My experience pedicab driving during the FETC conference at the OCCC in Orlando, FL from 1/30 – 1/31/2013 and researching other events this past weekend.

FETC (Florida Educational Technology Conference) floor sign.
In the past, the FETC (Florida Educational Technology Conference) conference always took place when other bigger conventions were happening at the same time. This year, it stood alone in the South Concourse. Well, there was one other convention going on, Composites, in the North Concourse but attendance for that was negligible. Attendance numbers for FETC were actually lowered before the convention started. That happens sometimes. You gotta keep going back to check these things because conventions get added, too. Nothing is ever set in stone in this business.

Even with the lower numbers, nothing else was going on elsewhere on those days and I wanted to work the convention to find out what it was like. The exhibition opened on Tuesday evening and I wanted to be there for it but shit happens. I couldn’t make it. I got there right on time for Wednesday and was getting non-stop rides and surprisingly good tips up until 3pm. The day was going great. I was told that Tuesday sucked. I was told that Wednesday wasn’t going so good either for the pedicabs that were already out working. There were only 5 of us. Here’s something you have to be careful about: who you get your info from.

I had a short discussion with another driver a couple of weeks ago about the lies that some drivers tell. I told him that he’ll learn who’s truthful and who isn’t. Some drivers exaggerate about how much money they make while others downplay how lucrative an event is to decrease competition. Others will do the same about how difficult it may be to ride in particular areas for the same reason. On the flip side, drivers who rent pedicabs may exaggerate how much money is possible to make at an event to get you to pay rent. They win because they get your money. Others will overhype how lucrative an event could be just to get you to show up and it turns out the event is garbage. Now you’re discouraged from ever pedicabbing again. They win by getting rid of future competition. They’ll even tell you how easy it is to pedicab in a certain place (terrain) but it turns out it’s not so easy. They win yet again by using discouragement to get rid of future competitors. This is what I want you to learn: do your homework!

There are people in the world who want you to fail more than there are those who want you to succeed. You have to develop the ability to learn who those people are and keep the good ones at your side while keeping eyes and ears on the bad ones. Never discount what the bad ones have to say, though. Just keep their bullshit in mind when comparing notes. How does this apply to FETC? As I said, the event has only taken place in the past when other, better conventions were going on. Very easily someone could’ve gotten wrong info about this being a good convention, showed up, and didn’t make any money. Now they’ve wasted their time, paid rent, and can’t make up for it no matter what they do to try and get rides. It happens all the time.

Luckily, there weren’t many pedicabs out anyway for Wednesday. It could’ve been pedicab overkill but, speaking for myself, it was a good day. Clearly for other drivers it wasn’t due to what I saw and rumblings I heard. Had I let what they were experiencing affect my decision-making, I would’ve lost out by staying home and they probably would’ve won by getting more and better rides. Quality rides (good tips) are always better than quantity of rides. People don’t think about that for some reason. I knew deep down I should’ve left at 3pm when things went dry but I made myself stick it out until the very end so I’d know what it was like for next year. No one barely got any rides at the exit. It was terrible but at least now I know how terrible it is for the future. There’s always that point when you have to figure out whether to stay or go. I knew exactly when I should’ve went but stayed for the experience. The weather was great, cool to warm and no rain, but the hardest part of the day was dealing with my allergies. I was sneezing and snotting so much that it was draining my energy but I toughed it out.

I feel that Tuesday probably really was as bad as was told to me. Wednesday, for me, was good and that’s partly due to the lack of pedicabs out working. Thursday, the last day, was as bad as the exit the day before. Cars filled up all of the South parking lot and bled a little into the North parking lot on both days but that last day, people just weren’t taking rides. A common excuse given, other than “I need the exercise,” was that teachers don’t make money and can’t afford the ride. That’s bullshit because the OCPS convention last year was great. Every convention, every day, every year is different. There are some that you know are good year to year but this is one that was only okay based on my total hourly average. But Wednesday before the exit, that shit was really good. Again, I speak for myself. Other drivers will say something totally different.

For instance, it was so bad at the exit that drivers had to go out onto I-Drive to try and get rides. We had to stage for a very long time between rides; at times close to an hour. I even went to the North to try and get rides from the Composites convention but didn’t get a damn thing on both days. On the last day, things started out hopeful but I packed up and went home within 2 hours. I wasn’t gonna waste anymore of my time. I’m sure the few other drivers that were still there were happy to see me go but I know they’re situation. Like I mentioned before, they’ve already paid their rent and have to stay to at least make it back plus a little more if they can. I’ve been there. I don’t miss it. I do hope things turned out well for them overall. It was an easy convention to work and the money wasn’t bad so I wouldn’t say it was a complete waste of time. You just gotta know when to bounce so that you’re not wasting any more of it.

