She said she was Danielle, a visitor from Connecticut who needed a ride.
Pedicab driver David Criscitiello of Charleston Rickshaw picked her up at a downtown restaurant and ended up paying $1,092 for the privilege of pedaling her around town and showing her the sights.
"Danielle," as it turned out, was an undercover Charleston police officer conducting a sting operation to bust rickshaw operators giving illegal tours of the Holy City.
Charleston police this week released a copy of a 25-minute audio recording of the September sting operation, following a request by The Post and Courier.
The recording, marred by buffeting winds, barking dogs, the din of passing traffic and the clunk and clatter of the pedicab's progress, won't win any Grammy awards for audio quality. It was difficult to hear just what Criscitiello was saying through most of the recording, as he was likely facing away from the microphone while pedaling.
Still, there were a few illuminating moments.
The ride apparently began in the area of State Street and wound down past Rainbow Row, which Criscitiello described as the subject of "countless cheesy watercolor paintings and postcards."
"This is like the most photographed part of Charleston," he told his passenger.
Danielle seemed friendly and giggly, noting at one point that something smelled like sausages cooking.
The ride continued past the Old Exchange Building. "This is actually where a bunch of the slaves were bought and sold, and underneath is the provost dungeon where Blackbeard was (inaudible) for some amount of time."
The passenger then gets a ride past the Battery, where she learns that the confluence of the Cooper and Ashley rivers form Charleston harbor. The pedicab then circles around to King Street, "right in the heart of the old walled city of Charleston."
When he noted that these are "million-dollar homes," Danielle replied, "Must be nice."
While the recording didn't capture the driver offering the terms of his tour, it does have a snippet in which he said, "What I would normally show two people in an hour I can show you in a half-hour."
When The Post and Courier reported on the sting Tuesday, the story drew strong reactions on social media, with several people questioning the priorities of police and some dubbing the incident "The War on Touror."
City officials contend the crackdown was needed because allowing unregulated tours, even by casual methods, would create gridlock and other problems as slower-moving vehicles could bring streets to a standstill when stories get told.
Charleston strictly regulates tourism and issued its first tour license in 1952. To be approved as a recognized tour guide, it requires taking an exam and studying a nearly 500-page "City of Charleston Tour Guide Training Manual" covering hundreds of houses, churches and other significant buildings. The next exam is scheduled for Feb. 10 and requires a $50 registration fee just to take the test. The manual can be found at the Charleston County Library.
For his part, Criscitiello pleaded guilty in municipal court to his "touring prohibited" violation, and he told The Post and Courier he is paying off the fine in installments.
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