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From bad to worse

Saturday June 30th

Randy said it would get worse before it gets better. The shift today stunk.

All week I have been putting my heart into becoming a truly knowledgeable tour guide. I have read more history books,  gone on three more training tours. A ghost tour with Steve Craik delved into the city's rich lore of haunting spectres and865312-926716-thumbnail.jpg
Garry Oaks inspired Disney
weird spiritual energy fields. The Beacon Hill park tour, also led by Steve, pointed out some of the most unusual of the 500+ species of flowers and trees in the 134 acre park and relayed interesting stories, i.e. how a young Walt Disney sketched the craggy Garry Oaks for inspiration for his haunted Snow White forests.  The park is lush and beautiful, an hour respite from the hurly burly, but that name, Beacon Hill -- I won't be eagerly pushing this tour, yet.

Then on Thursday veteran cabber Evert Pater leads a learning tour through the Heritage Homes of James Bay. Hallejuah! Relatively flat, quiet streets, beautiful old homes, rich history, an hour-long meander with doable hills. This tour is my tour. That and Fisherman's Wharf - another rather flat, easy ride to the float homes and feedable seals at the entrance to the harbour. I'll push these tours, make them my own. I can do this.

All day yesterday I concentrated on emitting, a happy 'ride with me' to Fisherman's Wharf vibe. An elderly couple hail me from across the street at the Wax Museum. The man has a cane and a limp. "Take us to Fisherman's Wharf."  I can't believe it. The couple is from Gold River, retirees who come to Victoria often. The ride to the wharf is a breeze. They have fun, seem to like my stories.  They give me $10 for a $5 ride, but don't want me to wait for the return as they are lunching at the famous Barb's Fish& Chips on the dock. I ride around for an hour, get no rides and on a hunch go back to the wharf. Sure enough the elderly couple are just walking up from the dock. They greet me with warm smiles. "Why don't you give us that Heritage Home tour you were telling us about," says the man and I beam.

But I have made a fatal error. I know the best route from the Inner Harbour, but I haven't scoped one out from Fisherman's Wharf. I take a random street - new infill houses, ugly apartment buildings -- and lots of dips and swells. "We'll get to the good streets soon," I say. (Pant, Pant). I am not sure where I am. I pick another street, another hill, ugly new houses. And I realize my panting -- and the lack of nice heritage homes  -- is865312-921434-thumbnail.jpg
Fisherman's Wharf
making my clients feel unfulfilled.  The couple spies a familiar street name. "On second thought, why don't you just take us to our hotel. We are rather tired," they say. Instead of a lovely 60 minute heritage tour, I've given a $10 ugly  taxi ride.  No tip. "Come back at the end of the summer and see how fit I am," I joke (pant, pant.) "We'll do the heritage tour then." They laugh as if to say:  As if!

At the end of my shift I have given only three rides. I am $10 short of making my lease.

This morning, I didn't want to come in at all. I show up late, disorganized. I spend 45 minutes doing the checklist rundown on cab #3 only to learn when I go to pay  that the first thing Randy said to me, after good morning, was "#3 has been prepaid by another rider." I have to go through the whole cab-selection inspection again. Arrghh. I do it too quickly and pick a random cab, don't test it fully on the street. I hurriedly switch my gear from #3 to #14, pay my lease and leave.

In the first block it is clear: I've picked a lemon. Ugly rubbing sounds, gears don't shift smoothly. I should go back and change but I won't don't want to do the long check list yet again. It's good enough, I think. Outside Swan's Hotel, at the  busy corner of Pandora and Store St. I ring my bell to attract tourists. The bell goes flying off the handbars, skittering through the traffic. I pull my bike over to the side and scurry after it,  ducking between cars, praying I don't get hit. Horns honk.

The day gets worse. An hour into my shift another pedicabber asks whether I have sunscreen. I go into my storage hold only to realize no sunscreen nor wallet. I have left both in the hold of #3. I race back to the barn (rubbing and clunking sound in my cab all the way). To my relief #3 is still in the barn, my wallet untouched.  It is noon when I get back out on the street, no rides yet today, shift almost over.

I must change my vibe. I spy a mother I know from my daughters' school, Hassina, and her 10-year old daughter Rama. They are walking holding hands in the Inner Harbour.  They are Muslim Ethiopian refugees and I know they would never have the money to ride a pedicab. I pull up alongside them. Hassina does a double take, trying to place me. "Anne?" She is incredulous. "Hop in," I say. "I will give you a ride for free." Rama's eyes widen in delight. I may as well practice my skills and make some 10-year-old's day. I take them along Wharf street, telling them about the ghosts, the history. My benevolence makes me happy.

I give another free ride that day - one to my daughter Maddy and her oldest friend Chya, who is like a second daughter to me. Maddy is embarrased as only a 14-year-old can be of her mother but Chya is complimentary. "You're really good," Chya says, "You know so much about the city." At least I can impress someone else's 14-year-old.

I come back to the barn at 2 pm without a single paying ride all day, out $30 for lease. To date, including lease payments, deposit, equipment purchases, I am $300 in the hole with this pedicab adventure. And my daughter is cringing at her mother.

Posted on Saturday, June 30, 2007 at 06:25PM by Registered CommenterAnne | CommentsPost a Comment | References7 References

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