By Adam Slight
My first year running a rickshaw was very eventful. One particular story will always stand out:
It was a very busy June evening in the Byward Market. I had graduated from my undergrad program in Film Studies at Carleton University and partied fairly hard the night before. If I recall, I had kicked myself out of the bar after looking in a washroom mirror, knowing the bouncer would soon do the same if I didn’t take action.
The point is, I was very hung over, and had considered taking the night off. I decided to weather the headache and try my luck on what turned out to be a very lucrative Saturday evening pulling a rickshaw. Within half an hour of being at work I had already made 60 dollars faking my way through a French-speaking hour-long Capital tour (“c’est la monument de guerre”) and was getting a nice flow of short 10-minute market tours afterwards. Around 11 pm I decided to walk around The Market and see if I could get any business off the street.
I pulled my rickshaw past a fancy little restaurant located on York St. It had been hosting a wedding reception that evening, and its patio doors were wide open allowing patrons to walk out onto the street if desired. As I walked by, an elderly gentleman in a tuxedo called out to me.
“Hey Rickshaw!” (That is often my name at work – also “Adam Rickshaw”.)
I pulled up to the restaurant and spoke with the man who hung from the large patio door with a martini in his hand.
“I want you to take my friend’s wife and I for a ride. Can we bring our drinks?”
During my first summer as a rickshaw runner I was much more lax with the rules. This was before I actually owned the business or gave much second thought about company image. That year I pulled five people in my rickshaw on Canada Day, in defiance of the three-person maximum. If it meant selling the ride, I’d let them do a drive-by shooting.
“Sure,” I said “as long as the police don’t see.”
And so started one of the most interesting, and well-paying rides of my rickshaw career.
I remember asking where he wanted the ride to go. I recall he said “until the money runs out.” He seemed like a wealthy man, so this gave me a tingly feeling inside. I suggested the half-hour tour, but he didn’t really seem to care where I took him. The man and his friend’s wife laughed and joked, while sipping Manhattans and martinis in the back of my rickshaw. I took them through Major’s Hill Park, which is a nice quiet park at night, overlooking the parliament buildings.
Here the man said “This would be a nice place to get some tail, wouldn’t it Diane? Why don’t we pull over and have a quickie?” I laughed at his joke and kept running, not fully realizing the implications.
The passengers threw their glasses into a bush, the man gave me 40$, and we returned to the wedding reception. There he introduced himself as Bill and said he would be back in ten minutes with his wife and more drinks for another ride. I waited around, and as promised, ten minutes later Bill returned with another woman – his wife.
I took the couple for a similar ride, finding serene locations in the area and giving them a leisurely tour. They seemed to be a very happy couple, comfortable to joke around intimately. They also joked about Bill flirting with every woman at the reception. The couple stashed their glasses behind a hydro pole and we returned to the party. Bill gave me another 40$ and told me to wait for him again.
By now, other rickshaw runners were taking notice of my success and began parking outside of the wedding reception. However, Bill had promised me his business and the other runners were largely ignored. While I waited for Bill to return (with another woman, I presumed) he referred the bridesmaids to our business. We raced the bridesmaids around the block, and by the time I had finished that ride, Bill was waiting for me with another drink in hand, another friend’s wife at his side, and a pocket full of cash.
Bill’s third companion was a large woman, probably in her early sixties. She was drunk and giddy, and thrilled that Bill was treating her to a rickshaw ride. When Bill climbed into my rickshaw for the third time, he said “Take us somewhere nice and quiet.” This time Bill was serious.
Following Bill’s request, I took the clients near the Champlain statue behind the National Art Gallery. It is a dark and hilly area overlooking the Ottawa River, the Parliament buildings, and the night lights of Hull. When I got there, Bill told me to stop.
“Debra,” he said to his companion. “This park looks nice. Want to get laid on that hill over there?”
As simply as Bill had asked, Debra said “Sure.”
“Just wait here Adam,” Bill directed.
And there I waited, looking out upon the Ottawa River as ten minutes passed, then twenty. I kept a tally running in my head, like a clock in a cab, of how much I would charge him for the wait if he was good enough to ask. I got to $70.
The adulterers returned, disheveled, covered in grass—exactly as you would picture. They were giddy, but determined to return to the party. Bill suggested they buy some ice cream cones to avert suspicion about the length of their absence. As they waited in line for ice cream Bill handed me 200$ cash, as long as I could keep a secret. I guess I’m currently betraying this secret.
I returned to the restaurant with my passengers, and by now every rickshaw runner was waiting outside the wedding reception, seeking similar luck, in vain. I stayed outside the party until 2am, when Bill finally returned again, totally drunk, and referred the bride and groom to me. I took them to the Lord Elgin Hotel and they gave me another $50
I learned a very effective cure for a hangover that night.