My recent experiences pedicabbing at the OCCC and in downtown Orlando.

PRI convention sign.

PRI (Performance Racing Industry) was from 11/29-12/1/2012. I’ve worked it twice before in the past: once when I was renting a pedicab and last year when I went into business for myself. The second day of the show would kind of be my first anniversary since I didn’t work the first day last year. How has business been during my first year? Fantastic! This past November was my most successful month so far but 2 major life events happened that prevented me from expanding as far as I wanted to. I was talking about this with someone who was also on track to big things but that thing we called life derailed that person, too. Just when you’re about to take it to the next level, you get knocked down a few pegs. Gotta take the good with the bad and most importantly, you gotta learn your lessons.

I learned mine and I’ve recovered but recovery doesn’t mean the incidents haven’t taken their toll; mainly on my pocketbook. Money used to recover was money that was supposed to be used to grow my business. A business that’s growing means more money in my pocket and more and better employment opportunities for other people and existing drivers. My ambitions for 2012 had to get put on hold and now 2013 looks to be my breakout year as long as life doesn’t happen as severely as it did this year. The way things look now, if I stay on the positive track, VIP Pedicab Rides WILL expand next year.

Most drivers that popped up a year ago as independents are long gone. That’s just the nature of the business. I’m still here after one year of successful business. Despite the things that held me back, it was still a damn good year and PRI was the convention where I started a year ago. I made significantly more this year than last because I have a better bike now, more experience, and I’m in much better shape. When I arrived on the 29th, both the South and North parking lots were already full and I only got there 30 minutes after the exhibition started. My day still turned out great.

Low, lower, lowest rider.

The next day, I still arrived 30 minutes after the exhibition began but since it opened 30 minutes earlier than the day before, that meant the parking lot wasn’t as full. That meant more opportunity to make some money and get rides and my final tally for the day was more than the previous one. The weather was pleasant and made working easy. No rain but this time of year, I’d prefer it to be a little cooler. There were just enough pedicabs working on the first day but there were even more on the second yet I still came out greener. No complaints here.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: greed is good. At least it can be when applied properly. There was a Magic game that Friday night in downtown Orlando so I worked it to grab some extra cash. Working the entrance is nothing more than a waste of time but I usually get rides at the exit and with it being a Friday night, I knew it was gonna be a good night but the first 2 hours I was out working, I only got one damn ride! For a Friday night Magic game, that’s unheard of and had never happened to me before. I went to all my hot spots and still got nothing. It wasn’t like there were too many pedicabs out, either. I was getting discouraged but stuck with it and in a span of 4 hours, I came out very green.

With all that green comes a late working day. In combination with PRI in the day and downtown at night, it was a long day and I was tired. It was a good day to make money, that’s for sure, but at the end of it all, I was more tired than I expected to be. I saw a show on NatGeo where a baby elephant was near death due to dehydration. Its herd finally made it to a watering hole after a long trek but the baby elephant couldn’t walk anymore and collapsed. Its mom was gently kicking it and shoving it with her tusks towards the water, which was only a few steps away, but it was too late. The baby didn’t have anything left in the tank and died even though the very thing that would’ve allowed it to live was right on its doorstep. I felt like that baby elephant that night. On the drive back home, I was having a hard time staying awake behind the wheel and it got to the point where it was unsafe for me to keep driving. I had to pull over and take a nap and my house was less than 5 minutes away! Barely 1 mile! I could’ve slept in the comfort and safety of my own home and in my bed after a nice, warm shower but nope, I was completely done.

I crashed for about an hour or two and when I got home, after getting ready to hit the hay, I considered setting my alarm clock to wake up in time to work the last day of PRI early but I opted out of that. Instead, I arrived around noon and set a goal for the 4 hours that I was gonna be there and I hit it. I missed out on the morning rush but by working downtown, I actually made more money overall so it was a good call. I managed to hit my goal because while other drivers were staging and waiting for people to exit the convention, people were still coming in and I was scooping them up with no competition in the parking lot. At the end of the day, in the past, exhibitors have used pedicabs to help move out but there was more money to be made faster elsewhere: downtown.

