She Can’t Get A Date But She Can Be Harassed By An Uber Driver
Do you ever feel like the most outrageous ordeals always happen to you? Like your friends always get free drinks at a specific bar, but the one time you went there they triple charged you for fingerling potatoes? Or like, your friend met her dream man on Bumble, but you got catfished for the fourth time last week? Or when your friends get discounted Uber rides and women drivers, but your Uber home from work with three bags full of crap results in an uncomfortable-at-best, hour-long ride with a rude-ass-man driver who hits on you and gets vocally mad when you don’t respond? I have a higher-than-average number of unfortunate encounters and all of these have happened to me in the last six months. However, last night’s Uber ride was the worst of them all.
It started out like any Uber ride. I got into the car and asked the driver for my name (Uber recommends this practice! If it isn’t actually your car, the driver won’t know your name) to which he responds, “I don’t know, you tell me,” suggestively. Like I was flirting with him when I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to be human trafficked for taking a car instead of the subway on a 95 degree day. I should have canceled the ride but I was hot and my things were heavy and I was already in the car, so I pressed him for my name:
“Can you just tell me my name please?” “Sarah.” “Right, okay. Thank you.” “You know, you could have just asked me for my name.” “Okay…?” “Where are you going?” “It should be in the app.” “Yes, but where are you going?” “[I give him my address]” “Oh, you’re a Brooklyn girl huh.” “What does that even mean.” “Why are you going to Brooklyn?” “I live there?” “So you’re moving there.” “No, I said I live there.” “Oh, well you just came out of an apartment building.” “Yes. I work there.” “Oh, you’re a nanny!” “No.” “Oh, what then?” “An assistant.” “Oh, you’re the assistant manager!” “No.” “Well what does assistant mean.” “I’m someone’s assistant. I don’t want to talk about this.” “How was your day?” “Fine.” “What does that mean?” “It means my day was fine.” “Oh, I see. You don’t have to be rude about it.”
Honestly. This is verbatim. He then turns up his trap music so loud the bass vibrates through my body in the back seat. I can even hear it through my noise canceling headphones. As I text my friend Lauren, giggling because she’s so funny, he abruptly turns the music off and demands:
“WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY.” “I didn’t say anything.” “No, what did you just say.” “I didn’t say anything!”
Then he turns the music back up. My driver does this three more times during the ride. Each time exactly the same as the last. He’s clearly upset and begins to drive erratically, trying unsuccessfully to pass cars by using the parking lane.
We’re almost to my destination, 50 minutes later, when he stops the car. We aren’t to my destination yet, it’s another block away, but the music is still blasting so he doesn’t hear me when I ask him to “Please take me down the block.” (This is an Uber X) He doesn’t hear me because of his music. I ask again and he turns it down.
“WHAT DID YOU SAY.” “I said my destination is a block away, but it’s fine, I’ll just get out and walk.” “You know, you can’t treat people like this.” “Like what?” “Like I’m nothing to you.”
Now let’s stop and think about this for a moment. Truly, He IS nothing to me. Not in the “you’re a peasant” kind of way, but in the “I don’t fucking know you” kind of way. He is just some guy who happens to be driving the car I have hired to take me home. I don’t owe him my time or attention. I don’t even HAVE to be polite; it’s just generally frowned upon to be rude. However, my Midwestern manners keep me in the car and answering his questions even though I am uncomfortable and potentially in danger. Truly, I just want to sit in the back and listen to my podcast alone without being bothered. WHY does he think that he deserves anything more? WHY does my instinct to not offend override my instinct to protect myself? Or are they the same in this instance? Trapped in a vehicle that I cannot control with a man, who is larger than me, driving while making me uncomfortable; what is the proper course of action to defend myself? Is there one?
“Are you serious? Okay. I’m getting out.”
At this point, I close the car door and I’m walking away. My driver then proceeds to roll down his window to shout at me across his car for half a block. I conveniently cannot hear him over my noise canceling headphones and pretend it isn’t happening. Traffic piles up behind the car forcing him to speed off. I walk the rest of the way home.
It’s instances like these that make me wonder if it’s just me or if it’s this bad for everyone. We’ve read about the women kidnapped and sexually assaulted by Uber drivers, but harassment is still happening. I ignored the red flags and felt unsafe from the moment I got in the car, but took it anyway because I was hot, lazy, and didn’t want to get into an altercation with the driver. While I now realize how dangerous that experience was, my fear was initially felt as anger. I kept thinking: Can you believe that a women-only ride share service is illegal on the grounds of discrimination against men? But I had to sit through that hour Uber with a man who made advances, asked me personal information (he now knows where I live and work, by the way), and then verbally assaulted me when he didn’t get what he wanted? Why should I have to choose between convenience and safety? Why can’t women have both?
After reporting my experience, Uber was happy to hear that I made it home intact and has assured me that they are taking my report seriously and investigating this offense. They even made me aware of my option to contact law enforcement in this instance, with their full support.
But filing a police report against this driver won’t provide an answer to any of my questions: Why? Was I actually rude? Was this my fault for taking this Uber? Am I gaslighting myself as I write this essay? What needs to happen so no other woman has to have a ride like this? How do I deprogram politeness in myself? Why is the desire not to offend stronger than my instinct for self-preservation? Are they actually the same? What other options were there for me once I was in the car? How many other women has this man driven who have suffered the same? Will he continue to harass the women he picks up in his box-on-wheels? Will he show up unannounced at my job or my home? How long will this bother me? How is it that I can’t land a date with someone I am interested in, but can have an Uber driver harass me? When will there be an end to uncomfortable experiences with men that make me wonder about questions like these?
Sarah Sickles is the Founder and Editor of Pink Things.