Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hard Times

Last night, July 2, I worked from 5 PM to 11:30 PM, and made a total of seventy-five dollars. That's just about minimum wage, when you work it out. Some guys made less than I did. Some made more. Thursday night, I only made $20, a new low for a Thursday.

A friend I had not seen since last fall met me last night in Times Square. He had dropped out of pedicabbing, sold his "bike" and gotten a job in a hotel. But the work was part-time and pay was low. This summer he went to the guy who bought his bike and now he's renting it.

This friend had made $50 since 7 PM. It was now 11 PM, so he'd made $12 an hour doing what used to make $200 for a good driver, when the economy was good.

This year is like 2002: hordes of people in town, none of them with cash. They come to Times Square without knowing anything about it. I wait in front of the Brill Building, wanting to show them my Midtown Tour of Rockefeller Center, Times Square and Saint Patrick's. But they pass me by.

Mistrust of pedicabs is high, due to the guys who have offered a charge of some money amount for two people, then get them to the destination and say "Each," thus scamming them. So many scammers have preceded me that people now pretend I'm not there when hailing a ride. I have to dicker to get rides, and go cheap in order to make a living.

I wait at the corner by the Plaza Hotel, trying to get customers to take a tour of Central Park. But they don't trust me, since I haven't got either a double-decker bus or a horse. They don't know I have fifteen years of tourguiding under my belt, and can give them a GREAT tour. No, they'll go with a carriage, getting 1/4th the ride for 2/3rds the price.

Last night in Times Square, two unpleasant things happened. First, a young woman scolded a carriage driver who was parked behind me, calling a carriage horse "slave labor," and him a "slavedriver." Then when she got to me, I offered, "Good for you. Now prove that a man can give a better ride, by being my customer instead." She tried to ignore me, looking embarrased while walking on.

Second, a young woman had been texting while standing in the intersection I was trying to cross. I said, "That thing works on the sidewalk, right?" Her boyfriend then came off the curb and asked, "Did you take this job because you couldn't get anything else?" And he walked away as I answered, "No, this is a cool job. I've been doing it eight years." It was a few seconds before I realized he'd just insulted me. That really hurt, especially when I kept thinking of the miniscule amount of money I made. It was really tough.

I've been mentoring a fellow licensed guide/pedicab driver who is homeless. Yesterday he made $51. Recently I got him to call one of the double-decker companies and get started on getting regular work. It's my hope that he will get himself an apartment, or at least a share. He's not putting enough effort into it, though. The other day he said he'd taken the bus company's Brooklyn tour, but "hadn't been in the mood to listen." Now he has to take it again, or he just won't learn. If he doesn't learn, they won't hire him. The guy is smart, but isn't taking the necessary steps to improve his life.

Thinking about him, and about how poor life has become for pedicabbing over the past year, I've decided to take the necessary steps to improve my own life. I will apply for the double-deckers again, myself. I can't go on making such a small amount of money. Though double-decker work is rewarding in that you're helping people understand the city while they get acclimated and taken to the sites they want to visit, it's grueling. You bake in the sun, soak in the rain, freeze in the wind and snow. Someone will sit right behind you and pepper you with questions, which takes time away from the other 49 people on the bus.

Seven years I spent on double-deckers. I didn't want to go back to them, but this season is just killing me.

Help me avoid this fate. Take a private tour of Central Park, Midtown or Greenwich Village through
Hire me for your upcoming bus trip to Manhattan. It costs only $10 per passenger on a 20-seater bus, or $5 per passenger on a 50-seater bus, for a fantastic tour of Manhattan. I won't let you down.

Read my advice to NYC travelers at's New York City forum. Just search there for TourguideStan.

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