In my first Doorman's Guide to Not Getting Ripped Off in NYC, I went into detail about the city's pedicab hustle. Since I wrote that post in 2012, the city (sort of) started regulating these fuckers. Now, instead of being able to charge per person, per avenue, and per block, they're mandated to post a price-per-minute of riding. Meaning that once you get on the pedicab, they start a stopwatch, and are able to charge (at the driver's discretion) up to $5 per minute to take you to your destination. This made things slightly better, yet, like a dishonest taxi driver, many of them take elongated routes to run up the meter.
Also - what happens when you get on a $5 per-minute pedicab? If it takes 15 minutes to get to your destination, that means you're paying $75 to travel less than ten blocks. Any distance that you're not willing to walk is going to take a bit of time when you have an 110 lb. immigrant muling 1-3 people on the back of his fucking bicycle. It's physics, god dammit! They're going to fuck you one way or the other.
If you really want to get your pedicab fix (and I can't imagine why, but hell, it's your day, kid) - walk over to Columbus Circle and buy a guided tour. They're legit and well-under $100 for an hour with a licensed guide, not some swindler who just moved here from another country, pointing at random skyscrapers and making up bullshit facts about my beloved city.
I know there are some honest ones out there who provide a thoughtful, entertaining and fact-filled rides through the city. I do. And for a while, I eased up on them. Hell, I've eased up on almost every one of these hustlers. While I used to think I was playing some sort of blue-collar superhero by saving these ungrateful tourist from various street scams and hustles, I've grown to realize that this has done virtually nothing to put money in my pocket.
I come to work to make my money and go home. I do this as a means to put a roof over my head and craft beer in my belly while I pursue a career in show-business. (See how the universe destroys a good person's moral compass?)
Never once has a guest, after my intervening between them and a hustler, has said to me, "hey, Doorman, you really saved me out there! Here's the money I would have given to that savage! You deserve it more! My hero!"
Seriously, why stress myself?
What does annoy me, is when I'm putting forth the effort to get a taxi for people, the overly-aggressive, think-they're-charming tricycle bandits attempt to lure them in, which could take money out of my pocket. If the guest decides to hop on, it's not like they're going to throw me a few bucks for my efforts. They're getting lured away from me because the guy on the bike is convincing them that I'm not going to be successful in getting them a taxi. (This is exactly what I thought I'd be doing with my degree.)
These assholes are never up-front about how much money the ride could cost. The guest has no fucking idea that it could be fifty or sixty dollars more than what they would be paying for a taxi. If I let them get on the pedicab and they're subsequently ripped off, guess who they complain about? Not the pedicab driver.
So by them getting in between my guest and I, that's a potentially few dollars out of my daily income and an angry guest returning later, saying I let them get swindled. Like I said, I come to work to make my money and get the fuck out. I don't let anyone take money out of my pocket.
This is why whenever a pedicab driver tries to solicit my guests, I have to intervene.
Which, as you may have guessed it, brings me to a story:
I'm surprised that it took three years of fighting with these guys to have something stand out enough write about. I've had spats here and there, but nothing beyond, "Hey, fuck you! You're a doorman! Go open the door!"
Then this Irishman showed up.
It was a Saturday night in December, and as Saturday nights during the holidays go, it was fucking impossible to find a taxi. People were tipping, which was a welcomed change, but I was in a dogfight with the rest of the city to get each one. Three ladies, mother with her two adult daughters, Americans, needed a cab. They weren't going far, but the mother had a bad foot and they'd been walking all day.
In the distance, I hear that bell. That fucking bell. That relentless "chingalingalingaling".
Irishman - "Can I interest ya in a boike-roide, ladies?"
I immediately step in.
Doorman - "No, man. Come on."
He snaps his head in my direction, revealing a New York Knicks skull cap and matching scarf.
Irishman - "Who's talkin' to ya?"
Doorman - "Come on, keep it moving..."
Irishman - "What's your problem?!?"
Doorman - "You're soliciting."
Irishman - "Who says I can't solicit?"
That's a good question. I don't know who specifically says he can't solicit, if anyone. I'm more nervous than I usually am when I get into a confrontation. Maybe it's the accent. I guess whenever I hear an Irish accent in an aggressive tone, I associate it with my about to get thrown out of a bar.
