Lots of stuff was happening over a long period of time so let’s start with the Saturday before Halloween on October 26th. As far as I know, the date doesn’t have a specific name but every year it’s always busy downtown. The best reason I have for it is that not everyone is gonna be able to stay out until 3am on a weekday (which Halloween falls on) and be able to get up for work the next day so that Saturday is the next best thing. Friday night, people are unwinding from work. Sunday night, people still gotta work the next day. But Saturday night, they’ve had the whole day to rest and they don’t have to work the next day. The best name I can think of for it would be Halloween Lite. There’s still a shitload of people downtown but not as many as Halloween Night. There was also a Solar Bears game at the Amway Center. I showed up to work the exit for that and from then on, it stayed pretty busy until close to 4am. It was a damn good night.
On Monday October 28th, WWE Raw was at the Amway. Being a lifelong wrestling fan, I know how we think. If there’s a common complaint, it’s that shows don’t start on time. We’ll be in our seats ready for some action but rarely does it ever happen right at the scheduled time (unless it’s a tv taping like this). And when I say we’ll be in our seats, that usually means seats that were sold would already be filled with an ass sitting in them. Wrestling fans are very punctual. With that knowledge, I knew when the show went on the air there wouldn’t be much for rides and guess what? There wasn’t. If there were dark matches, lots of people were already inside for them. I arrived an hour before the show went live and the usual parking lots for rides weren’t full and there were too many pedicabs in them. I needed to be where they weren’t. I hit up another spot where no one else was and just staged there after riding around looking for rides that weren’t there.
It didn’t take long before I got my first ride. I went back to the same spot, staged, got another ride, and the rides kept coming steadily until 8pm. All I had to do was be in that sweet spot and I got rides. I noticed that the other drivers who were out were gone. They gave up. It helps to know your audience. That’s the difference between having a good night and going home early because you’re having a shitty one. Wrestling fans might be punctual but we’re still human. Someone’s still gonna arrive late. I could see that no one was walking in from downtown anymore so I hit up the other sides of the Amway Center and managed to scoop a few rides from some latecomers. Once everything dried up completely, the only option left was to wait for the show to end and typically with Raw, there’s that overrun that no one truly knows how long it will last. In this case, it was fairly short and I got what rides I could from the exit. Ended up being a good night because I had it all to myself.
On the backside of the Amway after the show, the talent was leaving to go to their cars. Some came out for pics and photos with fans. Bob Backlund was the only one I recognized for the time that I was there. They had the satellite trucks setup back there along with luxury RV’s and limos. The question came up as to who on the roster was rolling in that much dough that they could afford those things. I don’t watch WWE product anymore. It’s garbage compared to what I grew up with. I’ll still work their events to make some money when they come around though. Word to the wise to females attending a wrestling show: Don’t wear heels so high that you need your boyfriend to hold you up just so you can walk. As has always been the case with female wrestling fans, most of them are unattractive and any longtime fan can back me up on that fact. Back in the day, no female fan would be crazy enough to wear high heels and those of you around my age that’ve been to shows in the mid 90′s to early 2000′s know why. These days, with the tame product, I guess they can do it without worry because they don’t constantly have to move (wrestlers fighting in the audience) or dodge (blood). It used to be that you only wore clothes to shows that you didn’t mind getting dirty but times have changed, haven’t they?
2 nights later on Wednesday October 30th was the Michael Bublé concert. He has a more mature, affluent, white fan base and I think he sold out the Amway so that meant it was another good night. For Raw, I left before midnight because once the show was over, there was nothing else going on downtown since it was a weeknight. For Bublé, things lasted until 1am because it was surprisingly still busy long after the concert ended. There were even people in costume out. Thursday October 31st was the big night: Halloween and a Nine Inch Nails (NIN) concert. I came for the exit of the concert because I didn’t think the entrance would be good. Turns out that was a bad move because the parking lots downtown were already filling up with Halloween people. From what I was seeing, I missed out on about an hour of potential Halloween rides and that could’ve made it an even better night than it was but I have that knowledge for next year now. I didn’t get many rides for the exit of NIN partly because people that came downtown for Halloween were keeping pedicabs busy enough that we didn’t need to make it a priority. Last year, my bike broke down. This year, I have a far superior bike than before and I lasted the whole night and it was yet another good one that lasted until 4am. I despise working that late because it throws off my sleep cycle but when rides keep coming and I got the juice to take them, I’ll do it.
