By Adam Slight
A part of a rickshaw runner’s success lies in their ability to identify their own niche market and approaching that market. This often happens naturally for a runner. The runner quickly discovers that hanging around some bars brings them more fares than others, and if they’re smart, learn to steer clear of the dry spots. I’ve seen the mistake made a few times. An unsuccessful runner tries to catch some rides by following the successful ones, not realizing that they don’t appeal to the same crowds and clubs. Personally I realized I was more successful working outside of pubs than clubs. I’m not a clubbing kind of guy, so that must have something to do with it.
I also learned early on that for some unknown reason I appealed to elderly drunk gay men.
I’m exaggerating a little bit. Its not like old gay men line up to take rickshaw rides with me. Really I’ve only had five or six elderly-drunk-gay-man clients…but I’d still say that this is a noteworthy client-base.
My typical client is 60+, out alone, and pickled drunk. Given their behaviour and age bracket I also sense that these men are sadly not 100% certain about their sexuality. They tend to put on a front of heterosexuality before making an obviously gay proposal.
One night I had one such customer who would flip-flop back and forth. He was a drunk 60-year-old who paid me big money to rickshaw him to his hotel. As we drove, he would attempt to entice me to join him in his hotel room, making claims that his hotel room was a harem of beautiful women. He would then compliment me on my calf muscles, butt, and my cardiovascular. His final attempt to get me into his room was a large tip, which I accepted gratefully while declining his invitation.
The most extreme example was also my first contact with this client-base, which occurred within my first month as a rickshaw runner. It was 3:30 am and I was walking back to the Market after an exhausting ride down Elgin St. I was tired, starving, and sore. As I staggered towards the completion of my shift, I heard a man shout out from behind me.
“Hey!” He yelled.
I approached the man, towing my rickshaw behind me. He was 60, alone, and drunk. I was too green to spot the signs.
“How much is a ride just around the block? I’ve never tried one of these.”
Even though I was exhausted, this ride was very simple, and an extra $5 never hurt anybody.
“$5,” I said.
The man climbed into my rickshaw, and I began my very brief haul around the block to his hotel. He was a friendly man, and told me he was from Montreal visiting a friend in Ottawa. We harmlessly chatted back and forth before the man decided it was time to make a move.
“Can I tell you something kind of personal?” He asked.
“Sure,” I said. I figured he was going to tell me that his wife had passed away or something along those lines. Instead, the man said:
“You have a really nice ass.”
This was a bit surprising, but again, as a rickshaw runner, you hear a lot of things from ridiculous drunk people as you pull them, and this was nothing strange.
“Thanks,” I said trying to be polite. The man continued:
“If I gave you a little extra, would you give me something fast?”
Again, naïve, I misunderstood what the man was proposing. I figured he wanted me to run faster or something.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Sex.” Is all he said.
I hastened my pace. His hotel was only 200 meters away. “Sorry, no thanks” is all that I could say. I dropped the man off outside of his hotel. He paid me $5 with a $2 tip.
“It’s too bad you’re straight,” he said, “you’re really missing out.” The 60 year old man then opened his mouth and provocatively flicked his tongue at me.
So this is what sexual harassment felt like. I’m sure any waitress at a pub experiences this every day.
I silently turned my back to the man and began to walk away with my rickshaw in tow. Now I was exhausted, starving, sore, and traumatized.
I went home, showered, and lay in bed staring at the ceiling until the sun rose.