On each night, I didn’t just go straight downtown. I went home, ate, napped, and then went to work. Saturday night, nothing special was going on. It was just a typical night and that’s not a bad thing when the weather is right. I didn’t make as much as I did the night before but I’m happy with my haul. Double-dipping paid off. There were other events going on in other cities but in an effort to keep expenses down and to make sure my body is well-rested, I chose not to work them. The next working day would be the I/ITSEC (Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference) convention. I’ve worked the convention in the past when it was at the South Concourse and there was money to make but this year it was at the West and with parking setup the way it is there, it didn’t turn out so good.

On Monday 12/3/2012, the exhibitions were open for 4 hours but I skipped out on that day. The next day, I heard it was a decent day from another driver. And on that next day, the exhibitions opened a couple of hours earlier. I had no reason to believe that the parking lot would fill up before the exhibition started because that practically never happens so I arrived a little later only to find out that the parking lot was already full and I missed out on the rush. The rest of the day was a complete waste. I only got a couple of rides and went home. Usually the convention center would send overflow parking to the South but they sent it to the Rosen Centre and Rosen Plaza instead. Me and another driver discussed the tactic and we concluded that there must be some sort of agreement between the convention center and the hotels for that to happen.

Parking is big business. If they sent all that overflow to the South, not only would that be more money in the convention center’s pockets (and less of our tax dollars being used to maintain and upgrade the facility) but that’d be more money in pedicab drivers’ pockets, too. My assumption is that maybe they didn’t have shuttle service available over there. Nor did they schedule enough employees to work the parking booths to collect money. Possibly, the convention was busier from a parking standpoint than they anticipated. If I was running things, I’d have people on call for when those situations arise. Why get a piece of the parking pie from the hotels when you can get all of it? I’m not sure what the cost of an employee is for the OCCC but sometimes it’s better to keep things in-house than to outsource, right? Again, greed is good but they just weren’t greedy enough, were they? And because they weren’t greedy enough, I didn’t make what I planned on making on the second day. Trickle-across economics wasn’t in play here, unfortunately.

IAEE convention banner.It wasn’t a good day but the third day, Wednesday, was decent because of the IAEE (International Association of Exhibitions and Events) convention. I got to the parking lot on time and the majority of my rides were from their attendees. When the parking lot filled up and cars were sent to the hotels, I staged near the Rosen Plaza because there was a better chance to get a quality ride from there over the Centre where all people had to do was cross the street to be at the I/ITSEC convention. At the Plaza, they had to walk all the way to the other end of the building and that was used in my pitch to get one ride that was well-tipped. It’d be nice if we were allowed on property there in the Plaza parking lot. It’d make a huge difference in the service we provide and, of course, in our bottom line.

When all of the parking dried up, I went home because on Tuesday, it took hours just to get one ride and I wasn’t gonna waste my time like that again. I did come back to catch the exit and I made some good money in a very short amount of time because I scheduled a pickup from some exhibitors before I went home and they came through. My money was made in the back of the West Concourse. In the front, there wasn’t jack. Going to and coming from Pointe Orlando was also jack. The John Deere convention…jack! Jack for me, anyway. I was just short of my goal for the day but I ain’t complaining about what I made in the time I made it. The last day started like the previous day but ended like the first. When I realized everything was dry everywhere, I went home and didn’t come back. Things could’ve turned out much better if they would’ve just left it at the South or sent overflow parking there but I don’t control those things. I/ITSEC was four days, I only worked 3, only one day was good and on that day, most of my rides came from another smaller convention so I can’t say it was a success. If not for IAEE, the entirety of my time there would’ve been a waste. You win some, you lose some.

With no conventions going on last weekend and nothing going on anyplace else, that left downtown Orlando as the place to be. There were back-to-back Solar Bears games but attendance isn’t significant enough for those to justify getting downtown too early. I arrived at the ideal time and both nights were good; Friday night once again being the more lucrative night. What do drunks have in common with Maggie Simpson? Neither of them can stand up for very long without falling down. How embarrassing is it to fuck yourself up so much to the point where you can’t even stand up, much less walk, under your own power? I saw a guy fall down on top of his girl as they both came crashing down into the street. Another chick had to be pressed up against a wall by her peeps to keep her upright. An older guy was totally wasted and couldn’t stand up no matter how many times he tried.