Friday November 1st was the home opener for the Orlando Magic. Yep, it was a good night to work. The next night was a Solar Bears game and the time change where clocks were set back an hour and that equates to downtown businesses being open an extra hour. That was a good thing because it wouldn’t have been such a good night if not for that. Fast forward to Friday November 8th, the first day of Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) at the Citrus Bowl, a Magic game at the Amway, and UCF Homecoming activities downtown. It was an excellent night. It was my first time working EDC. I arrived in the middle of it and got a ride going to it from downtown. There were other pedicabs there but around the time that I arrived was when most people were already inside and there weren’t many rides left until the event ended. I ended up working the Magic game and learned about some new spots to get rides. I usually never work the entrance of Magic, Solar Bear, or Predators games but since I was already there, I gave it a go.
Things were already going great and got even better during the exit of EDC because it was such a traffic nightmare that getting a cab wasn’t an easy task for people that needed one. Pedicabs were the better option because we weren’t restricted by the traffic for people who wanted to get downtown and those people were willing to pay the premium for the service. I used my personal speaker (an ION Clipster) to play some electronic tunes to attract passengers. My only complaint about the Clipster is that it doesn’t have a removable battery. As for the concert, I heard mostly house music playing. I love me some house as much as the next person but nothing really stood out. I had to turn up the trance on my Clipster. Give people something different. After EDC dried up and I got back downtown, it was getting close to 2am when the bars and clubs were closing. I should say that I tried to get back into downtown because as soon as I got close to Church Street Station, I got a ride away from it. When I finally made it back into the heart of downtown (Central and Orange), the streets were packed up with people like Halloween Lite and Night. Rides kept coming and it ended up being a banner, and late, night.
Saturday November 9th was the last night of EDC and a Josh Groban concert at the Amway. I arrived to work the entrance of the concert but I knew it wasn’t gonna be worth shit (and it wasn’t) because he limited ticket sales to lower bowl only since it was in the round and made for a more intimate atmosphere. That meant far less people attending than if he sold the upper bowl too (and he could have easily sold that out). Other pedicab drivers didn’t seem to be aware of that and complained about how sucky working the concert was. Well, next time do your homework so you don’t waste your time. After all, there was EDC going on too. That’s where I spent my time and I was getting steady rides for a while but the last 2 hours of it weren’t so great because like the previous night, it was that time where everyone was already inside but the exit ended up being good again. There was security everywhere at EDC and the most dramatic thing I saw was a couple of cops simply escorting a guy, a white guy, out of the place and letting him go once they got to the exit.
On a completely different occasion and probably on one of these previous nights I worked downtown, a cop escorted a black female out of The Beacham in a much more aggressive fashion but with good reason. The white guy was being held by his arms and was being walked out of EDC. No drama. Once they let him go, he kept walking out and the cops went in the other direction back into Tinker Field. Easy peasy. But the black chick was drunk and she was ready to fight someone. It was just one cop and the club was exiting. The exit for The Beacham is always an event because it lets out later than everything else, guys always surround the joint trying to hook up with the hoochies, and said hoochies mostly look every bit like, well, hoochies. On a different night, one guy described Vain as “ratchet” and a chick he was with said Beacham was the same. Despite all of that, Beacham chicks take rides and sometimes it’s a good spot to stage at when they let everyone out. Let’s just say that Beacham has no dress code and the clothes (or lack of) that I’ve seen some chicks wear there, it’s no wonder guys surround the place like wolves.
Anyway, drunk black chick looking for a fight got hemmed up by the cop who went into the joint, whistle blowing the whole time from start to finish, and proceeded to forcefully push her out because she was trying to start shit with someone. She didn’t just get pushed out of the doors. Cop pushed her ass all the way to the street until she was far enough away not to cause any issues with whoever she had beef with or anyone else. Shit was funny as hell and I ain’t the only one that got a laugh out of it. Oh yeah, this ain’t the first time I’ve seen some black female Beacham drama. Like I said, the exit is a show unto itself. For instance, some guy was out yelling, “Turn up” all over the street at everyone. Ol’ boy was just out having his fun and letting everyone know what they needed to do. TURN UP! It was a good night to work but not nearly as good as EDC day one.
