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The one about the Pedicab.

We had scheduled to bring EXIST to a media conference in NYC last night.  Chris was already in the city for the day, so I worked at dLife and then hopped the train to New York. 

The train dumped me off at Grand Central Station and I made my merry way to the concourse, happy that I at least knew what direction to go in.  It was 6:19 pm and the conference started at 6:30.  I was right on track to be fashionably late. 

Texted Chris:  I’m here.  Just getting a cab and I’ll be to you in 20 minutes.

Walked out onto the bustling sidewalk.  Roads were closed due to the UN summit, so there were even more people spilling out than usual.  Horns beeping.  A man dressed as a piece of pizza shoved a flyer in my hand and hollered (to no one in particular), “Everybody loves pizza, man!”  I walked towards the corner of the street, heels clicking, fashionably late … very Mary Tyler Moore of me.  Started humming “You’re gonna make it after all.”  Raised my arm to hail a cab, for the first time in my 27 years.

No one stopped. 

Maybe I wasn’t out far enough.  Maybe they couldn’t see me.  Raised my hand again as a trio of cabs ripped by.

Hmmm.  I am clearly doing something wrong here. 

There was a police officer standing about 30 feet away from me.  I walked over to her, keeping my eyes locked on the gridlock for an empty cab.

“Excuse me?”  The cop turned around.   “Excuse me.  I need to catch a cab.  Would I have more luck on another street, because of the roads being closed?”

The cop looked me up and down. Not my pedicab, but A pedicab.

“Would have helped if you wore a skirt.” 

 “Excuse me?”

“A skirt.  A skirt would help.  Next time wear a skirt.  But good luck finding a cab tonight – roads are closed, it’s rush hour, and everyone is looking for a cab.  Cross your fingers, miss.” 

Feeling more and more like a country mouse, I stepped back to the curb and scanned the road for cabs.  A man with luggage and a cell phone walked up beside me.

“Waiting for a cab?” 

I nodded.

“Good luck with that.  It’s crazy in this town.  I’m just in from San Francisco and I’ve been waiting for ½ an hour for a cab to stop.”  My eyes widened.   I heard a bell ring.

“Hey lady!  You need to get somewhere fast?”  A voice called from the street.  Out of seemingly nowhere, a bicycle cab/rickshaw peeled out next to me and a tall, skinny man leaned off his bicycle and shot me a craggy grin.

Oh for crying out loud.

“Yes, yes I do.  Can you get me to The Puck Building?  Off Lafayette?”

“No problem.  52 blocks from here.  Gonna cost you $60.  Hop in.”

It didn’t look safe.  It was an updated version of a horse-and-buggy outfit, only instead of a horse pulling the cart down a country road, it was a skinny guy with an almost-beard toddling through Manhattan traffic.  I shouldn’t do it.  And sixty bucks?  I definitely shouldn’t do it.

“Okay.”  I climbed in.  He buckled me in like it was the Scrambler at the fair and off we plunged into the sea of buses, town cars, and cabs that didn’t want me as a patron.

Texted Chris:  I’m on my way.  I’m in an f@*&ing bicycle rickshaw.  This is my life.  $60.

I have never been so scared in my life.  This skinny man rode like he was rally driving, weaving in and out of traffic, skimming by the sides of buses, pitching wildly in potholes, and occasionally pointing out the scenery.

“Lady.  That?”  He pointed, taking both hands off of the handlebars and causing my heart to almost stop.  “That’s a very beautiful art exhibit.  It’s so nice.  I like art.”  We came about six inches from rear-ending a Mercedes.  “You like art, lady?  You been to the city before?”

The wind blew through my hair and I clutched the side of the seat for dear life.  “NO!”  I yelled, hoping these words wouldn’t be my last.  “BUT I LOVE ART!  I REALLY LOVE ART!  AND LIFE!  I LOVE LIFE, TOO!”

Texted Chris:  I may die in this thing.  I love you.  Don’t forget to feed the cats.

“Hey lady!  I take pictures.  You like pictures?”  He didn’t wait for a response.  “I would like to take your picture.  I have a nice, Polaroid camera.  You like to have pictures taken?”The view from my camera phone.

