Many people believe that as long as you have two hands and two legs you can always support yourself. This belief holds particularly true for immigrants like my grandfather who passed through Ellis Island on his way to becoming a brick layer and sustainable gardener (for the grapes he needed to make his cherished wine).
Watching the pedicab drivers in New York City reminds me of this perspective. Two years ago my daughter and I enjoyed our first ride, following the Christmas Spectacular Show at Rockefeller Center. When the driver asked us if we enjoyed the show, we smiled and said “yes” explaining that we were given the tickets by a friend who knew we couldn’t go with my husband being unemployed. With that, our pedicab driver told my daughter to tell her father to do whatever it takes to work again. He explained to us that he had lived the good life thanks to owning two commercial buildings in New York City, but the recession had changed all that and he was very grateful to have the job as a pedicab driver.
YaYa Zongo is another example of this mindset. A native of Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa, he goes to school by day to perfect his English and drives a pedicab by afternoon and night to support his family. Anyone possessing a New York State drivers license can obtain a pedicab license for $55 and rent a pedicab from one of several companies in New York City. Rental costs range from $40/day to $150-$250/week depending upon the time of year. With average prices ranging from $25-50 for a ride from the theater to the train or restaurant, the money can add up pretty fast.
Yes it is hard work (and you won’t see many overweight drivers), but it offers the flexibility of working for a day, a week or much longer if you desire. It also brings the rewards of a smile, like those that YaYa receives from the older people he insists on driving for free when he sees them struggling.
Could cycling all the way to the bank be in your future as the startup owner who creates the pedicab rental business? Or perhaps as one of the drivers to tide you over?
For YaYa, we are hoping that what goes around, comes around.