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Cast of cabbing characters (2)

The summer days are waning. Some of the pedicabbing crew are already calling it a season. Here are a few more of the dozens of people who have come through the barn this summer.

Beauty and the budding tycoon 

I first glimpsed sight of Katherine Porter as she swooped around Suicide Corners on her pedicab early one morning in 865312-992144-thumbnail.jpg
Katherine off to tackle the castle
June. It is safe to say all heads in the Inner Harbour turned to look at her. Just 21, she is one of those lucky young women graced with natural beauty whose presence draws all eyes towards her. Tall, slender, brown hair pulled back, big wide smile revealing perfect teeth, flawless skin-- not a feature out of place. Even my husband casually remarked one night over dinner. "So, erhm," he asked. "Who is the really gorgeous girl who drives a pedicab?"

"You mean Katherine? You've seen her?" I asked.

"She's kinda hard to miss."

I didn't know her well, at all --  and she has now returned to London to attend the University of Western Ontario -- but the few times I talked to her as we stood by our cabs on the Causeway she seemed to have a kind, sunny and engaging personality that complemented her looks.  Men would flirt openly with her and she would give a saucy, confident reply back.  It was easy to engage the strolling tourists with Katherine standing by, kind of like high school when the guys would talk to the clutch of regular girls due to the one knockout in our midst. Yet, it was a bit disconcerting for me, too,  standing next to young Katherine trying to sell my kabuki rides. So fresh and dewy, with life all before her, she was like the ripe peach and I the wilted produce past its best before date. 

One day in mid July a couple approached us asking to be taken to Craigdarroch Castle. So far I've refered all castle-goers to the stronger guys, but Katherine said, "Sure, hop in." She had never done the trip before but was game to try. I admired her confidence and spirit as she pulled away. I am much more timid. I learned later she had taken the lower road, Richardson, that skirts the hill and had the clients walk up the final brutal pitch. But she said yes to the castle and did it her way. That to me says spunk.  

Garratt at the ready
Her boyfriend, Garratt Wootton, also 21 (and also now returned to the east), was among the most eager and focused drivers on the street. In commerce at UWO, Garratt  seemed to make money no matter what the day. He always made lease. He would be out on the rainy days cleaning up while the rest of us stayed home. Not one to lounge in the back of the cab, he seemed to always stand at the ready, on the balls of his feet, scouting for rides. He looked for ways to earn extra cash, referring people to restaurants that would give a kickback or earning commissions and free dinners for dropping clients at the new condo developments or time share outfits  that resulted in a sale. The one time we did a Chinatown/Oldtowne tour together with four 60-ish women, he somehow earned a generous tip from his duo while I came away with a loonie gratuity.  I still don't know how he did it. But there is something about Garratt and Katherine, should their union persist, that tells me they could be a Canadian power couple of the 2020s.

Bashful Buff Brit

Another young couple going through the barn this summer is Rich and Deborah, from Southern England via the Rockies where they worked and skied this past winter. Both 25, they met at a UK university where they both earned science-based degrees. Deborah doesn't ride but works in a bakery a few blocks away from the barn; Rich rides four or five days a week, sometimes double shifts. He attaches a British flag to the standard rising from his pedicab bumper, which sometimes draws the UK tourist to his cab. (But it is amazing and a bit distressing, says Rich, how many passersby don't know the flag. "Is that New Zealand?" they will ask him.)

Rich is another driver with natural good looks and a tall, muscular physique that could 865312-992145-thumbnail.jpg
Rich and Deborah at a barn BBQ
have him grace any month of a fireman's calendar. Yet he is really quite shy and modest. He is embarrassed that some female rides oogle him and ask to commemorate their rides with a picture with him and his muscles. When I told him my story of night cabbing,  he told me his tales of sloshed women and their rather shocking invasions of his personal space. He doesn't like to trade on his masculine cache to sell his rides but Deborah laughs and says if women want to get into his cab because of the way he looks, she is fine with it. 

They will soon leave for further travels in the US, by way of San Francisco, making their way  back home to England to settle and be married in March of 2008. 

Kiwi kutie

Michelle Watson, 25, is another world traveller stopping by Victoria for a summer of kabbing to help pay her way to Europe this fall. One of at least four antipodeans in the barn this year -(the others work nights) she is a wee slip of a thing, no more than 5'2" and 115 pounds.  (And she is not the Michelle who was robbed. Oddly, at my count, there are at least three Michelles around the barn this year. )

Michelle getting ready to roll
This Michelle seems to swim in her Kabuki tee-shirt and long shorts. Her blonde hair is always pulled back into a pony tail that pokes out of the back of a bright red baseball cap. She rides three days a week, working the other days at a fitness club 45 minutes up Island in the community of Duncan. She always has a big smile on her face. Her perky, Kiwi-inflected "Hi there, how's your day going?" to the passing tourists  is often enough to stop the curious who ask, 'What is a tiny traveller like you doing driving a pedicab in Victoria?'

When I am struggling to cart a big load up Victoria hills, I find sustanence in the knowledge that if someone as small as Michelle can have the fitness and strength to do this job,  damn it,  I can too.

Philosopher king

Tom B., 37, was the very first driver I met my very first shift. He was checking over his blue tandem cab and we exchanged historical trivia driven by the fact it was the 250th anniversary of Captain George Vancouver's birth. It was obvious that Tom knows his Victoria and British Columbia history-- better than me (and I thought I was pretty good.)  He is a raconteur who brings Victoria's past to vivid life. He is the only driver whom I have seen open fan mail in the Kabuki office,  from a family from South Africa who sent a thank you note for being the highlight of their recent trip.

Tom is a 3-year Kabuki veteran and part time student working slowly toward a PhD (in math, I think-- he told me he likes to write math theorems in his spare time.) Tom has done more than any other in the barn (save Randy) to help me hone the skills, stories and attitude to be successful as a driver.

"If you just keep thinking, 'I am here to do a service. My goal is to help people whether they get in my cab or not,' then you have the right attitude," he counsels.

His service has included, particularly in his first year, routinely checking out the stock and sales at women's clothing and 865312-979348-thumbnail.jpg
Tom in front of gloat squares he won't fill
shoe stores so he could advise his female rides. "What are you looking for? What price range? What colour?"  he would ask and then direct the woman to the best stores to potentially satisfy her need. He taught me to advise all passing families on the best things to do in Victoria with kids. His helpful stance routinely translates into others getting into his cab who have witnessed his  altruistic interactions.

No wonder I so often see wiry Tom with a full tandem cab (often hauling more than a tonne of weight that he pedals over Victoria streets), "up selling" from a short taxi ride to a one to two hour tour. He will ride full-time until mid-October, he thinks, then perhaps travel or go back to school.

And while Tom seems to have umpteen high earning days, he keeps his grosses to himself and never writes his totals in magic marker in the squares of the office boast wall.

"That would be giving in to the "gloat monster," he says.

Update on the night shift

To my relief, my tender left knee seems to have healed with no apparent weakness, but I am treating it gingerly. I tried another late shift last Friday, but Glynis wasn't riding due to a school commitment and it wasn't much fun without a familiar female companion so I stopped by midnight. My parents are relieved: "Don't do any more night shifts, please dear," they said via phone from Ontario.

Terry Weins, of Victoria Pedicab Tours and a frequent commenter on my blogs, stopped me on the street the other day and said, "Hey Anne, I read your night shift one...  And I couldn't quite figure...were you complaining or boasting?" he laughs.

A bit of both, Terry.  A bit of both.

Posted on Friday, August 24, 2007 at 07:25PM by Registered CommenterAnne | CommentsPost a Comment

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