Doorman - "I'm not gonna argue with you, man. They're not going with you."
I keep my focus on the street and getting a taxi. I can feel him still sitting there, perched up on his pedals, staring at the back of my head. After a few moments, I cave and turn around:
Doorman - "You done?"
He scowls at me. I look down at his knuckles, which where white, bulging and jagged. I probably wasn't the first doorman who dismissed him that night.
Irishman - "No! I'm not done!"
A pause. A long fucking long pause. We hold our tough-guy glares, both at a loss for what to do next. I think he wants to hit me, which likely would have resulted in me hitting him back, which would have resulted in the police showing up and us both being thrown in jail for the weekend. I had a Christmas party to go to in Hoboken after work, so I didn't want to go to jail. I prefer going to parties and getting drunk over getting into fistfights and landing in jail. I don't know what he was thinking, but I really don't want any part of whatever the hell it is.
Doorman - "Ok, I'm done."
In a bit of serendipitous timing, a taxi whizzes past him, pulling over to the curb. People getting out. I take off toward the cab before another pedestrian snatches it and yet another altercation ensues.
I put my hand on the door, locking up the taxi in the way a child does when playing tag and they've made it to the "base". A woman from the other side of the street, who was running towards the same vehicle, groans loudly and throws her hands up. She looks at me like I'm water on the floor from a backed-up septic tank. I've grown used to that look from people. I kind of like it now.
Fuck you, lady. This is mine.
Fuck you, lady. This is mine.
I motion for my guests to come over. They pile in, and one of the daughters puts a five in my hand. As that happens, the Irishman, slowly and deviantly pulls up next to the taxi. He continues stare me down and delivers this:
Irishman - "Donkey."
Doorman - "Pardon?"
He grinds his teeth and twists the handles of his bicycle. Again:
Irishman - "Donkey!"
I don't know. He's saying "donkey", angrily.
Doorman - "Giraffe?"
Irishman - "DONKEY!"
The taxi driver honks the horn at me. I get startled and look down and realize I haven't closed the door of the taxi yet. Whoops. I close the door gently and the cab pulls away.
Back to the Irishman, who holds his ground:
Irishman - "Donkey!!!"
Doorman - "What?!"
Irishman - "DONKEY!!!"
Doorman - "What the fuck are you talking about?!?"
He just sits there, still white-knuckled with a menacing in his eye. Now there's no guests in between us. No one to impress or hustle. I've won the exchange. I've scored the tip. The back of his carriage is empty. I have nothing left to say.
But I'm still intrigued...
Doorman - "Are you calling me a donkey?"
Irishman - "Fockin' right I am..."
I pause for a beat. I've never been a good counter-puncher in an exchange of insults. This is why I've never taken kindly to ball-busting amongst men. I'm George Costanza, "jerk store" bad in these situations. But, given his firm stance on this whole "donkey" thing, I couldn't help but just be inquisitive.
Doorman - "Am I supposed to be offended?"
Irishman - "Fockin' right ya are..."
Doorman "Oh... ok. I'm very offended."
Irishman - "Ya fockin' should be..."
And he left. No fisticuffs were thrown, and he didn't elaborate on my donkey...dom or whateverthefuck. A few moments later, I heard the chiming of his little bell, "chingalingaling", as he headed down the road towards Times Square. I haven't seen him since.
This is funny to me for two reasons:
1 - A decent amount of friends that I have call me "Mule". It's a goofy inside joke that's unrelated to anything in this post, so I won't get into it. Another time.
2 - The sheer irony that what he's doing for a living, that very thing that he was trying to exchange with my guests for money, IS WHAT A FUCKING DONKEY IS USED FOR!!! HE'S A DONKEY! HE'S DOING DONKEY WORK!!! DONKEYS PULL THINGS!!!!! THEY PULL PEOPLE UP HILLS AND SLOPES AND THEY GET DIRTY IN THE MUD AND THE MUCK AND THE FECES OF THE DONKEYS THAT CAME BEFORE HIM!!!
GOD DAMMIT!!! I SHOULD HAVE SAID THAT TO HIM WHEN HE CALLED ME A DONKEY!!!
See why I didn't make it as an improv performer?!?
I googled different variations of "Irish donkey slur", only for google to reiterate that I was a jackass for thinking that it mean anything else.