If anyone has an idea what magazine I could submit this to, let me know. I tried Bicycling but I haven’t heard back yet.
All Aboard the Booze Trike
Three quarters of a full moon lit up the cold night sky as I raced my single speed through the streets of Eugene to the first day at my new job. I had just lead a strength and conditioning workout for the University of Oregon cycling team and my legs were somewhat fatigued from running and jumping over the past hour and a half, not to mention the weight training earlier that morning. I had my doubts about this new job, and the idea of pedaling drunks around in the dark for the next seven hours didn’t seem very appealing considering how tired I already was.
The job consisted of driving a taxi. Except this taxi was pedal-powered. These trikes, called pedicabs, are large and cumbersome vehicles with a large pleather seat in the back big enough for two or three closely packed passengers. The one I drove had a covered top, only one gear, and balloons and shiny pieces of glittery plastic decorating its steel frame. When I first heard about the job, I was drawn to the idea because of the driver’s resemblance to a workhorse. As everyone knows, cyclists admire horses more than any other animal for their speed, strength, and majesticness. Let’s not forget, a racehorse has a Vo2 of 190.
I arrived ten minutes late to the garage where these “bikeshaws” (as I like to call them) were kept. Still sporting my spandex from the workout, I took a quick look around before dropping my tights and changing into warmer clothes. Note to the reader: the secret to changing clothes in public locations is speed. Even in a crowded park or restaurant, if you drop trow quickly enough, very few people (if any) notice. Try it at your next group ride or race and you’ll be surprised at how few stares you receive.
My boss, Brian, was nowhere to be found, and I began to shiver as I waited for him in the unlit parking lot in front of the bike garage. He showed up twenty minutes later. “The nerve of this guy,” I hypocritically thought. “Him showing up late on my first day sure isn’t giving me a very good impression about him.” I wondered if my being late to interviews had anything to do with my many failed attempts at finding a job. Probably not.
Brian opened up the garage, revealing the resting steeds. I hopped on one and rode off into the night after he gave me some advice on where things would be “happening” this Wednesday evening. Turns out, not much was happening.
I cruised over to the bars, the number one moneymaker for bike cabs, but had no luck coaxing money-paying passengers into my cab. I had plenty of luck finding free-loaders though. The first ride I gave was to a stumbling drunk street kid from out of town, totting around a big backpack and guitar. As I rode by, he asked me where the nearest “beer purchasing location” was. I gave him some easy directions to follow and we parted ways. I looked back as I rode off and saw him walking the opposite direction I had pointed him in, and decided to just drive him there myself. He excitedly jumped in the back and I dropped him off at a convenient store to help him kill off his few remaining brain cells.
After dropping him off, I started heading back to the bar strip, but on my way, ran into some Obama voter registers. I offered them a ride. They had no money so instead promised to pay me in campaign stickers. My hopes of making any money began to fade as they hassled everyone we drove by to register or die. I dropped them off and I grabbed a large handful of stickers.
A train whistle blasted a mile away. I raced off to the train station at a blistering speed of nine miles an hour to meet my first paying customer. He was from the Netherlands and was heading for a hostel. I ended up getting lost and barely got him to him there in time before it closed, but he gave me $8. I quickly calculated this into the number of Muchas Gracias carnitas burritos it would buy. It would buy precisely two and a half burritos. I had been out riding for three hours. This meant my wages came to 0.83 burritos an hour. Not bad, but I decided against spending my hard earned cash on Mexican fast food, even though the deliciousness of Muchas Gracias has been known to make grown men cry.
I was very hungry, though. So I pulled onto the sidewalk and put the cab in park to enjoy the bucket of pasta I had packed under the passenger seat. This one was a good combo: whole grain penne pasta, tuna fish, cayenne pepper, tomato sauce, peanut butter, curry powder, olive oil, and some old beans I found in the fridge. The best pasta sauce is hunger, but it doesn’t hurt to have a finely tuned culinary pallet like mine.
After filling my stomach with pasta, I took a few swigs of water from my moldy water bottle and headed back out on the road. It was around 11PM at this point in the night, and I decided that this job was not practical considering the high volume of training I do. I could feel my legs tiring and my knees were aching from turning a cadence of 75, so I rode over to a friend’s house to warm up and watch a movie.
But my time there came to an end when the clock struck 12:30, and I was booted out onto the road again. I returned to the bar scene, but left when no one would willingly get in my cab. The UofO campus was no better, so I began riding in circles in a deserted parking lot, getting the trike up on two wheels. I was on two wheels, ringing the handlebar bell pretending I was in the circus, when I saw a very lost-looking, attractive brunette. I drove over to her, and offered a ride.