Next up was the weekend. I had several options. I had my mind made up that I was gonna work the Mount Dora Art Festival on February 2nd and 3rd which was a Saturday and Sunday. Drivers who have worked that event have unanimously said it’s hard to work because of the hills but I didn’t think it could possibly be that bad. I was gonna work in downtown Orlando on Friday night but opted out so I’d be fresh for the festival. Getting there from where I live is quite the pain. I took backroads to avoid tolls but that was a mistake because online maps aren’t up to date. When I finally did get there in the afternoon, I saw those hills that I was warned about. I was like, “Fuck this shit,” and left. I saw another driver there that I knew but that much effort wasn’t worth it to me.

All wasn’t lost. There was yet another big event going on in the area: The Zora Neale Hurston Festival in Eatonville. I managed to find free parking amongst all the closed roads and rode my bike around to survey the area. I was the only cat out there on a bike and totally looked out of place in my uniform but I didn’t give a damn. I could’ve just got on my pedicab and started working but I wanted to make sure it was worth it. The area was flat with plenty of people but the parking was spread out too much for my taste. I did ask a parking attendant if it was okay if I could pedicab there but I was told to talk to the head honchos. When I was about to do that, I decided not to work the event because of the parking situation. People really didn’t have far to walk and it didn’t appear like alcohol was flowing much of anywhere so my services wouldn’t be too useful. Still, now that I’ve seen the layout, I’ll consider it for next year if nothing else is going on anyplace else.

It doesn’t hurt to work a smaller event sometimes for the experience. It’s even better with no competition. For the Zora festival, which isn’t necessarily small, I would’ve been the only game in town. It was being held during the day which meant I’d have my nights free to get appropriate sleep and relaxation. And since it was on a weekend, I could’ve worked downtown on that Saturday but chose not to. The options were there but I chose the one that works best for me: futureproofing my finances to fast-track my retirement. Pedicabbing pays more than any job I’ve ever had but I have other things in my portfolio that need my attention. Things that make money but without proper attention, not as much money as they could generate. One of those things is my house.

Working so much over the past couple of weeks, things got neglected. Things that only I can do so I felt it was better to stay home and take care of those lingering things. A house is definitely an investment and I have plans for mine once I get it the way I want it to be. My website is another. I like to write and keep fresh content but what you don’t know is that I have to back-update years worth of articles that didn’t format properly when I moved from a previous blog platform to WordPress. That alone takes up a ton of time. Then I’ll eventually have to make the site more attractive to advertisers for monetization purposes and improve the GUI for you readers. Then there’s my car but I’ve talked about that in past articles. When the right car at the right price comes along, I’ll pounce on it. And yes, your car can make you money if you know how.

Any smart businessman (or woman) will tell you not to put all your eggs in one basket. I have several eggs in several baskets (some of which I don’t talk about here). My advice is to prioritize and plan long-term. Figure out what works for you and do it. Just make sure those things will have some sort of financial and personal reward waiting for you. I love pedicabbing and will likely do it as long as I’m physically able but there are other things that exist that I like, too, and those things can also bring home the bacon just like pedicabbing. I want to be at a point where all of my projects and holdings are rolling in the dough to the point where money isn’t ever a concern so I can focus on writing which is my true love.

FETC, I’ll work that again for sure while keeping in mind what I learned last week. I like working in downtown Orlando but I don’t like the late hours. Nothing big was really going on there this past weekend. Plus it was cold at night. I had plenty of reasons not to go. Mount Dora, I’ll pass on anything going on there in the future. A hill here and there is one thing but hills everywhere, like when I worked in downtown Jacksonville last year, I ain’t dealing with that kind of shit. The Zora festival, I can definitely see myself working that with a proper plan of action. I probably wouldn’t make much but I know I could make something and establish a pedicab presence while bringing positive awareness to the profession. It wasn’t just those festivals going on that weekend. There was a lot going on spread out throughout the state but I wanted to stay closer to home. In the end, despite me being at those festivals, home is where the heart is and money, having lots of it, is my objective. Don’t mistake my desire for fat pockets as me being greedy. Trust me, I’d spread the wealth.

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