I’m thirty-one, still have most of my looks, and the summer is endless.
I start my routine around 4 pm. First, I lay my uniform out on my bed, feed my dog, and then slip into the shower while she eats. Then I shave, put in my contacts, and brush my teeth. Brushing my teeth has become a big thing since my insurance lapsed; I have to take special care not to get a cavity because there’s no way I can afford a visit. So I floss, brush, rinse once with mouthwash and then again with fluoride. Then I put on music, sit on my bed and put my uniform on: black skinny jeans that I’ve cut down into shorts, a bright yellow shirt showing the company logo, also cut down, and a tiger print bandana tied loose around my neck.
It’s been a hot summer out this year, and probably wont get below eighty tonight. That’s not terrible, but the humidity has been sitting around 75% for over a month now, and that’s what gets you. I fill up two single liter bottles and I throw a few granola bars in a plastic grocery bag. I entertain the idea of riding my bike in to work today, and like every other day, I think better of it. I’ll be ruined by the time I finish my shift, and saving the six-mile commute worth of gas in my truck isn’t worth it yet. Maybe next week.
I check my gig bag. It’s a faded black canvas Klein tool bag from when I thought I had a career. I go through it carefully, making sure I have all my gear accounted for before I head out: taxi license, spare AA batteries, business cards with my cell phone number Sharpied on the back, and a fold of twenty dollars in fives and ones I’ll use as change or dinner. Finally, I take one last look in the mirror, check that the moneymaker is looking decent, and then I’m off.
When I get to the warehouse, the boss and one of the riders, Chad, are already there. I don’t remember the boss’ name, and I don’t want to. He’s younger than me, mid-twenties, has a scrunched face that reminds me of Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and is really into the Tea Party. He keeps trying to motivate us by encouraging “competition, entrepreneurship, and the spirit of capitalism” but he comes off as a less cognizant version of Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, although I’m pretty sure he’s never heard of Glengarry Glen Ross. Chad gives me a wave and asks how my ride was last night.
“Shit. I cleared maybe a hundred and twenty,” I reply.
“I don’t want to hear your bullshit. We had two riders make two-fifty last night!” the boss sneers as he walks into his office. Bullshit is right. Everyone was hurting last night, there’s no way anyone made that much.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I call after him. He walks back out of his office smiling.
“Yeah. You better up your game.” And then he’s back in his office. I look back at Chad, who just shrugs.
The warehouse is an old body shop, and half of it still houses cars. The other half houses a fleet of about twenty pedalcabs. Rickshaws. I look around them to see if any of the good ones are available, and they are. No one really comes in until six, and I’m an hour early. I grab number twenty because it has a good pedal assist motor and actual front gears, making it a legit twelve-speed. The other ones have one gear in front and five in back, which is fine, but you have to rely on the motor more often. The more you rely on the motor, the less it looks like you’re struggling; the less you look like you’re struggling, the less your rides will pay you.
I grab a fresh battery off the charger, pack my water and food under the seat of the rickshaw, and grab a flashlight and radio from another bench.
“How’d you end up last night?” I ask. Chad smiles at me. “A lady paid to take me out to dinner at The Farmhouse.”
“What? You mean-“
“No, during the ride. She gets in, has me take her to The Farmhouse, buys me dinner, and then gives me forty bucks to take her back to her hotel. I tried telling her I didn’t need any money, since she had just dropped a hundred bucks on my meal but she was adamant.” I shake my head, disbelieving. “How was it?”
“Oh it was fucking fantastic.” He laughs. “I had the ribeye.”
I think about that as I mount up and pedal out towards Lower Broadway. Foot traffic is starting to surge for the first rush of the evening. The older, more traditional crowd will be heading back to their motels, either day drunk or exhausted by the walking tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame and other family friendly fare. The real money is just starting to wake up though. In the next two hours, they’ll be going to dinner, and they’ll want a ride. And if you play your cards right, they’ll want a ride after dinner. And after that. At this point in the night, anything’s possible.
Catch the rest of Mac Cushing’s Tennessee tale in SN8: Nightmoon, hitting bookshelves and Amazon on November 12th.