I was the lucky one sent to accept the award. On my own in Manhattan, I prepared to attend the gala awards ceremony in my little black dress and very–very–high heels. They were Chinese Laundry shoes, and if you know shoes, these are shoes. Anyway, they hurt like hell. So I go to the lobby to get a cab and there is a massive line. A two-hour-wait line. So I contemplate walking. Not in these shoes. So I hail a pedi-cab. This is a form of transportation that I can’t totally applaud–people haul you around with their energy. They bike while you sit in a cushioned rickshaw. But I had no choice. The guy biking me was accompanyied by a woman with her own rickshaw. She couldn’t get a fare, so she bicycled along beside of us. Turns out the pair used to captain tour boats in the Hudson River. After 9/11, they lost their boats, their livelihood, their passion. The pair turned to the pedi-cab.
All along our route, dodging NYC traffic, she would stop and pick up change on the streets. As I watched her pick up pennies, nickles, and dimes on the mean streets of Manhattan, I thought, “God, this tip is going to kill me.” And we talked about 9/11 and how the world changed. We fell in love with each other, laughing and telling stories for the 45-minute trip.
By the time we arrived at the “Big Do,” the limiosines were lining up and my pedi-cab drivers inched in between them. We gaily announced my arrival; tuxedoed men and fashionably dressed women turned to see who had arrived. Me.
I thanked my escorts and launched into my speech about their loss and how I wanted to help and how watching her pick up change had broken my heart and she laughed and said, “What? We use this change to go out to dinner once a week!”
We will never forget.
Please read my story “Above New York” in the September issue. I didn’t think when I was there for the story to find my intrepid pedicab drivers. I wish I had.