My experience pedicab driving during 3 conventions at the OCCC: COGIC, Premiere Orlando, and IDDBA.

COGIC (Church Of God In Christ) took place from May 27th through the 31st. A gospel concert was taking place on the first night and concerts at the OCCC usually translate into something lucrative. Actually, thus far, they always have. Getting accurate info on this convention and then working it successfully required strategy. This is why I say that pedicabbing is half mental, half physical. For this convention, it was important to know the schedule of events, the demographic, the shuttle schedule and route, what hotel people were staying in, where inside the building it was taking place and at what time.

For example, when I arrived to work the concert, I was near the South Concourse when some people approached me. They had just got off a trolley because the driver told them the convention was taking place at the South when it was really taking place at the West. You’d think those drivers and other people in the hospitality industry would know what’s going on in the area and where things are but time and time again that’s proven not to be the case. But I thank that driver for dumping a ride right in my lap because I took them where they needed to be. At first, my plan was to hit up the hotels because that’s where I thought the flow would come from. I saw other drivers staging and doing the same thing.

West Concourse conventions are always hit and miss. Sometimes a convention with a low attendance number can be great while others with attendance in the 10′s of thousands can suck. Other times, numbers are adjusted down and you don’t realize it until you’re already out working. COGIC attendance was announced around 10,000 but I couldn’t see that in the front of the building or on the strip. Something I always mention is having the skill of observation. Not many drivers have developed that skill. While I was out looking for rides at hotels, I noticed a lot of people were parking at the Rosen Centre. That’s when I went to stage by the garage for rides but I wasn’t getting anything there because it was such a short walk to Hall A where the convention was taking place.

It got me to thinking if that many cars were parking there, what was the OCCC parking lot like? I went to the back and the lot was fairly empty but there was a steady flow of people walking into the convention center. A Qi Activation event was taking place at the same time but they weren’t my target. There was a big difference between them and COGIC attendees. Qi was mostly skinny white people. COGIC was mostly, shall we say, robust older black females. Qi wasn’t really dressed up for anything special. COGIC was all decked out. I realized I was in the right place for rides but I had to develop a plan to get them to take one. They weren’t parked far enough away to give rides to the back door so I decided to give rides to the front and that plan worked.

From the back of the building to Hall A is a long walk inside the building. Outside, pedicabs can go around the building along an easy route and drop them off right where they wanna be. It was a perfect setup. The only difficulties were the size of most of the women and high winds but not having to deal with I-Drive traffic, independent pedicabbers, clogged sidewalks, and other hassles made working COGIC a breath of fresh air. Eventually, a few other drivers who do know how to observe showed up to follow my lead and we had it all to ourselves. It stayed that way each night.

We made more in a few hours giving rides from back to front than drivers on the strip were making working two to three times as many hours. At least I did. It was awesome to be able to come out for a short amount of time at night when it’s cool and make a healthy amount of money. Once again, the stereotype that black people don’t tip well was debunked. People really need to stop saying that stupid shit. If the driver doesn’t know how to get rides and good tips, that’s their problem, not the rider. Taking rides to the front is a lot easier than return rides because the side road is uphill when returning so for the most part, we weren’t taking people back to their cars but if people were willing to pay and the load wasn’t too heavy, exceptions can always be made and they were.

I was genuinely surprised at how good that first night turned out considering how empty the parking lot was. It was a slow trickle of people parking but those people took rides. I didn’t work the next two nights because my body needed rest from having worked the previous weekend. When I returned on Thursday night, there was one less driver working. Friday night, it was just two of us and since it was the last night of the convention, I stuck around to work the entire night by giving hotel rides from the front. Friday was my best night and I really wish I had the juice to work Tuesday and Wednesday but I’m very happy with how this convention turned out and the other drivers that were smart enough to learn how to work it, I know they feel the same way.

If other events weren’t taking place elsewhere before and after COGIC, total income over the 5 nights could’ve been in a very high range because I would’ve worked each night from start to finish and gave more return rides. I like to call it “the little convention that could” because my expectations were far exceeded for a parking lot that wasn’t even a third full. Observation and strategy. Learn how to develop those skills! Use your body to give rides but use your brain to get them. Giving and getting are two different things. Think of that in terms of sex and you’ll understand what I mean better. COGIC isn’t coming back to Orlando anytime soon but I’m glad I was able to work it even if it was just one time.

