A Note from Fatty: Today is the last day for you to register for the 100 Miles of Nowhere. In fact, registration ends at midnight, Central time. If you’re going to register, you’d better read details here and then go register here (if you want a men’s t-shirt) or here (if you want a women’s t-shirt).
A couple of years ago, I traveled a lot. And more often than not, I traveled to New York. Now, I understand that a lot of people love living there — including two of my sisters. But the truth is, I don’t like traveling anywhere on my own, and I especially don’t like to be in a big city on my own.
So I was standing outside my hotel, waiting in a long line of people for a cab, thinking about how when I’m at home I don’t ever have to wait for a cab. And I was thinking about how when I’m at home, I know people. And I was thinking about how when I’m at home, I’d have a bunch of bikes at hand would have been able to go riding outside that morning, instead of riding on that cruel mockery of a bicycle: the exercycle.
And then, behind all the taxis, I saw the answer to all my problems: a bike taxi.
Yeah, I know some people call them “pedi cabs,” but that term sounds both alarming and creepy. I’m sticking with “bike taxi.”
I walk over to the guy with the bike taxi (Do I call him the “driver” or the “rider?” Neither seems right). I’m thinking about how awesome it is that I’m no longer waiting in a line. I’m thinking that while I’m not pedaling, I’m at least getting in a ride. And mostly, I’m thinking about how it’ll be fun to at least talk to another cyclist for a while.
Naturally, he doesn’t speak any English, and my Polish isn’t so hot, either.
That’s OK, though. I give him my destination — about eight blocks away, though I have no idea in which direction, what with my state of being perpetually lost — and he takes off.
I am caught between trying to enjoy the ride and feeling very silly. On one hand, it’s nice to be getting around this way instead of in a taxi. On the other hand, it feels wrong for me to be going somewhere on a bike, without being the one pedaling.
I seriously consider asking — via hand gestures, I suppose — whether the guy wanted to trade me places, so I could pedal for a bit. Of course, this has the largish problem that I already mentioned before: the major reason I’m taking a taxi in the first place is I have no idea how to get anywhere.
So I ride. And I think about what a fine story this will make, and how I’ll have to make a habit of riding in bike taxis more often, because they’re more in line with what I like, and they’re environmentally friendly, and how I can hardly wait to tell my sister that I just rode a bike taxi instead of a regular taxi, and why doesn’t she start doing that to get around when she needs to travel in the city?
We arrive at my destination, eight blocks away from where we started
The driver / rider / pilot says his first English words since picking me up and nodding his understanding of my destination:
My ideas of transnational biking camaraderie and sharing a story about how everyone should ride bike taxis vanish. Instead, I had just been on a taxi ride that cost roughly five dollars per minute. Which is almost twice as expensive as phone sex. From what I hear.
This, it turns out, is not a story about how cool bikes are. It’s a story of a small-town rube getting suckered because he thinks everyone who rides a bike is cool, and therefore didn’t ask about fare rate before the ride began.
This, it turns out, would be a story that would leave me so deeply embarrassed about my naivete that I would not tell this story to anyone for more than two years.
I got him back, though: I did not leave a tip.