It was the most terrifying night of my life.
“Text me when you get home so I know you’re safe,” I said to my friend Daniel as he and I went our separate ways after a party in one of the deepest parts of Brooklyn.
A woman passing by chuckled, “That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.”
She was right.
It is pretty cute the way I tend to mother my friends (even when they are adult men who find it far less adorable). I can’t help it. It’s how I am. I mean, I literally cluck like a mother hen by nature. I have no choice but to fret and fuss over my friends.
Frankly, they’re lucky I don’t sit on them to keep them warm and secure as I while away the hours of each day.
Daniel was headed for the train because he’s a man.
I don’t mean to brush off the males of our species, but there are certain things men can do with even a vague thought of safety that women simply cannot.
When I first moved to New York more than 10 years ago, I thought nothing of hopping on the subway at 1a.m. after imbibing more than my fair share of alcohol.
Now, I make sure to take a cab home, because — while I’m one of the “lucky” ones — I’ve had enough close calls to realize that even if I have to live on ramen for a week in order to save for the fare, that’s still better than enduring that familiar feeling of panic that rises up from your belly through your throat when you sense potential danger on a subway platform amidst the ever-present eerie sounds and shadows.
I’m not rich. In fact, I’m probably closer to poor.
I don’t fanny about New York City all Carrie Bradshaw-like, bemoaning my latest romantic exploits at expensive restaurants and literally burning money on shoes and cigarettes. I’m not that glamorous. These nighttime cab rides are as much of a splurge as I can manage.
Plus, when you live in Brooklyn, traveling from one part of the borough to another usually takes a minimum of two trains and at least an hour and half of total travel time, so sometimes taking a taxi just makes more sense.
Which is why I wound up calling on Uber on the night in question.
I am always polite in other people’s cars. In general, I’m a polite person who lives in constant fear of being judged by others. I know most of the world couldn’t care less about me, but my anxiety has never quite gotten that memo. So in Ubers and taxis, I talk or don’t talk, depending on the driver. I’m happy to sit in silence if that’s the vibe the driver gives off, and I will also gladly make small talk about the traffic for 20 minutes if that’s what he or she seems to prefer.
The night of the party in Brooklyn, my driver didn’t speak to me other than to confirm my address and to verify that I was, indeed, Rebecca.
But then he started driving the wrong way.
“I’m sorry,” I said (because of course, the best thing to do when you’re nervous about something is to apologize for having those feelings), “You’re going West. I live East.”
He didn’t like being corrected.
“I go the way the map says,” he replied. He said it in a way clearly meant to put an abrupt end to the conversation.
Somewhere around 20 minutes later, he pulled his car over and started texting rapidly.
“I know the way to my house and I have my phone on me,” I said. “If you need help getting there, I can help you.”
He waved me off. “I got it.”
That’s when he got on the highway, now definitively heading even further away from my home.
He turned on the radio, looked at me in the rear-view mirror and said, “Do you like to party?”
And that’s when I remembered my first New Year’s Eve in New York City, when I got into a cab and the driver said to me, “You’re lucky I’m a good man, because in an outfit like that — you’d be in trouble with a bad man.“
I looked at my driver’s face in the mirror and felt the way I felt that cold New Year’s Eve years ago. Terrified. Embarrassed. And ashamed.
We were roaring down the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
Here he is, I thought, as he sped along. Here is the bad man.
“Where are we going?” I asked him.
He responded, “There’s a little party at my place, don’t worry about it.”
The very bad man.
“Pull over,” I demanded, no longer sweet, apologetic OR nervous; just angry and locked into fight or flight mode, laser-focused on FIGHT.
“Pull over!” I yelled again, when it was clear he was ignoring me. I was glaring daggers at him in the mirror. He picked the wrong girl on the wrong day.
Or maybe I was the right one. Maybe this is exactly what was supposed to happen.
He took the next exit, and before the car had a chance to come to a complete stop at the very first red light we encountered, I jumped out of the car and started running as fast as I could down the street.
I heard him yelling out after me, and I did NOT stop. I did all of the things you are supposed to do in such a situation. I contacted Uber. I contacted the police. I shook with righteous anger until I spoke to my boyfriend. And then I cried.
Once I was safe, all those other feelings came rushing back. The shame. The fear. The shame, the shame, the shame…
No, I’m not.
When I go out at night, I shouldn’t have to cross my fingers and hope I’ll live.
I shouldn’t have to thank my lucky stars I made it through one more night’s journey home unscathed.
This isn’t a video game. I don’t relish the notion of fleeing obstacles and dangers. I only have this one life, and I am not going to let someone else try to take it from me or bend it to their will.
Maybe he did just want to go to a party, as some people have suggested. So what if he did? I hired him to do one job and one job only: to get me home safely. That ride could have ended in a million other ways. People keep telling me how lucky I am that it ended the way it did.
I was not lucky. I was smart. I was able to think quickly and clearly enough to take action in order to ensure my own safety. And all I can think to myself now is that surviving this world as a woman shouldn’t have anything in common with gambling.
But it does. And my story is my proof.
Image via shutterstock.com.
Comment: Have you ever had a bad experience in an Uber or cab?
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