My experience pedicab driving during Orlando Bowl Week at the Florida Citrus Bowl and New Year’s Eve in downtown Orlando from 12/28/2012-1/1/2013.

Things started off with the Russell Athletic Bowl, previously known as the Champs Sports Bowl. All that corporate branding makes shit confusing these days, doesn’t it? Especially for arenas and stadiums. I’ve worked 2 of these bowl games in the past: Once when I was renting a pedicab and in 2011 when I was in business for myself. It’s always been a lucrative event and, for me, this year was no different although the way it started was highly discouraging. I say it was lucrative for me because chit chat amongst drivers was that it wasn’t a good event to work, it was “a waste of time,” and it was “sad.” I don’t know what they were doing or where they were that prevented them from making money but speaking strictly for myself, I’m very happy with what I made.

I arrived earlier than anyone else and in prior years, it paid off to get there early. For 2012, it was a lot slower than anyone expected. Attendance was way down. From what I heard amongst fans, that’s because the teams weren’t all that great or popular. I could tell it was gonna be slow from the amount of cars parking. The usual hot spots weren’t cooking much of anything. It got to the point where I used different tactics to get rides and that tactic was riding in the grass. Luckily, the area I was in, the ground was compacted pretty good so it wasn’t hard to ride through. That particular parking lot usually fills up very quickly but this time, it never really did. Once I realized it was completely dead there, I went to another area I usually get rides at. Once that died, the game was in full swing.

Just because a game begins doesn’t mean there are no rides to be had. People arrive late and people leave early. While many drivers take a break during that time, I know how those games work and I was getting rides non-stop. For this game, it wasn’t the number of rides that made it great but the quality of the tips. I had some downtown rides. One was a group of four guys who ditched the bowl game 10 minutes after it started and went to the Solar Bears game at the Amway Center instead. That tip was excellent. Other rides I gave, including another downtown ride, were also highly tipped. In some of those cases, it was all about time and place. I just happened to be where I needed to be to get those rides.

I’ve said it many times that you can’t predict Florida weather. I make sure to either watch the weather or get the info online before I venture out. The forecast said it’d rain overnight but the rain started around 8pm. That ain’t fucking overnight! The rain definitely bit into everyone’s bottom line. Like a fool, I left my rain gear at home and my umbrella in my car. I wasn’t prepared because I put faith in meteorologists. Never again! When it started raining, it came down hard and kept on going on and off all through the night. Because of that rain, most drivers didn’t work downtown and most fans didn’t go downtown to party, either. Usually, when it’s raining or very cold, I don’t bother working downtown because my experience has been that it really is a waste of time.

If not for the weather, I would’ve had an even better day but my haul was good. Good enough that I decided to go home afterwards instead of continuing to work in the rain downtown. I’ve also said in the past that greed is good. I had an original goal in mind but the rain killed that. My adjustment was attainable but I was just short of it at the very end of the game. I went back to get a ride because I knew I could get at least one more to hit or exceed my goal and I found it in a short amount of time. Every other driver was already gone so I had it all to myself. There weren’t many prospects but I found a couple that took a ride and it resulted in the exact amount I needed to hit my goal because a nice, round figure is better than a short one.

Funniest moments of the day were when a group of friends took a ride back to their car. One guy, clearly intoxicated, said while waving to a cop we were passing by, “Bye, female cop lady,” and she waved back and replied, “Bye, male passenger guy.” Trust me, it was funnier in person. Simply describing it here doesn’t do the moment justice. That happened on the street but a little before that at the stadium, since one of the passengers was a chick, some drunk guys were yelling lyrics from a 2 Live Crew song, “Hey, we want some…” but they left out the “pussy” part, expecting people around them to finish it off for them. When I rolled by with the female passenger, that’s when they went into an uproar, saying the whole phrase and pointing her out. She replied with, “I have one. I get to see one everyday.”