Premiere Orlando.The granddaddy of all conventions was coming up less than 2 days after working that last night of COGIC and that convention is Premiere Orlando aka The Beauty Show. Why is that one the granddaddy? I should call it the grandmamma because it’s also a women’s convention. Not only is it highly attended but it’s non-stop busy, good tips, and long rides. But that’s not what makes it hard to work. It’s the heat and humidity. It’s usually the only really big convention of the summer months and the two times I’ve worked it in the past were absolute and pure physical brutality. No clouds and no rain in the past made for some grueling days and I had no reason not to expect the same thing to happen this year but the things that were missing from past years made their presence felt and, as a result, made for a relatively easy convention to work.

I’m speaking for myself, of course. I have an extremely high tolerance for heat so it doesn’t affect me as much as others. Not only because of my natural tolerance (partly because I’m a native Floridian) but also because I dress appropriately in loose fitting pants made of light material and wear long-sleeved shirts. When the sun isn’t beating the shit out of your skin, your stamina is increased, you retain more energy, your muscles don’t become as sore, and you don’t tire out so quickly because your body doesn’t have to work as hard to keep you cool. Eating the right foods is one thing. Wearing the right clothes is another. There are two things that can make you last longer and when you last longer, you make more money: ice cold water and working at a slower pace. For the water, it helps to have a container that can fit dispensed ice cubes. Ice cold water inside your body is the equivalent of a cooling vest outside of it.

Some drivers go balls to the wall early on, putting quantity of rides over quality of tips, and are out of action fairly quickly. They also give rides to heavier loads and don’t develop a strategy for this type of convention. For many of them, it’s business as usual and the approach is the same for a convention like this one as it is for any other. This isn’t any other convention. Instead of giving rides and making money, they’re somewhere eating and spending money because they’ve worn themselves out too soon. I didn’t arrive as early as I would’ve preferred for the first day on Sunday June 2nd but I didn’t arrive so late that I wasn’t gonna make the money I knew I wanted to make. I put a strategy in place similar to the way I did for MegaCon earlier this year and it worked out almost perfectly.

It did rain pretty hard during the exit but it was brief. As the night approached, things slowed down significantly and it was sprinkling on and off. When there’s rain and a convention or event is over and done, there’s really no point in hanging around. People don’t take pedicab rides under those conditions. I went home with an average per hour that’s now in my top 5 of all time so I had a wonderful day. I arrived earlier on the next day and the weather was even more cooperative because there was cloud cover all day long and no rain. The humidity was still there but the sun wasn’t out destroying anyone. That helped a lot and my final tally for both days combined was the best I’ve ever had for any beauty show I’ve ever worked.

Early on in this article I talked about how people in the industry don’t seem to know what they’re talking about or where things are. I’ve also been a part of the problem, I’ll admit, because I used to tell people things that weren’t true because I thought I knew where things were on the strip. I corrected that problem long ago. If I don’t know something, I’ll tell you I don’t know rather than pretend that I do. The first example was that trolley driver. Another example is a lady I solicited who was leaving the show with another older lady. They wanted to go to a liquor store. From the spot they were standing in, there were only 2 in either direction and both were over a mile away.

They had gotten wrong info from someone else about where they were and what liquor stores were in the area but chose not to take a ride with me because it was gonna cost them more than what they were willing to pay. Instead, they said they’d get loaded at the bar of the hotel they were in. I don’t know what happened at the hotel but wouldn’t you know it, I ran into the lady again. This time she was by herself wearing her walking shoes instead of high heels. She was on her way to the liquor store. The concierge of her hotel told her it was only a 5 minute walk up the street. Maybe that’d be true if she was a mutant with 6 legs but she still had a good half-mile to go; at least 15 more minutes of walking.