Age is no excuse to be that stupid but when you’re older, shouldn’t you know better? If you’re in a relationship and the common bond is alcohol and you’re still going out together and getting sloshed, is that truly a healthy relationship? If bar-hopping and clubbing is what you routinely partake in as a couple, do you really wanna get married and have kids? If you meet someone in that environment, do you really think they’re gonna stop engaging in the very activity that brought you together? C’mon. One guy even fell out of a pedicab; drunk off his ass. Not that I associate with drunks and alcoholics, because I don’t, but if I did, I’d get tired of that shit real quick because of the embarrassment. Drink responsibly? Please. If people did that, half of the distilleries in the country wouldn’t even exist. Alcohol creates jobs and businesses, and funds the government. People ain’t gonna change but laws can. And now that I think about it, I wouldn’t get as many rides downtown as a pedicab driver without my drunkards so we gotta keep the liquor flowing for that alone, don’t we? You’d think I’m anti-alcohol but you’re wrong. I’m pro-everything. Legalization, decriminalization, and the most important aspect of them all, taxation, is what I’m all about.

It rained briefly on Saturday night and I was gonna call it a night because if it’s cold or rainy, downtown ain’t the place to work. But the bad weather passed swiftly and I stayed. A guy who almost tripped over my bike because he was walking backwards and not paying attention gave me a couple of bucks just for the hell of it. I like it when that happens. My last ride of the night could’ve been a good ride to a hotel. A guy, drunk, wanted to ride and offered to pay. His girl, drunk and dramatic, didn’t wanna ride because she thought it cost too much but it wasn’t her money being spent. The man with the money caved in to the chick with the attitude. That ain’t how it’s supposed to be. And I’ll tell a bitch this shit straight up: pull some shit like that with me and I’ll leave your ass behind! And I ain’t joking!

If I’m paying for a service that we both need with my money (not OUR money, MY money) and it ain’t costing you shit and it’s saving us both time, but you wanna walk, then god dammit your ass is walking and I’m riding. Gimme the motherfuckin’ keys, bitch, cuz I’m makin’ it to the car first. I wouldn’t involve myself with an unreasonable chick to begin with but I’ve seen this scenario play out so many times. And you know what? There are guys out there that think like I do; that’ve left their partners in the pedicab dust. That’ve taken themselves and their kids for a ride and left the wife behind to walk. That’ve taken the ride alone and let the girlfriend walk. Why? Because that’s what they wanna do with their money and the emphasis is that it’s THEIR money. Never let anyone ruin your fun. Never let anyone stop you from doing what you wanna do. The best way to do that? Have your own damn money to do with as you please and make sure you’re wearing the pants in the relationship.

I got some new signs for my pedicab to indicate that I work for generous tips, not just, well, regular tips and it’s proven to be an effective change. What was different about the most recent nights downtown was that the cops reopened Orange Avenue to traffic pretty damn early. It used to stay closed until around 4am but lately they’ve only been staying closed until around 2:30am to 3am. That cuts into profit by limiting the roads we can safely be on. Another trend that’s been talked about is the closure of a lot of clubs and bars. My take on it is that if you’re gonna open a new business, don’t open something that already exists in the area. There are bars around every corner and clubs that don’t offer too much different in the way of music and entertainment. You can open a new bar but it better have an atmosphere and offerings that no other bar has. You can open a new club but it better play different music and have a different ambiance than all the other clubs.

The main problem with all the recent closures downtown? The places that closed didn’t do anything different than any other place already there and that’s why they failed. With the clubs, a stricter dress code and higher class and quality is what the next place needs to think about. You wanna attract higher-end clientele, you gotta offer something higher-end. You wanna give off the aura of class and quality, you gotta tell people wearing t-shirts, baseball caps, jeans, and sneakers to fuck off. That’s a huge part of what’s wrong with downtown. Not just the lack of a dress code but also not much is tailored to the older or non-party crowd. There’s no lounge for people to chill and listen to live jazz music. No internet café which could also host LAN parties. No place to play billiards and only billiards. No arcade. No record store. No retailers. No fast food joints. No restaurants, bars, or clubs located on the top floors of the tall buildings. I could go on and on about what’s missing downtown. I don’t hang out there because it only caters to the young clubbers and bar-hoppers. All that vacant space down there, the city needs to put effort into attracting something totally different to bring people like me and the more affluent crowd in. And the more shit there is for people to do, the more diverse the crowd, that means more money in everyone’s pockets. Mine in particular because…greed is good!

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