Lifestyle

Austin's Pedicab Drivers Tell Their Worst and Weirdest Customer Stories

Published On 09/13/2016 Published On 09/13/2016
Austin pedicab
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

Whether they’re ferrying us home from festivals, playing chauffeur on our late-night pizza pilgrimages, or helping out when we seriously can’t walk another block in heels, pedicab drivers are the unsung heroes of the night. They play an integral role in making Austin a more fun, safe city to live in or visit.

But while they’re busting their butts to get passengers from Point A to Point B (and despite the fact that they swear most passengers are actually pretty great), sometimes all they have to show for it at the end of the night are bruises, crappy tips, and some seriously disturbing stories. To help you understand the struggle, we’ve gathered the strangest and most disturbing customer anecdotes from Austin pedicabbers. Read on… and don’t be that guy.

Don't mess with Wonder Woman

So I dress up as Wonder Woman -- I’ve been doing that for five years in Austin.

One time, I picked these guys up outside of Rio, and I had negotiated a price ($10 each) to take them back to Brazos and Sixth. We go down the alleyway, and as soon as we do, one of the guys slaps me on the butt.

I said, “Dude, that’s not cool. I’m your driver, keep your hands to yourself.”

I’m on Sixth, going up the hill, and the other friend does it. I said, “This is ridiculous. I’m going to drop you off here,” and they’re laughing, and the other guy slaps me again really hard.

I said, “This time, y’all are playing me 20 bucks apiece, and I’m dropping you off by the police.” I’m trying to make it past the light, and I can feel these guys adjusting, and I know they’re going to run for it. One was quite a bit taller than the other, and the tall one was on the left and the other was on the right. The tall one took off, and I grabbed the other one by his shirt and twisted it around in my grip so he couldn’t get out.

Meanwhile as this guy ran, there were 15 people from every which way in Austin who tackled him. Then I saw a taxi driver get out and taser him. The other guy, while I had him, punched me in the face. He got out of my grasp and he ran, and -- you should’ve seen -- there were like five guys on top of him. All these people were screaming, “Don’t mess with our Wonder Woman!” and kicking him. He takes out his wallet and throws some money at me and I yell, “Never fuck with Wonder Woman!”

It showed me that the people of Austin take care of the pedicabbers -- we really are part of the culture and a lot of the locals take us and appreciate us, and that’s really nice.

-Sarah Y. (@wonderwomanATX)
Pedicabbing: 5 years

Tickle, tickle

Back in the day when West hadn’t blown up and gotten all California yet, Kung Fu was our hot spot to get rides during what we call Power Hour (the hour between 2-3am when everyone’s leaving the bar). These two guys walked out and said, “Take us to Kingdom.”

I get them in my cab and I’m taking them to 4th St and there aren’t any lights, it’s really dark, it’s the end of the night so I’m really tired. I’m leaning forward on my handlebars, and I feel a tickle on the small of my back, so I turned around really fast, and they were just leaning back in their seats with their arms folded, acting like they were talking to each other. I’m like, “OK, I wonder what they’re doing. It’s dark, I don’t feel safe...”

I turn around and 15 seconds elapse and I feel the tickle. I turn around and the guy has a rolled-up bill and he’s trying to do a line of coke off the small of my back. I was super-sweaty, so they knew the coke was going to stick to me -- I don’t know what the thought process was, but they were trying to do blow off me.

I was like, “What the fuck are you doing?! What the fuck are you doing?!” and I stop and I go, “You need to get out of my cab right now. This is freaking me out, I can’t do this.”

And they’re like, “Motherfucker, you’re going to take us to Kingdom or we’re gonna kick your ass and throw you in a dumpster and ain’t no one gonna find you.”

And I was like, “Oh god, OK, I better take them to Kingdom.” So I finish the ride, I take them to Kingdom and they’re refusing to pay me. Back then there was a real camaraderie between pedicabbers and there were a number of cabbers just sitting around so I gesticulated wildly and they ran over and got them to pay me.

I felt a little violated after that.

-Michael T.
Pedicabbing: 4 years

Acting trashy

This girl gets on my bike and she’s trying to flirt with me, so I’m just being a good sport, going with it. Then this guy gets on, and it turns out it’s her husband. She keeps hitting on me, trying to grab my ass -- full scoop -- right in front of her husband. At this point, I’m trying to ignore it and do the ride.

So, we get to where she wanted me to bring her and says it’s not the spot. This happens like two more times -- “Oh no, this isn’t it either.” Clearly, they had no idea what they were doing. Then she starts arguing with her husband and punching him in the face. I told them to knock it off or I’ll kick them off the bike.

