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August 22, 2008

Can I drive your pedicab?

August 22. Day 53.

Today's asking was too exhilarating for words.

After an evening of all-you-can-eat Greek food, flamenco and belly dance shows, and rai music at Zorba's, my new favorite restaurant, I headed to downtown to catch the last hour of the bar scene. Mr. A and I had drinks at Bondi and then, as we strolled back to the car, discussing the pros and cons of living in Italy (Him: the Italians, eww. Me: the Italians, yay!), I realized what would make the evening perfect.

"I need to drive a pedicab."

Mr. A, by now used to my strange requests -- motivated recently by this project or, more generally, by my inner wierdo -- agreed to wander around until we spotted a lone pedicab driver who I could accost.

Just a block from the car, I spotted him, pulling around the corner in a tight curve, all sinew and smiles.

I waved him over and Mr. A casually slinked back, knowing it would be easier for me to ask a young bike peddler to indulge my fantasy if my boyfriend wasn't holding my hand.

"Need a ride?"

"Actually, I was wondering something. Could I try driving it?"

"You want to ride this?" he verified.

"I promise I won't steal it."

"Okay! Get in! We need to get out of the traffic." We u-turned into a quieter block as I asked him where he's from -- Turkey -- and I used my only Turkish phrase, "tesekkur ederim," which made him laugh.

Then he pulled over.

"Be careful. You don't have one of these," he said, waving the laminated permit that was hanging around his neck.

I straddled the bike seat and noticed two things. The cross bar was very high -- built for a taller male, of course. And, the pedals were incredibly easy to move.

I started pushing.

For about three years, downtown San Diego has been overtaken by swarms of these pedicabs. From day one I thought it was an ingenious idea, making the city seem a little more fun, a little more cosmopolitan. Recently I've started seeing girl bikers, whose micro-shorts and charming smiles match the guys' built arms and cheeky grins.

When I see a pedicab driver pulling a couple, drunk or tired or lazy or just in love, I just wonder how in the world he or she can. I barely pull myself up a hill. Let alone on a bike. Let alone a bike and a cart. Let alone a full cart. But the drivers make it seem so easy, zipping around like Olympians, or at least happy, energetic young folk.

I was amazed by how easy it was to push the pedals. The cart was weightless, and I flew forward.

But the handle. That was a problem. It turned sharply to the left and turned the wheel sharply, until I thought I might fall over. I braked and recentered the wheel. Then, pedaled again. And it turned to the right.

Finally, I started to get the hang of it. I kept applying the brakes and used all my arm strength to keep the wheel pointing forward, and then I pedaled away. I'm sure that's not how they do it, but it worked for me.

"Be careful!" my pedicab mentor kept yelling. "Be careful!"

Soon, too soon, I stopped. From across the street, Mr. A was smiling -- or so it seemed under the dim lamplight.

Gained: five minutes driving a pedicab, satisfying a long-term curiosity.

And, jottings from earlier today:

Last night I found myself at Rebecca's, a cafe and defacto study depot that stays open nonstop from Thursday morning to Sunday evening. Every time I'm in there, I struggle to categorize its look. It's a large, open space, with a mix of vintage and simply old (those labels referring more to cuteness rather than age) furniture, tall ceilings, a stage. Maybe it's not the aesthetic or vibe that eludes categorization, but the spectre of what the space was, before bring Rebecca's. I could imagine anything from a laundromat to a supermarket to an unemployment office. Hmm.

And as I mused about the layers of this space across time, a flash of insight came.


A modest word with a noble allure, not unlike parsnip or pertussive. A word that could have served in many a conversation. A word to end all words.

Or not.

In any case, sure enough, it's all over google. (Insert disappointed sigh here. And there I thought I was the first to smoosh those two words together. Silly me.) Of course, there were hundreds of instances of re-question, but I'm talking about request-ion. From the Urban Dictionary:


requesting something indirectly by way of a question
note: this is distinguished from a regular question because the answer is usually obvious
"are those peanut m&m's?" (requestion)
"yes, would you like some?"

Mr. A said it strikes him as a very newspapery word. "The Red Cross has requestioned additional supplies in Paris, where NATO troops continue to fight Baguettista forces."

I see it as something polite and tentative, but not necessarily oblique or passive-aggressive (as it seems in the Urban Dictionary). "I have a requestion. Would you mind kicking someone else's chair every time you walk by my table?"

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