Yesterday was Independence Day. Not just my country's, but mine as well.
Tourism tanked after September 11. No one dared to fly, and no flights meant no tourists were coming to New York City. I was out of work for most of 2002. I began driving a pedicab just to pay the bills, with little hope of betterment. After a couple of months of driving it, the realization came that pedicabs could be used for tours. Soon I was taking couples around Central Park and Greenwich Village. In 2007 I finally bought a pedicab, wrote my own web site - www.oconnorgreentoursnyc.com - and went into business for myself. I worked daytimes, nighttimes and even holidays.
Holidays in NYC are the best times to make money in pedicabs. Holidays force large numbers of people into districts with little mass transit. I worked every 4th of July, Halloween and New Year's Eve, carrying people around. As a guide, I know Greenwich Village really well, but partygoers often don't.. It's easy to get rides there on Halloween and New Year's Eve. I even installed heated seats for cold weather; that has surprised a lot of passengers over the years.
But it's tough to work every holiday. You never get the chance to celebrate like everyone else; you're too busy trying to make money. In eight years, I never saw the 4th of July fireworks. Heard 'em! Didn't see 'em!
My life became more complicated about five years ago. Five years and two days ago, July 3, 2006, I proposed to the most beautiful girl in the world. We married in 2007 and, just for good measure, had a big family wedding on the same date in 2008. Life became more complicated: I was used to starting my day around 2 PM. Drive the pedicab to Central Park and give a few tours. About 5, hit the streets to carry people to Grand Central and Penn Station. At 7, hang out in Midtown and take people from their hotels to the Broadway shows. At 8--curtain time--take a break. Broadway shows start getting out around 9:30, so start driving again, until 11 or so.
But now I had a wife waiting at home for me. I didn't want to spend my evenings out, come home and spend an hour with her, go to bed, have her get up at 7 while I slept until 10. That wouldn't work. I changed my hours by making the commitment to drive her to work in the morning--in a car--and pedicabbing her from her office to the train station in the afternoon after I started work. I quit earlier, in order to get enough sleep to drive her in the AM. Eventually my inner clock reset to normal daytime life.
And I began to concentrate on getting 'normal' tourism work: walking tours, bus tours, going to the Statue of Liberty every morning with school groups, seniors or whoever. I think I've been there about 100 times in the past year, and every visit is a treat. In contrast, I've given five pedicab tours this year, all in Central Park. Customers wanting my tour of Greenwich Village have gotten referrals to a friend I taught my route to. I've given the same tour on foot, though. Lightbulb: pedicabs restrict the number of passengers to 2. Do it as a walking tour and you can make ten times the money with ten times the customers. And it's less work.
Though my web site still touts pedicab tours, I'm rewriting it to emphasize walking tours. For a peek at what it'll soon look like, go to the travel services section of www.newyork.craigslist.com, and search for TourguideStan.
And how was yesterday my Independence Day? Another experienced pedicab driver named Luis Gonzalez rented my 'cab yesterday, for $150 a week. He's going to drive it; I'm not. I'm free! I can pursue regular fulltime daytime tourism work.
Last night my apartment complex had its annual Fourth Of July barbeque. We went to it, ate, drank, played Frisbee, and had a wonderful time. And then we went home, hugged, turned on the TV and watched the Macy's fireworks show. I had never known they were so beautiful!
@TourguideStan on twitter. I tweet tourism and boost New York.