Finally, we pull over at the fourth place she wanted me to go after taking her up this giant hill. I said the ride’s over, and the girl actually refused to get off my bike. Turns out it’s her husband’s birthday, she’s punching him, and it took another 10 minutes for her to get out of the cab. I told her I was going to call the cops, and she finally gets out and ends up leaving a bunch of trash there, and $128 and a Macy’s gift card in the pile of trash.

Then I saw her the next day with another guy.

-Larry O.
Pedicabbing: 4 years

Tuck and roll

I picked up this guy, and he says he’s a war vet, and he doesn’t look too high, but he’s definitely a little bit fucked up, and he says take him to the nearest tattoo parlor so he can get his free tattoo. Once I start going, he goes, “Wait! I gotta go pick up my friend!” We stop and get his friend, and I keep asking him, “What tattoo shop? Where do you want me to go?” And he says, “I don’t know, just go!” So I’m peddling, but not very quickly.

We were headed towards Hotel Van Zandt, and he dips out of the cab, tucks and rolls into the middle of the intersection, and starts running. The other guy was like, “I have no idea who that guy was.”

Weird night.

-Scott D.
Pedicabbing: 6 months

Courtesy of Patchen Preston

"We think she's on bath salts"

So, I’ve heard of bath salts, but never really encountered anyone on them. Thanks to pedicabbing, I now have a firsthand experience.

I was doing my last run, and I got to Sixth and San Jac and turned south to go home, when outside of the bar was a gorgeous girl sitting by herself on the sidewalk, which is always a red flag for me, with two guys. I pull up, and the two guys in cowboy gear immediately come over to me and say, “We want to make sure she’s OK. Can we pay you to take her home?” I turn down the money and am trying to figure out what’s going on with this girl. She gets up and is coming up to me talking incoherently, and her eyes are covered in eyeliner and makeup and it’s just running down her face.

That’s when the bartender comes out and says, “Oh, by the way, we think she’s on bath salts -- she tried to claw someone’s eyes out earlier.”

The guys think these two other girls are her friends, but they don’t seem to care about her. I need to figure out how to get her home because she’s definitely going to get arrested. She wraps her hands around my bicep, clawing my skin with these long nails. I tell her to let go, and she backs up, then eventually starts to claw me again, and I convince her to get in and sit down. Finally, I have her and her not-quite-friends in the cab. Crazy girl is screaming and wailing about something and not making sense, and we start pedicabbing.

I book it and eventually we get to this car that’s waiting for them with two girls who look tired and annoyed.

Bath-salts girl is standing up, and I’m trying to figure out how to get her out of my cab and into the car. I come around and wrap her body into a fetal position so I can get under her knees. I pick her up and put her in the backseat behind the driver, and put the child lock on.

Then I get back on the pedicab, and hear this loud screaming. I look back in the car and she’s just clawing the face of the driver. Then I’m in military mode and force her to release the driver’s face, get her arms in, and wrangle her under the seat belt.

They drive off and I watch the taillight, like, what just happened? That is officially the weirdest shit that has ever happened to me. There were a bunch of people who watched it unfold, and I casually looked over and said, “Don’t do drugs.”

-Danielle D.
Pedicabbing: 4.5 years

Instant karma

I was picking up a ride from Trinity and Sixth, and I had a real asshole who wanted to go from Downtown to West Campus. He kept saying stuff like, “Oh, I’m going to pay you lots of money.” I drive him all the way, and when I get up to Rio Grande, when I got to 18th, he just jumped out and ran for it, and as soon as he did, he got hit by a cab and he flew up and went into the curb. It was instant karma, so I believe in it.

-Dominic Z.
Pedicabbing: 6 years

Tip for the tip

These girls came up to me and they’re like, “Hey, will you do something?” I ask what, and the girl goes, “Show us your penis!” I’m like, “No, I’m not going to show you my penis, but one of these guys is definitely going to.” I look over, and one of the guys is already taking off his pants. He’s thinking this is his chance.

They end up getting into my cab, this is going to be my last ride, and they keep asking me, “Show us your penis!”

And I’m like, “Psh... I ain’t no ho.”

-Tom F.
Pedicabbing: 2½ years

Total shitshow

This past New Year’s was going great, I even met Cory Matthews [Ben Savage] and got a picture with him. It got to be late and I’m about to head to the shop when I see people outside Eddie V’s. One of the girls has her scarf wrapped all around her head, which I think was very strange. I asked the guy if they need a ride and he says they want to go to the W. He picks up the girl with the scarf wrapped around her head, and she’s sandwiched in the cab between.

She’s struggling to stay upright, and I start heading toward the W, and I get this waft of …shit. So I think to myself, “Did I run over it? Did one of them step in shit?”

I ask about their night and everything. The guy seems stone-cold sober and says it’s been an awesome night, so I assumed everything was fine, and we get to the W, where the valet area is very dark. I drop them off and the guy helps the girl out of the cab, gets her up and leans her against a post at the valet area, he pays me and I ride off.

