Pay it forward

Since I started driving pedicab back in March I’ve been trying to figure out an economic model that works for me. I do the job because I love it, it’s good for my body and good for my soul. I need to make money doing it but if money was my sole motivation I would never do it.

My favorite rides are the ones I give for free, or at least not expecting any money. My second favorite are the ones where people totally over tip. That makes me feel good too. I usually I get a good balance of the two but one day a couple weeks ago I had a day where no one over tipped, but no one got a free ride or under paid either. Everyone paid their fair share and I made as much as I usually do. For some, that would be the perfect system and something to replicate but it didn’t sit right with me. It didn’t seem real. I want greater diversity. I want people to get rides even if they can’t afford it and I want people to feel good about paying more if they can.

What I really want is to be able to do my job without thinking about the money. What I really want is to be able to make a living by just being me and doing what I do naturally. I don’t feel comfortable accepting payment for services rendered because I consider the service to be priceless. The idea that you can get someone to haul you around on a bicycle if you give them enough money feels like bribery to me.

So I decided that no one would get to pay for their ride. I’ve saved enough money that I can do this, at least for a little while. In essence, that ride has already been paid for through the generosity of riders before them. My hope was that even though nobody had to pay me anything they would still want to. Since they couldn’t pay for their own ride I would let them pay for somebody elses. The belief being that we are all in this together and everyone does their part to support the community. It’s like I could never charge one of my friends for a ride but at the same time they have been some of the best tippers. I would just treat everyone like my friend. I thought it was a brilliant and original idea, but would it work?

Actually it’s not that original and it has worked. It’s basically the principle of “pay it forward”. Karma Kitchen and Seva Cafe work that way. There are numerous other examples of people paying it forward in real life.

Since I’ve been doing this for the past week and a half I’ve found it to be a pretty sound business model – at least for me. I’m getting the diversity of riders that I want and my income has stayed pretty much the same. Everyone who wants a ride can get a ride and everyone feels good paying what they can pay, even if that is nothing. Those that can’t pay it forward with money I ask to pay it forward with an act of kindness. Everyone has something to give and if we all do our part we can make the world a better place.

Fags at a metal show

I honestly can’t remember the last time I was at a metal show. You know, a big metal show, the kind where every metal head in town comes out. I’m sure it was within the last year but as I learned Saturday, as I learn every time I go to one of these shows, it’s been too long. I fucking love metal! I love the constant pounding of the double bass drum. I love the screaming guitars. I can’t understand most of the words but I love the passion with which they are sung. This particular show featured classic thrash metal bands Testament and Flotsam & Jetsam along with an amazing band out of Australia, 4ARM

But what I love most are the people, the metal heads! I love the outcasts who have found their home. Decked in leather, long hair and tattoos, slamming into each other and pumping their fists in air; these are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. I was surrounded by smiling happy people listening to loud angry music. It’s almost surreal. It’s hard to wrap your head around but I get it because I get the music. It makes me happy too. When you listen to something that you enjoy, even if it’s angry, it makes you feel good.

It reminded me of a conversation I had earlier in the day. We were talking about Fox News and the people who watch it. I said that some people just enjoy being angry but my friend corrected me. She explained that the people who watch Fox News do not watch it to feel angry. They watch it because they agree with the point of view being espoused and so they like what they hear… and it makes them feel good. Okay, I hadn’t though of it that way but it totally makes sense.

What makes me happy though, is learning something that expands my world view, that tests my preconceived notions, that challenges my assumptions. I like being wrong because in being wrong I am given an opportunity to become a better person.

Politically, the folks at a metal show probably have more in common with the people who watch Fox News than they do with me. It’s a pretty homogeneous group, 90% male and almost exclusively white. I don’t know how many gay people were there. That’s harder to figure out. I don’t even know if anyone would have pegged me as gay in my Iced Earth T-shirt and leather jacket but I was wearing a bracelet with pictures of Marilyn Monroe on it . That should have been a dead giveaway. Not that any of that matters. We were all that for the same reason and that is the only thing that matters. There is no judgement at a metal show.

So to balance things out after three hours in intense rocking out it was time to dance. My group headed down to Hell’s Kitchen a few blocks away for the one year anniversary of Berlin, the indie queer dance night hosted by former All The Pretty Horses dancer turned DJ, Shannon Blowtorch. There shit got a little crazy but no one got hurt and no major life lessons were learned or lost so I don’t feel like I need to write anymore about it. I’ll leave that up to your imagination.


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