“NO THANK YOU, SIR!  I WOULD JUST LIKE TO GET TO THE PUCK BUILDING, THANKS.”

“Okay.  I take good pictures, though.”

Life continued on for 30 harrowing minutes.  We finally turned on to Lafayette.  My hair was enormous.  My cheeks were wind-whipped.  My knuckles were white from hanging on for dear life as he pedaled furiously down Manhattan streets. 

He cut through a gas station, crossed between three buses and another bicycle cab, and drove up the sidewalk, to the very base of the Puck Building.  People were staring.  We skidded to a stop.

He rang the bell.

I unbuckled myself from the cab and he took my hand, helping me from the cart as though I were some sort of Disney royalty.  It was 7:15.

“Thank you very much, sir.  Here’s your money.”

“No charge, lady.”

“What?”

“No charge.  You can’t look that scared when you’re waiting for a ride, though.  Someone might take advantage of you!  You seem nice, lady.  Where I am from, we are nice to our women and we make sure they are safe.  No charge.”

I handed him a twenty dollar bill and shook his hand.

“Thank you very much, sir.  It’s been quite an experience.”

He jerked the bike back onto the street.  “The subway is probably more scary than this.  I see you next time, okay?”  And off he went, towards some semblance of a sunset, but most likely within two inches of the bumper of a bus.

Texted Chris:  I’m here.  My hair looks a fright.  People in New York aren’t as mean as I thought.  I may make it after all.

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Comments

LOL - only you could write something like this and make me feel like I was right there beside you!

New York certainly is an interesting place :)

Great story. I can only imagine how crazy that must have been, but definitely an adventure!

You're such a great storyteller!

Pedi-cabs are all over the place in San Diego. Really, much more common than taxis. But we don't have nearly the scary traffic and congestion downtown.

We've only taken one once. We live downtown and walk everywhere! Cinco de Mayo a couple years ago, I wore these heels that were killing me. I told my husband, "We're taking one of these!" as I hailed a pedi-cab. I've never been so relieved in my life!

I'm glad you made it through safe and sound :)

Ha! I've never taken a pedicab in NYC. But here's some more advice (besides the bit about the skirt):

1. There's a huge cab stand in front of Grand Central on 42nd heading west. You usually have to get in line and wait. Particularly during rush hour. But hailing a cab at rush hour is tough, unless someone gets out of one right where you happen to be standing.

2. The subway would have been much cheaper and faster. Really. The Puck Buidling's on the N/R, I think. You wouldn't have even had to leave Grand Central. During rush hour, the subway beats a cab anytime. You have a MetroCard, right?

3. How'd the Exist meeting go?

Oh, and one last thing--you know the deal about the cab lights on the top, right? I'm blanking on which is which, but I think when it's lit up, it means the cab's available. When it's unlit, the cab's already full. And when it's unlit and the side lights are on, that means they're heading home, and they'll only take you where you want to go if you're headed in the same direction (this happens when the cab shifts end).

Oh, and gypsy cabs are the big Lincoln town cars that have L and C on their license plates. YOu can hail those, and they take you where you want to go, but there's no meter, so they'll tell you how much it'll cost to take you. You can try to bargain (with a smile) and see if the price goes down.

God, I miss New York!

That was such an adventure! I am glad you made it one piece and alive!

I am still a little pissed at that cop! GRRRR

Yeah, it probably would have helped if you'd have known pedicabs are free in NY... ;)

I can't believe that you were just around my "turf"--I'm an NYU student and the Puck building (actually owned by NYU) is not far from "campus."

And ditto about the subway being faster and better, though of course it's very tricky to understand at first (or at least it was for me), especially on the weekends when all of the lines run differently from normal. If you ever want a tutorial, give me a holler!

What a great story! I laughed out loud at the part about "It didn't look safe ... I definitely shouldn't do it" then "Ok" I'm in! Great stuff!!

Are they really free in NY?! What's the story with that?

OMG, I'm crying right now I'm laughing so hard.