Later, I’m at a stoplight and under a streetlight, and I look back in my cab and I see there’s shit smeared on the car seat. This girl was wearing a skirt, so she didn’t shit her pants -- she shit her skirt.

I think it happened beforehand, and she had this scarf wrapped around her head because she was humiliated. Looking back, I think they just needed a ride and tried to play it off, because obviously I wouldn’t have taken them. I think that was really dick of them to not tell me what happened. Then, at the end of the night while everyone at the [pedicab] warehouse is drinking beer and telling stories about the night, I’m left to clean up the shit.

-Garren H.
Pedicabbing: 3 years

No refunds

It was two years ago, and I was at the W, right outside the valet, and a guy and girl come up to me and asked if I could take them to Star Bar. At first I just thought they were a couple, looking back she definitely was dressed provocatively.

So they got in my cab and started bickering -- the tone was very tense, and it’s revealed that the guy is really frustrated, and asking her, “Hey, why’d you leave me?” She said, “You’re acting like a jerk, I want to meet up with my friends,” and he said “You’re on my time right now -- I paid you.”

They’re talking like I can’t hear anything, and eventually it’s revealed he paid her $1,000 and she already has the money, and he’s trying to convince her to come back with him to the W bar. We finally get to Star Bar, and he pays me double what I’d normally get, and I stay and continue to watch the interaction. She goes in with her friends and he follows. Then he comes out a few minutes later, looking around like, “Shit!”

He hails a taxi and goes back to North Austin. She got the money, he didn’t get his end of the deal, and he took off. I guess it wasn’t a horrible customer service -- because I got paid -- but listening to their interaction, yeah, that was insane.

-Garren H.
Pedicabbing: 3 years

One dollar? No dice.

This was the Sunday of F1 maybe three years ago. I picked up this guy, and he was getting kind of handsy. I’ve got a system: the funny, crack-a-joke warning; and then it goes directly to “No, I demand your respect, I don’t need your money.” If they don’t behave after that, they get the boot.

I give him the regular warning, like “Don’t make me turn this vehicle around!” and joke and pull that card. He was pretty out of it, and after a few times of him hitting my butt, I pulled over and said, “This is the end of your ride.”

In a stupor, he said he didn’t have any money. I told him to pull out his wallet to prove it, and saw his credit cards. I told him I take credit cards, and I tried to be as friendly as I can, but he basically refused to pay me. I said, “Do you want me to call the police?”

Then he pulls out a $1 bill and gives it to me, and I was so pissed. I crumpled it up, threw it in his face, drove away... and ran over his foot.

-Kasey H.
Pedicabbing: 4 years

Alfie Photography/Shutterstock

Crack up

I had a 60+-year-old woman dipstick her finger into my sweaty asscrack right before I dropped her off at one of the nicer steakhouses Downtown. I recommended she wash her hands before the appetizer hits the table.

I’ve also had not one, but two couples on two separate occasions, decide to get a divorce in the back of my cab. I don’t think it was anything I said, but it did make for the longest, most uncomfortably silent rides of my career.

-Adam F.
Pedicabbing: 4 years

Pissed off

I was giving a ride to a pair of girls one night, and the more inebriated of the two girls kept making these kind of lewd passes at me, essentially propositioning me. The thing is, she had a huge rock on her finger -- this huge chunk of ice of an engagement ring, and she really just gave no fucks.

This was in the days before Square and other mobile card payment options and they had no cash, so I was swinging them by an ATM machine before taking them to their final destination. The other girl, who, while still not sober, was a bit more together, steps off the pedicab to go to the ATM.  Now the potty-mouthed girl with the pension fund on her hand stumbles out and squats down near her friend, at an ATM machine that is right off of Dirty Sixth. I thought to myself, “She looks an awful lot like she is taking a piss,” but then I realized there was no way, we were in front of tons of people on a busy street and she is wearing blue jeans, no way is she doing that!

The slightly more sober girl has now, after several tries, finally managed to successfully operate the ATM machine and is returning to my pedicab. She calls to wasted McRockhand to get up and get back in the cab. I'm calling to her too, in full-on babysitting mode at this point, "Come on girl, time to go." She finally stumbles into an upright position, and it's at this point that I realize that her perfectly fitted designer jeans are completely soaked in piss! Apparently this girl decided to pop a squat right in front of God and everyone with not a care in the world that she was still wearing pants!

At this point, I've gone from slightly annoyed to a not-at-all-happy camper, yet before I have a chance to protest, she is already back in the seat of the pedicab. I'm now taking them to their final destination, and even though this girl is so far gone she doesn't think to pull down her jeans before taking a piss, she is apparently hip to my mood. She manages to slur out, "Tha' fuck izz wrong with you? Why don't you wanna fuck me?!"

