The Reasoned Review

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Homage to Studs Terkel

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A Rickshaw-cyclist in Central Park:

“Man, I’ve been riding this thing for three years. You get all types, all sorts of people. I charge 50 dollars for a forty-minute ride, 70 dollars for an hour. The other guys around here, they’ll do a twenty-dollar ride, a thirty-dollar ride — me,  I don’t go no lower than 50.

But some days, man… some days you get these customers, they drop $100 dollars for a ride. They’ll just give you a 40 dollar tip! You’ve gotta be able to spot those. What I do is, I look in people’s eyes. It’s like I can see how much a person’s gonna give me, just from the look in their eyes. There are other ways to tell. You develop a knack for this sort of thing after a while. I mean, if I see a black person, I can’t charge them too much. If I see a Spanish person, a Latino – you can’t charge them too much. Even businessmen – you can’t really go for them. It’s the tourists, man. That’s who everyone’s tryin’ to go for. You get one with kids, tell a few jokes while you give the tour, and that’s it! You’re in. Lots of people make stuff up on their tours, but not me. I get all my information straight from the park’s department.

Oh sure, you’ll get bad customers, people who only want to give you $10, haggle after the ride. I don’t want to use expletives, but they make me want to say something not nice. I guess it evens out in the end.

Hell yeah this is hard work! These are the injuries that don’t happen overnight. My legs… my knees… I’ve seen people do this job for too long. I drink two gallons of water a day, total between here and at home. Man, I go home, all I do is drink water! Especially when I’m fasting. Well, I’m a Muslim, so in August, late August, man… That’s what I like to call my tough time.

Most days, I get up, I eat a huge breakfast – eggs, meat, olives, yogurt, strawberries, bagel, toast, you name it. I eat a lot. Then I come here around 9:00 or so and just hang out, try and get people to take a ride with me. I go home at 6:00 or so, but sometimes 7:00, sometimes eight, y’know? It’s however long you want to be out here.

(He gestures toward his vehicle)

It costs $1000 per month to rent this thing, so I gotta make at least that much. Some months you do, some months you don’t. Man, one month I made $10,000. Now a lot of people, they say to me, “Ten thousand dollars! You’re living the high life, bro – you made it!”, but then other months it’s dead. So it balances out. If you do this for long enough you can average enough to live, but not too much more.

Buy my own rickshaw? You know how much one of these things costs? Four, maybe five thousand bucks! Sure, sometimes I make that in  few good weeks, but…. I’m a student. I’m getting my degree in Latin and Roman History. I love that stuff, man. Cicero! Cicero was a crazy dude. I have ambition. I don’t just want to be carting these rich people around Central Park the rest of my life.

Hell no, you shouldn’t do this. Find some other way to make money. I mean, a lot of people, they try it for a month or two  and quit the first month they can’t make the thousand dollars. I see it all the time. This job isn’t worth it. The customers, man…”

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Written by pavanvan

July 28, 2009 at 2:12 am

Posted in Interviews

Tagged with , , ,

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