of my sister, all it takes is a single “no problemo”. You’d be surprised how often it pops up in normal conversation, with people from all walks of life. I recalled all the incidents of that day, as if it were yesterday. No problemo!