Speaking of electronic music, it seems that some pedicab drivers have a bad impression of its fans. The way some drivers talk about them is the same way some people talk about pedicab drivers: druggies and losers. Not that there isn’t some truth in that perception but as a lifelong listener of electronic music, and no one on earth is gonna consider me to be an addict or a deadbeat, just like wrestling fans, I know how we think. Some hobbies cost money and lots of it. Going to big raves can be expensive. That means people attending them have money and a lot of them wanna spend it. Doesn’t matter if they’re young and white with a bad reputation. They have the thing that you’re out there trying to get: their cheddar. If anything, the fact that they have money and are young, which usually equates to irresponsible spending, is something to be capitalized on if someone (like me) is smart enough to know how. There comes a time when you gotta put stereotypes aside and just do your job. Like I said before, you gotta know your audience. Lots of drivers won’t work certain events because of negative stereotypes and they miss out. For those that are like that, stay home and let me make the money.
On various nights, Book of Mormon was going on at the Bob Carr and for the occasions that I went up there, it was good for at least one ride at the exit. One night in particular saw taxis, pedicabs, and golf carts staging in the front of the venue. Seriously, that’s just way too much. It was during that time on a concert night when everyone was inside and there wasn’t much going on until the concert let out. The Bob Carr doesn’t hold that many people and can’t support that many transportation options. It was just stupid and overkill. Having said that, I was the second pedicab there and I was waiting in the front for the show to end. Slowly but surely all those other options were popping up in the same place. With that many available, none of us would get rides. I had to separate myself from that jumbled mess because a lot of those guys don’t know how to stage. The front of the building ain’t the only place where people exit the Bob Carr. There’s also the back and that’s where I went to scoop some people up. And wouldn’t you know it, most of the drivers in the front didn’t get jack. Remember, experience ain’t how long you’ve been doing something or where you’ve done it. It’s HOW you do it that makes the difference.
All those nights working downtown is something I’ve never done before consecutively or exclusively. There’s usually something going on somewhere else like a convention or an event out of town that’s good with less pedicabs but that wasn’t the case this time. Most nights, there was just downtown and every single night I worked was damn good. I even gave some rides to a couple of celebrities like Nick Anderson and Jay Love. For EDC, I did have the option to work elsewhere but I really wanted to see what it was like working EDC so I stayed in town for the experience and it paid off. The event elsewhere was weekend-long through Sunday November 10th but even on that day I chose to stay in town to work the USA vs. Brazil women’s soccer match at the Citrus Bowl. Ticket sales were good and I wanted to see what it was like and I arrived right on time. It wasn’t even a 5-hour day of work but it turned out pretty damn good.
Like the MEAC/SWAC Challenge football game, I had it all to myself and I wasn’t expecting that. Unlike MEAC/SWAC, the weather wasn’t anywhere near as brutally hot and there were more people in attendance. As a result, I got rides at the entrance. The real surprise to me was how far away people were parking considering attendance was just over 20,000. I didn’t anticipate that because it didn’t happen for MEAC/SWAC but I took full advantage of it. Being the only game in town, I worked for a set rate and didn’t budge from it and that plan paid off because there were some people who wanted to ride but weren’t willing to pay the price. Practicing a little patience and sticking to my guns, I got better rides out of it. Since a lot of people arrived late due to the parking situation (traffic was backed up), I used that sense of urgency to my advantage: Walk and miss more or ride and miss less?
With EDC still not being fully moved out and with the stadium under construction, there was only one way in and one way out for the soccer game. That limitation was another good thing for me because Church Street is also currently under construction at various points. For EDC, that meant using an incomplete and narrow sidewalk or going all the way around Lake Lorna Doone to get to the northwest side of the stadium. For the soccer match, they opened up Church Street (it was closed for EDC) and that helped with dropping people off faster to return for more rides. I’m not and never will be a soccer fan. Lots of young girls look up to the players on each team and they even left via motorcoach through the crowd that was there until the very end showing their support. All positive vibes the whole time and people showed up to prove that this city is ready for soccer. Orlando can never get NFL, NHL, or MLB but we’re ready for MLS. The fans have spoken and as I write this, it’s official: Orlando now has an MLS team.
I still don’t support putting a dime into renovating the Citrus Bowl but that’s already underway. It’ll be interesting to see what the Church Street streetscape ends up looking like. I have a feeling it won’t be up to par because having worked so many nights downtown, I’ve noticed that our sidewalk design is absolute garbage. One, most of them aren’t ADA compliant. Two, the ill-placed landscaping elements, lighting, and signage make the sidewalks too narrow in many places. Let’s be real here, I’m all for beautification but most of that landscaping exists to keep the contractors employed. No trees to trim or grass to cut means less work means less money in their pocket. There’s a place for it but not so much that it takes up more than half of the available walking space on a sidewalk. It’s called a sideWALK, not a sideWATCH. It has to be useful (and safe) first, pretty second.