Girl, I'm not even going to begin to count the reasons...

-P.P.
Pedicabbing: 12 years, on and off

Watch your back(pack)

It was close to around 2am at The Ranch on West 6th when three guys jumped in my cab and told me to head to a very nice apartment/condo complex near Zilker Park. I was relatively new to pedicabbing and, rather than using a fanny pack to keep my money and phone close to my person, I had a backpack where I stored all my valuables. The guys were funny and seemed nice, so I had no reason to worry that anything bad might happen. Halfway through the ride, they requested I change the music. I pulled open my backpack, selected a different playlist, and put the phone back. Big mistake.

Going up the walking bridge over Town Lake towards South Lamar requires a lot of energy -- standing up, moving around, not really aware of your surroundings -- just focusing on getting to the top of the bridge. The guys were very quiet for this portion of the ride, and I would soon discover why.

When we finally arrived at their destination, they asked the price and then they handed me a debit card. I reach into my backpack for my Square reader and phone, and they're not there. My wallet containing all the money I had earned that night is gone as well. I then notice one of the guys starts suspiciously walking in the opposite direction of the residence and, without hesitation, I take off after him. He plays it cool and acts like I'm overreacting and that my wallet and phone must've fallen out.

I was a year into the job -- I've never lost a dollar or a thumbtack. What happened next was my saving grace. I have a distinct ringtone/text tone. I hear my tone and look to see the guy's pocket light up.

"That's my phone!"

He reaches into his pocket.

"Oh yeah, I found it on the ground and was gonna give it to you."

"Please just give me my wallet, and I'll let you guys have the ride for free."

The next half hour basically consisted of them claiming they didn't rob me, me threatening to call the cops, them explaining to me that they were high-up Army officials so who are the cops gonna believe, and them finally giving me something to compensate for my lost earnings when the cops were minutes away. The cop showed up and asked if there was a problem, and I sheepishly put my head down and said no. Needless to say, I got rid of the backpack and now ride with a fanny pack to protect my valuables.

-Ben H.
Pedicabbing: 2½ years

Kiss and tell

One night I had this girl come up, it was one of the coldest nights, and she wanted to go to Lamar near 24 Diner. I got her in the cab and we started to ride. She was in a decent mood, kind of jovial. I said, “Do you remember me?” and she says no, and I told her about how she’d made out with me last week. And she said, “I kissed you?” and she started crying and says, “I’m a bad person. My boyfriend is gonna kill meeeeee.”

So I told her to calm down and took her to Lamar, and it turns out she’s way by MoPac -- way out of my range -- but I take her. She’s upset; I just want to get her out of her cab. That’s easily a $40-dollar ride, and she gets out and says, “Oh, wow,” and realizes she didn’t have her phone or her wallet. That happens all the time.

-Mario V.
Pedicabbing: 2 years

Slaphappy

I was waiting at Summit, and this guy was being pulled out by the bouncers. Probably early 20s, they’re kicking him out, and he’s like, “I need a ride, bro!” Those are the customers you don’t like, but I’ll take his money, whatever.

I get him in the cab and he’s still hyped up, and the entire ride, he’s yelling at people: “The hell with you!”…“Fuck you!”…“Your girlfriend’s ugly!”

I told him to sit down and be quiet, but you’re out there enough, you know something’s going to happen, and he does that all the way to the Sheraton. About three blocks before the Sheraton, there are some guys, and he says, “Hey bro,” and greets them, and then throws out a couple gay epithets.

We keep riding, and I look back, and these guys are chasing us. Then one catches up, and he stops right as he gets to the cab, and just slaps the shit out of him.

It was one of those weird things -- and that guy got him bad.

-Mario V.
Pedicabbing: 2 years

Puncher's chance

One of the worst ones I can remember, it was these two guys I picked up, and I didn’t have to take them far, but they were pretty stumble-y. I get them to the place and they try to stiff me. I said, “Hold on, that’s not cool.”

Anyways, they don’t like that much and one decides to take a swing at me but it was this Matrix-like thing and really slow. I just stepped out of the way like a karate master, and he stumbles and gets really mad. Then, these two dudes standing outside the club walk up to me like, “Hey man, is everything cool?” I turn around, and it’s these two guys I know from high school, and they kind of intimidated the one guy and the other guy who was trying to stiff me into giving me more money.

Pretty much immediately after, this other guy flags me down and gives me a ridiculous amount to take him back to his hotel room and wait for him while he gets weed or something, and that totally made up for the two assholes who tried to stiff me.

-Jedidiah R.
Pedicabbing: 5 years

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Sam Sumpter is an Austin-based writer who clearly lacks the patience, quad strength, and social skills to cut it on the pedicab circuit. Follow along as she takes on Austin by foot: @sam_sumpta.

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