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A hill too steep

865312-915185-thumbnail.jpgEvery Saturday at noon new drivers are trained at Kabuki Kabs. This morning I am cleaning the house, trying to decide whether to show up. As noon approaches I am full of rationalizations: guests are coming; the house is a disaster so I must clean; go next week.

Frankly I'm scared.  I am not going to go, I tell my husband. Not this week.

And then, at 11:50 am my brain commands: GO!

Oh hell. I'll be late again. I arrive at the Kabuki "barn" at 12:10 out of breath. All the other trainees sitting in the office are post pubescent boys - four of them ranging from 17 to 23.

Trainer Jason Koett, 30, hands me a registration form and tells me I am hereby operator number 201. The form asks for my birthdate. For the first time in my life I lie about my age. I cannot put down 1958. It is too old.  Instead I write January 11 1964 - my birthday six years later -- making me a newborn when the Beatles debuted on Ed Sullivan and therefore still technically under-the-wire as a bonafide babyboomer.

We sit around the desk, on chairs, bench and ratty frat-house couch, listening to Jason's spiel on what it takes to be a pedicabber ( enthusiam, energy, thick skin for rejection), how to sell the tours, and how the leasing and shift system works. He takes us through pedicab rules of the road: how and when to U-turn, where we can park our bikes without being ticketed.  He points out "Suicide Corners" on a map of Victoria's Inner Harbour -  a pinch point of busy traffic outside the main tourist information centre that is the most dangerous spot in the city for pedicabbers. "Be especially careful here," he says. "Repeat this commandment: Thou shalt always shoulder check," he stresses.

And then he gives a rather important tip about how to mount the seat of a pedicab: "Don't get on the way you get on your bike.  If you swing your leg backwards, you'll kick your passengers in the head."

We go out on the street with the pedicabs. I am teamed with 17-year-old Joseph, a skinny little wraith who must weigh all of 115 lbs. Peddling the cab with Joseph in the back is a breeze. We take turns testing out the five gears, climbing up the slight incline of Herald St. and gliding back down again, getting a feel for flow of the bike and how it handles over bumps and curbs. We do figure eights. It is like a giant, stable tricycle. Wheee!

Then Jason takes us into a parking lot across from the barn with a short steep pitch. One by one we take turns climbing the grade with two passengers. I can do it with Joseph alone, but when Jason - an average-size male of about 5'10" and perhaps 180 lbs - climbs in the back I come to a dead halt. I simply cannot budge the cab up the hill.

"Try again. Get momentum and get into the lightest gear," coaches Jason.

 The pitch is only about six metres long but everytime, halfway up, I grind to a halt. I push and push. But my legs  can't overcome the gravitational pull.  Joseph and I are the only trainees who can't do it.  We can't make the grade.

"You'll get it," says Jason. "There are few hills that steep and you can avoid them. Sign up for a shift anyway."

But I leave feeling sunk. I haven't got the legs for this.


Posted on Saturday, June 16, 2007 at 05:07PM by Registered CommenterAnne | CommentsPost a Comment

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