I’m not just saying these things because I drive a pedicab and it’d be nice to be able to use the sidewalks to get around instead of the road in certain situations but whoever’s approving the designs needs to be fired. The designer can design whatever they want. Someone has to sign off on it. That’s the person or people responsible. It’s ridiculous to put a road sign or lightpost right smack in the middle of an already narrow sidewalk. If you’re in a wheelchair or scooter, you can’t get around some of them. Many sidewalks don’t have ramps or the ramps that exist are too narrow or out of place (blocked by parking lot pay stations in some places). Widen them shits and put the posts and signs in the grass close to the road, hang them from close buildings, or have hanging lights and signs with the foundations on the right of and out of the sidewalk if that makes sense. They just need to be out of the way. An example of good design is what I saw on Rio Grande south of Gore during the soccer game. Wide ramps and unobstructed sidewalks with good width. Whoever approved that, put them in charge.
Other things I noticed downtown are new restaurants (Kasa), bars (Saddle Up), and clubs (Ono and Prime) already or soon to be open. The ones that’ll survive are bringing something to the table that don’t already exist down there and I must say that there is some variety amongst them so that’s a good thing. Church Street has a new tavern but after reviewing their website, it seems the owner doesn’t want black or urban customers. Here’s a direct quote copied and pasted from their website: “The music is classic tunes from the mid 90’s and earlier. No Rap, no Hip Hop, no way never!” What’s their definition of classic tunes? To me, from that time period, the “G-Funk Intro” from Snoop Doggy Dogg’s album “Doggystyle” is a classic tune. To this day, I still rock that shit. Of course, I don’t ever expect any respectable restaurant to ever play gangsta rap (I’m just using it as an example) but such a statement seems to say that they don’t want black money. That’s my interpretation and as far as I’m concerned, whoever runs the joint ain’t gettin’ none from me or anyone I know until that latter sentence is removed from their site. There are other ways to say that they play non-offensive music and ain’t that what’s expected anyway? C’mon. It’s a borderline racist statement. With an exclamation point at the end of it, no less. Know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna listen to what they play next time I work downtown to hear what a classic tune is to them.
Unlike the new tavern, some places want that black money. Terrace 390 reopened for what appeared to be just one night. It wasn’t the usual Latin night like in the past. It was all black folks. On another night, Urban Flats or Loft 55 had some sort of shindig with black college students. It might be black money but it still spends like green, copper, and silver. Another observation was the Lymmo expansion. I took some time to look at a map of the new routes and it’s gonna be pretty spread out when it’s done. It also gives pedicabs safer routes to travel in the process. The only issue with it that I hope they fix is the timing of the lights. The current Lymmo buses stop running at a certain time of night but the traffic lights continue cycling as if the bus was still running. That creates excess idling for cars and backs up traffic unnecessarily. Those signals should only work when a bus is actually there at the light to trigger it. I know cars mistakenly (and sometimes on purpose) use the bus lanes but the bus and light should be on some sort of special wavelength to communicate with one another. That way some drunk idiot or an idiot cabbie isn’t forcing the signal to cycle through.
Downtown has a lot of work to do and it looks like they’re getting a lot of it right. Aloft hotel has opened and there are more hotels coming but just places to drink, dance, stay, and eat won’t cut it. Roads, sidewalks, and traffic light timing need to be factored into all of it along with some green space. I think those things should be thought of first before anything else because Orlando needs major work in all of those departments. I know a lot of people are moving into downtown and apartments are popping up left and right (like SkyHouse and SteelHouse) because of it and that’s great but it’ll be a very bad thing if people can’t get around efficiently. Imagine the sidewalk gridlock alone if the problem isn’t nipped in the bud well ahead of time. And there are still no new bike lanes that I’ve seen to accommodate the growing number of bike riders. It’s a work in progress. I’d still like to see a (smoke-free) pool hall and a world class sports bar (with emphasis on sports) downtown. So much is going on, we’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out. On the pedicabbing front, it’s been good lately and probably only gonna get better as time goes on with all the changes coming (like the new soccer stadium and performing arts center) but still, fire the person in charge of sidewalk design approval.