One guy expressed his disappointment with a friend (who was drinking way too much) who got him kicked out of the game and I could definitely relate to that. It sucks when you invest time and money into something and someone else comes along to ruin your fun. In this case, he came with the person but he wasn’t expecting them to be a total buzzkill and make him lose the ability to have fun and enjoy the game. Personally, I no longer tolerate stupid behavior in people that I hang with or just in general. It’s okay to drink a little (never okay to do drugs) but never to the point of being drunk. Not when hanging with me. I’ve learned that people that drink are more than likely (but not always) gonna choose the alcohol over the friendship or relationship so I’ve cut those types of people out of my life completely and I don’t hang out with excessive drinkers at all. Sometimes, it gets to the point where if you wanna guarantee that you’ll have fun, you’ll have to hang by yourself. I’ve found that to be a winning strategy a lot more often than not. When you love and can entertain yourself, that’s when you’re truly a complete person.

That game was on a Friday. The rain meant the arrival of a cold front and the plan was to work Saturday night as well but it was too cold for me. Plus, I was being productive with other tasks and I didn’t wanna fuck up my groove. Props to the other drivers who worked and made money but projects I’m working on are for long-term financial gain and sometimes take precedence over pedicabbing. Fast forward to this past Monday which was New Year’s Eve. I’ve worked that twice in the past, too. Again, once when I was renting and once when I was on my own.

It’s always been lucrative to work on that night in downtown Orlando. 2012 was still good but not as good as 2011. I wondered why it was such a slow start because before, it was jumping off from the minute I hit the road on my pedicab. Turns out 2011 was on a Saturday and 2012 was on a weekday. There’s always a big difference between when people have to work the next day and when they don’t. My usual tactic didn’t work because there simply weren’t that many people out early in the evening. There was quite the lull at the beginning but when the nightclubs started opening and it got closer to midnight, things picked up and stayed that way until everything dried up around 4am.

Funniest moment? A car made a right turn into a bus only lane and a guy who was walking with his friends said, “That’s how you do in Orlando. You don’t respect the law.” He said it to be funny, and it was, but the reality is that lawlessness is on the rise and you see it on the news every single day because bad behavior is rewarded, consequence doesn’t exist, and punishment isn’t anywhere near as severe as it needs to be. And after many, many observations, I’ve concluded that young female drivers are the absolute worst people behind the wheel (it was one of them that turned into the bus lane). They have very poor driving skills. Even worse than Asians!

The usual spots weren’t kicking because of the lack of people but I adapted quickly to find out where to get rides. I’ve talked about ‘the flow’ before. That’s when you pay attention to where the masses of people are coming from or going to. There were many flow points but not one in particular gave up consistent rides. I worked them all and it was spread out all over downtown in a lot of areas. In the past, there was just 2one flow point before midnight and one after. You gotta learn where the money is in this business because if you can’t, you don’t make any.

No rain on that night but passengers complained about it being cold. Seriously, by then, it was already 2013. It’s winter. Even in Florida it can get cold at night. It was just cool, not cold, but that’s only if you dress appropriately. If you’re already half-naked, then what do you expect? On another note, a lot of people mistakenly went to Lake Eola, thinking the city was gonna put on some fireworks. Ah, the uninformed. They just wasted their time by not doing their homework but it could be a hint to the city to at least do something. Every year, it’s the same thing. People go to the lake hoping for a show. When it becomes clear nothing is gonna happen, they ask people like me for confirmation and for other places to celebrate.

I saw on the news that Orlando was a top destination in the country for a New Year’s celebration. I don’t see how because there were a lot more people than I thought that were out that didn’t give two shits about celebrating. They were out walking their dog or eating at a restaurant or out riding their bike. That got me to thinking: is celebrating the New Year overrated? I believe the answer is yes. Other than the start of a new calendar year which signifies that it’s tax time, does ringing in the new year really have any true significance? Not really. Some fireworks (emphasis on some) and a ball of some sort dropping. That’s the tradition? C’mon. Other than that, there wasn’t anything about the night that wasn’t different from any other weekend as far as activities. If we beat out New York as a favored party spot, it must be pretty lame up there.