I convinced her to take a ride and she was amused about getting misinformation twice. I ended up getting tipped more than what I asked for and I’m positive she’s satisfied but this just goes to show you that you might be better off asking more than one person about certain things when you’re out of town and trying to find something. Even better, have a phone with reliable internet (and GPS) to do your own search so you’re not relying on humans (or paying ridiculous fees hotels charge for computer usage). Not that online search sites can’t be wrong, because they certainly can be, but they’re better than people when it comes to accuracy most times.

A major problem for this year’s beauty show was all the illegal pedicabs on property. With them gone, there isn’t a doubt in my mind things would’ve turned out even better for everyone but the OCCC seemed to be understaffed and unable to deal with the problem. I don’t know why pedicabs are an afterthought to them (and other entities) when they should be more of a priority. Many times, we’re the first and last people that attendees encounter when they come to and leave a convention. No one else can make that claim. We can only self-enforce to an extent. This convention was too big for that and that’s likely the reason why so many illegal operators took advantage of the situation. To them, it was worth the risk.

It wasn’t just the beauty show going on at the time. There was also the IDDBA (International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association) convention at the South Concourse. Both of them combined made for a fuller than usual parking lot but if the IDDBA took place at the North Concourse instead, that overflow would never have happened. Because it did, that made for some good rides to the South but IDDBA was never the priority. Just like at COGIC when we ignored the Qi people in favor of the churchgoers in the West lot, some of us targeted women instead of men in the South lot. I didn’t do that because after giving some rides to the IDDBA and seeing that those people were tipping good, a short trip in the South was better for energy conservation over a long one to the West for the beauty show.

Sunday and Monday were great days. Monday night, when it was all over, it was truly all over. It was pretty dead everywhere so I went home but not after getting the one ride that helped me hit my goal. It was dead for others because I heard the complaints and saw a lot of empty pedicabs and a lot of them staging. They seemed to have forgotten (or never paid attention to begin with) that IDDBA was taking place and was still exiting at around the time the beauty show died. I went down there to get a ride and it didn’t take long before I swallowed one up. After that, I wanted that last ride to hit my goal and it didn’t take long to get that one because I knew where to be to get it. People don’t just exit from the convention center at the main exits and a lot of drivers don’t keep that in mind. What I’m saying is it’s not always a good idea in this business to follow the herd, especially when they’re not getting rides. When they are, follow away.

Some drivers were smart and used strategy to get rides rather than following the herd. When you don’t see someone for a while when it’s busy, sometimes that means they found a sweet spot and got enough rides from it to keep them going back. Communication and observation are key when that happens because if a driver isn’t willing to tell you where they’re making their money, and they’re in no way entitled to, you gotta find out on your own. I made my money for both days but there was still one day left for IDDBA. I had to make a choice: stay home and relax or work it to see what it’s like? The last day was only a 4-hour expo but based on the tips I was getting from those attendees during the beauty show, I chose to work it because I still had some fuel in the tank.

I didn’t wear myself down to the very last compound like almost everyone else did. Nor was I skeptical about working a shortened convention. I arrived early to IDDBA on Tuesday and it was like working COGIC at night because the weather was just right, the tips were good, and I was getting consistent rides in a parking lot that was only half full. The best part about it? No competition! That’s right, not a single other pedicab driver was in sight anywhere. It was just me. I had it all to myself and in a few hours, I made a healthy amount of money without putting in much of any effort because to conserve energy, I rarely solicited anyone. I was flagged down for most of my rides. It was a nice addition to my tally from the previous two days. I didn’t work the whole thing because when the lull hit, it was too long of a wait for me so I left. It was perfect timing because when I got home, it started raining.

It was never necessary to work COGIC in the day because the night was good enough in terms of money and weather conditions. The beauty show is always good although I’d like for the OCCC to have more security or better enforcement. Whichever gets the job done to get rid of the glut of illegal pedicabs on property when conventions of that size come to town. IDDBA, like COGIC, was never worked before by anyone so if it took place on its own, nobody really knows what it could’ve been like. What I do know is I came out very green on the last day of it. What I also know is if there was competition on that day, that wouldn’t have been the case for any of us. Clearly my strategy prevailed since I was able to get a taste of what it’s like to have a major convention all to my lonesome which I don’t recall ever happening before. I also got a taste of Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips at the convention. For those that are curious, they taste almost exactly like SunChips with a grittier texture.

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