Given that you’re on your way to an evening out for some dance “therapy”, it seems a good idea not to get yourself wound up with all the stresses and strains of driving yourself. Why not get someone else to do the hard work for you – you’re thinking stretch limo, pleasant taxi ride….very sensible. Myself and a friend, however, took the ecologically sound but frankly idiotic decision to take a rickshaw to the venue of our choice.
Looking back, when a man appears out of nowhere on a London street riding a bike with a trailer and says, “Would you like a ride in my rickshaw, ladies,” a firm “no” would have seemed in order. And in retrospect the fact that he had a little of the look of Clint Eastwood in “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” – but without the hat, and the poncho, and there was no tumbleweed, actually –alarm bells should have rung. I am sure, however, that his discarding a half smoked cigar and grinding it into the ground in a threatening sort of way is simply my memory playing tricks.
Like really naive lambs to the slaughter, we embarked on our journey. The blanket and the seat gave off the not-too-faint aroma of week old tikka masala – but hey, my car is full of chocolate wrappers, what can I say! It started off pleasantly enough as he had to pull us up a hill; we exchanged a few comments, and giggled when we hit some cobbles….mistake…some terrible evil winding up gene took hold of our driver and we suddenly veered off into a side street, with cobbles and BOLLARDS. He cycled in and out of the bollards like he was on a road test for Top Gear; he cycled very fast. We screamed. He speeded up.
Then we pulled into a main street with traffic; he slowed down; we stopped screaming (it doesn’t do to scream loudly when a man is sedately pulling you in his rickshaw in central London – you can look kind of silly). Then obviously bored, he pulled off into a downhill side street with more cobbles, then more and more with cobbles, bollards and (obviously liked to live on the wild side) some moving cars… It was like that Indiana Jones film in the mine with lots of screaming, screeching, and periods of eerie calm. (My friend was a little worse than me, as she’d spent most of the drive into central London trying to throw herself into the back of my car, shouting “pedestrians, pedestrians!” She was also unnerved by my habit of accidentally pulling into side streets and saying “whoops”, don’t know where we are, but we’ll get there eventually”. So I suppose it was like déjà vu for her…..)
By now the gentle breeze was whistling past our heads like a force ten gale, and our eyes were beginning to pop……then as quickly as it started it finished…. He pulled into the main road and screeched to a halt (if a man pulling a rickshaw can actually do that) outside the club in front of a long queue. I was expecting him to tip us onto the pavement, but he didn’t…
He helped us out with the look of a boy who had trapped some little girls on a roundabout and spun them round and round till they were sick….. We got out with all the dignity we could muster. Remember Bridget Jones arriving at the hotel for her mini-break with Daniel Cleaver – our hair looked like that, but at least she didn’t smell of week-old curry.
We tottered to the back of the queue as he cycled off into the distance looking for another victim, sorry, fare, and leaned against the wall, trying to breath. And we hadn’t even started dancing…
And the moral of this story is….don’t let the rickshaw take the strain. Just walk.