If I wasn’t out making money that night, and being single, I’d probably just stay home and relax. If I was in a relationship, I’d consider traveling to different cities to see how they ring in the new year. Based on what I see on the news, some places really know how to put on a show to make an otherwise unimportant day something special. When you really think about it, there isn’t much happening on New Year’s Eve that doesn’t happen on any given weekend. Pretty much, it’s just more people out but it’s almost the same old shit. There was a Magic game that night, too, but there are Magic games on other nights as well. I’d like to see Orlando get more creative. I can understand doing something at Lake Eola would take business away from other places so that’s probably not gonna happen unless they do some sort of ticketed event. I’m all for it as long as it’s something fun and different. Anything that provides options beyond the bar and club scene.

New Year’s Eve 2011 provided a break between that night and the Capital One Bowl by giving us drivers a day off to rest. Like 2010, the year I worked it when I was renting, there was no day off inbetween for 2012. The game was the next day. I only got about 3 hours of sleep to prepare for the Capital One Bowl. Surprisingly, I didn’t wake up to an alarm clock and I felt refreshed and ready to go. I arrived earlier than everyone else again but this time, unlike the Russell Athletic Bowl, the parking lots already had plenty of cars in them and plenty of people walking to the stadium. That made me feel better about the day and it ended up, for the very first time, being a more lucrative day than the Russell Athletic Bowl.

The weather was a little warm but much more preferable over the cold and rain. A lot more pedicabs were out but based on my final tally, there was enough business for everyone. There’s this thing I’ve been hearing about. Something called ‘spoiled fans.’ It’s when fans won’t attend certain games or support a team unless they’re winning. In this case, the trend may have followed the Georgia Bulldogs because I heard that some people didn’t attend the game because it was unacceptable to support them unless they were in the BCS (Bowl Championship Series). I don’t follow or watch college sports and I have no idea how things work but to not support your team when they’re winning, just not winning the way you want them to be, is insane. Spoiled ass fans indeed.

As the day winded down and came to a complete close, it was just me and one other driver still working the game because there were still rides to be had. Once it was dry, we both left at the same time. He met up with his coworkers while I went home. Funniest moment? There’s a food vendor with the name “Ninja Gotta Eat BBQ.” Get rid of the ‘nj’ and replace the letters with ‘gg’ and that’s what it really means to say. Me and some passengers had some fun with the name, making juvenile comments like guys are apt to do when no girls are around. Well, most of the time, anyway. This game was different in the fact that I worked the Tampa Avenue side at the exit instead of the Rio Grande Avenue side. The Tampa side is where the Fanfest happens and that takes up a lot of real estate which results in a very narrow path for people, cops, vehicles, and pedicabs to get through.

Turns out it was a better side to work while the game was going on. While I was scooping up ride after ride for about an hour, a lot of drivers were stuck in position wherever they were staging. Didn’t look to me like they were trying very hard. They didn’t venture out to make any money and there was plenty of it to make. I felt no remorse that I was getting all the rides at that time because I knew where I needed to be to get them and that meant moving around instead of staying in one spot. That one hour, man, shit, that was one of the best hours I’ve ever had pedicabbing. Right up there with the Elton John concert at the Amway Center last year. I ended up staying on that side of the stadium at the exit for the first time and it turned out great because there wasn’t nearly as much competition as there would’ve been on the Rio Grande side.

It’s officially a new year and that means resolutions, right? Wrong! Fuck resolutions. Why vow to do something at a certain time of year when you should be vowing to do that shit at anytime? I don’t make stupid new year’s resolutions but I do know when to refocus and prioritize and I’ve already started planning ahead to make sure this is my breakout year. If I stay on track, keep the wrong people out of my life, and repel bullshit (which is always the hardest part), then 2013 looks to be my most successful year to date. But it’s just started. It’s up to me to make it great and I’ll do my best. So should you.

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