“But I don’t have any money,” she drunkenly slurred. Her breath smelled of strong booze.
“That’s alright, I’m bored and I don’t have anything better to do,” I replied.
She got in and tried to explain the directions to her sorority.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s the wrong direction,” I said.
“Well, maybe it’s that way,” she pointed.
I sighed, and headed off in the wrong direction. A minute later she started screaming in excitement when she saw one of her friends walking the opposite direction, so I pulled over to the sidewalk and her friend got in. They began arguing about what street their sorority was on as I pedaled their drunken carcasses around in circles, trying to get a wheel off the ground.
They finally agreed on the location of their house, and I began pedaling. A minute later, both were on their cell phones. I don’t think they were talking to each other, but who knows.
“I’m like in this bike thing with a tent over it,” the brunette screamed into her phone to some friend. “And this guy is driving us home. No, I’m not in a car. I’m in, like, a bike thing.”
“It’s called a pedicab,” I said.
“Yeah, a bike thing,” she said. “We’re making a turn right now. It can go around turns REALLY good! It’s sooo cool, and we’re going, like, real fast. I was so lost, and this guy in this bike thing came and–She did what? That bitch.”
I tuned out the rest of the drunken conversation as I avoided getting us run over by a car without its lights on.
We rolled up to their house fifteen minutes later and the brunette started to cry.
“Why are you like my best friend right now?” she sobbed. “You’re so nice. I wish we could give you some money but I don’t have any cash. How can we ever repay you?”
I thought of a few ways, but kept them to myself.
“Don’t worry about it. Just pass on the good deed,” I said as I began riding off.
“Oh like the movie Pay it Forward,” she said. “Except I hope you don’t die.”
I glanced at the time, and saw that I had another two hours until I was done. 3AM was not coming soon enough. Back to the bars. I loitered around a hot dog vendor, hoping he would throw me a freebie, but I had no such luck. I finished off the rest of my pasta and a packet of Jelly Belly sports beans. I had grabbed a handful from a demo table at the gym a few days ago. The only time I ever see these things is when they’re handing them out for free. They taste good, but seriously, Jelly Belly, you’re not fooling anybody. “Sports” beans? Come on. We all know you just throw in some vitamins and salt in your regular jellybean mix and charge triple the price.
My next non-paying customer was a Vietnam veteran who was missing his right leg. He was also drunk. In fact, everyone I gave a ride to was drunk except the guy from the Netherlands. And it looked like he was going to be my only paying customer until I stumbled upon some seriously plastered prey. They were standing in a circle outside an empty bar at around 2:15AM. I rolled up real stealthy, like a lion creeping up in the grass on an unsuspecting Gazelle in the Serengeti. I heard them talking about food.
“Muchas Gracias is open 24 hours a day,” I chimed in from a few feet away.
A few minutes later, I was victoriously towing one of the heavier ones off to Mexican food, with a promised $5 reward. He spent the whole time arguing on his phone with his girlfriend, only pausing to complain about the bumpy road.
“Yep, roads have bumps sometimes,” I replied in a voice in which you would talk to a baby. He was not pleased.
He stumbled out of the cab and into the Mexican joint, pleading with his girlfriend to “calm the f–k down.”
“Just chill out for a second and let me say something. Can I say something? Can I say something. Can I say someth–.” The door closed and I was thankfully shut off from his pointless conversation. I contemplated leaving him there so I didn’t have to listen to him complain about the potholes and hear his nagging voice bitch to his girlfriend during his never-ending phone call. But that $5 sounded mighty good, so I waited.
He brought out about fifty bucks of Mexican food and stacked it up next to him on the seat. I began pedaling him and his horde of tacos back to his hotel as he continued to argue with his girlfriend.
“There’s no way I’m driving this thing again,” I thought. “This is humiliating. I’m one of the fastest racers in the state and I’m driving drunks around all night in an oversized tricycle? No way am I coming back tomorrow night. My knees hurt, I’m freezing, and I have serious training to do. I can’t be doing daily doubles plus this. It’s a waste of time, and if any of my cycling friends saw me pedaling this stupid hunk of crap around, I’ll never be able to live it down.”
We arrived at his destination and the delicious aroma of his Mexican food was momentarily overpowered by the scent of the two crisp 20-dollar bills he placed in my hand.
“Damn, maybe one more night of this wouldn’t hurt,” I thought. “Forty bucks is a lot of burritos.”