You poor thing.

You might want to seriously think of taking the subway it's sooo much cheaper.

Chris and you should take a trip in together and pick destinations and do practice runs to see if you can actually get to where you need to go as practice.

Shannon - I wish I could take the subway. But, as much as I like to pretend that I know exactly where I'm going, I usually don't have a clue. My luck, I'd end up in Boston somehow. :)

Jana - I didn't know you were right in the city. Shoot me an email if you'd ever want to meet up and I'd be happy to. As long as we can meet at Grand Central, because apparently that's the only place I can get to without issue. (So far.)

Jamie, Jake, George, Kelsey - Thanks! It was an adventure. One I wish I wouldn't repeat but I probably will. :)

Lyrehca - I need to learn the subway system, and fast. And I just recently got a MetroCard, so that should help. What I need next is a big map. And a GPS. And a fairy godmother of sorts.

Oh, and the EXIST meeting went very well. We made a lot of good contacts that we're following up on. Such is the life of the up-and-coming magazine!

And Scott (dear Scott, why are your comments being tossed into my junk folder? You are not junk. You are very cool.),

I have no idea if the bicycle taxis are free. According to my gentle cabbie, they're $60, then they're free. *shrugs*

A couple of notes:

1) Finding a cab at rush hour during a UN summit is a terrible idea. Make sure you only try to hail cabs whose dome lights are illuminated (the ones on the roof) - that's how you know they're empty. Otherwise you will just hurt your arm and feel foolish.

2) Pedicabs are notoriously expensive, so you should feel very lucky that you found a guy who didn't charge you. That's a great story.

3) WHY DON'T YOU EVER CALL ME WHEN YOU COME TO MY CITY???

Bobby (you will always be Bobby. ALWAYS),

You grew up with me, in my little RI hometown. You know how I am. I'm lost in the city. (I used to get lost playing Oregon Trail in middle school, for crying out loud.) So I should call you when I'm there. I WILL call you when I'm there. Before I get there, actually, so you can meet me in Grand Central and guide me around, like a pony. :)

The subway is not that hard to navigate. I can do it with ease and I get lost if I turn around too quickly. Get a map. Do the practise runs - that's a great idea. If all else fails, ask someone.

That was a seriously funny story. I love the MTM reference. I always feel like I'm in an episode of Mad About You when I'm in NYC.

That is hilarious! So glad you made it.

Since I never learned to ride a bike, I discovered this summer on a trip to Austin that pedi-cabs are pretty exhilerating. All that pedaling done FOR you by someone else...

However, the NYC pedi-cab sounds a bit too much like an extreme sport for me. I'd take it if I had the chance, but maybe not at rush hour!

Heeheehee. Glad you made it. :)

And on the subject of "free" pedi-cabs, the ones I've been in have had huge signs on them that say, "I work for tips!!" or something like that.

So it's really what you feel that person deserves. In Austin we gave our guy $50 and 2 books of poetry. He was a cool guy.

That was good of him.

hi kerri!

thanks.

i like the pic of siah sausage in the box!!

too cute...

my kittens are both asleep in my big white fluffy slippers. keeps them nice and snug, and my feet cold!

vic x

K, just chiming in belatedly to express my appreciation for your storytelling. As ever.

Moments like this one have happened to me more often over the past year--albeit much less dramatically--than the city's reputation would suggest. There's a core of kindness in many, many people here.

And if I could learn the subway system, you can as well. Believe me. I will help. Can't wait to see you soon.

Wish we could see what your hair looked like!! This post had me roaring - I love NYC. Last Oct. our girls weekend there was a total rain out. It poured and the winds were so strong that it blew our umbrellas inside out. No lie. We were like wet rats.
The cabs were busy, but with 4 of us hailing the cab, we were able to get them. THe problem?
They made ME sit in the front, b/c I am from NY.
I was creeeped out by the smell of one; the magazines another was reading; and of the driving of all three.

But - I still love NY.

Now, what you really needed was one of those MTM hats...might have preserved your hair a bit, perhaps! ;-)

Hilarious stuff, Kerri!!

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