This evening I had to work late, and took a cab home because I was tired and didn’t want to spend an hour on the train. I got into a cab without thinking much about it. We started down the street and the door automatically locked. I noticed the cab smelled bad: as if someone had been smoking in it. And that it was filthy. I told the driver where I wanted to go the corner of “Sheridan and XXXX”. He said “I’ll take you via Ashland.” I told him I normally go on Lake Shore Drive when I take a cab, but he argued with me, in a very patronizing tone, that he thought traffic would be better if we went his route, and that the last time he took Lake Shore (my route), he got stuck and had to ask his passengers to get out of the cab. Slightly alarmed, I asked “you aren’t going to leave me stranded somewhere, are you?” I would gladly get out and hail another cab, if that was the case.
The next thing I know I’m on I-94 (quite the opposite direction) heading north and feeling quite panicked. And my anxiety went through the roof. He didn’t talk, he just drove erratically and very fast and turned the radio up. He didn’t answer my questions. He finally got off on Peterson and then drove east over to Clark and then to XXXX, running lights and take curves too fast. I was almost in tears, feeling like I was being kidnapped, wondering how to roll out of a moving car without getting hurt. I pulled my cell phone out and had the emergency number under my finger tip. By the time I got home the fare was about $10 more than it normally would be, and I was a mess.
When we arrived, he said “See. This was quicker than Lake Shore.” When I got out, I stood there next to the car with the door open and lost it with the driver, yelling and ripping him a new one. “You NEVER ignore a woman and take her or a route in the dark that she’s not familiar with, and you NEVER refuse to talk to her. You NEVER lock a woman in your car like that! YOU NEVER DO THAT AGAIN. How dare you!!”
I was so upset when I got inside that the doorman came over and hugged me out of concern, afraid I’d been assaulted. He also went out and yelled at the driver once I explained in gulping sentences what had happened.
And now I’m embarrassed. But angry. It just didn’t feel safe at all: very vulnerable in the hands of some strange man who wouldn’t listen. And all in an attempt for some complete stranger to prove a point to me.
Now I recognize these are unusual circumstances, and that the guy was a jerk. But let me be clear to all the men-in-my-life: women experience vulnerability differently from men.
In a society where 1 out of every 4 women experiences rape, you need to learn that women spend a great deal of their time being ‘careful’ and guarding themselves. The world is a potential hazard: so we have learned to be cautious in ways you don’t think about. I have a good friend who finds it silly that I don’t like to walk alone to and from the train stop near my building after dark: he sees it as no big deal–just a couple blocks. He also laughs because I’ll walk way around a parking lot to go somewhere, instead of between parked cars, especially at night, as I don’t like the shadows and feel unsafe. I’ve tried to talk to him about this: that women have a very different perception of what is and isn’t safe… but he never quite gets it. “Aren’t you feminists supposed to be tougher than this?” he asks. Or he jokingly comments “Oh, Donna… you’re a big girl. You could take him.”
I have been quite shaken by the cab incident. And I unreasonably feel foolish about it. I say ‘unreasonably foolish’ because I have every reason to have been shaken.
I had to take a cab again this morning, and found myself in silent tears in the back seat: this time, for no good reason. This time, the driver was polite, asked the route I wished to take, ensured I was comfortable in the car, etc. But my irrationality… my ‘hysteria’… my nervousness was rooted in a real cause.
So please remember: when we ask you to walk us to the train, or out to our cars, or whatever… we are not looking for etiquette. We are not envisioning some romantic perspective on the world, where men hold doors open, throw their coats down in the rain to keep our shoes from getting wet/dirty, always pick up the check, and bring us flowers. We are asking that you acknowledge that the word is a dangerous place: more so for some than others. And to do your part.