Even in the face of danger, why do we insist on being nice ladies?
I celebrated my 47th birthday a few weeks ago. It was a big occasion for me because I don’t get out of the house much. I’m caring for my mom full time. She has Parkinson’s Disease, though that’s a story for another day. I made arrangements for my brother to come in for the weekend and cover for me while I took some much-needed time away with my friends.
Because of my mother’s condition, I get to see my friends only a couple of times a year, so when I do get out of the house, I really try to make it count. I had been planning the 40-mile trip to my friend Joe-Joe’s house for over a month. Nothing special, just a few friends, some good food, some boozy cocktails, and some good music, maybe a bonfire after the sun went down. .
I could have driven myself, but I didn’t want to worry about driving home hungover, so I saved up some money and called for a Lyft. When the car arrived, I shoved my computer and my overnight bag in and I hopped in the back seat. The driver seemed warm and friendly.
“What are you out doin’ this weekend?” he asked. He had an Australian accent, which excited me, because I enjoy talking to people from far off lands.
“It’s my birthday,” I said, “I’m heading to my friend’s house for a little dinner and a party.”
Now, to get an accurate picture of what’s going on, I should tell you, I live at the far south edge of my town. Between me and Joe-Joe’s house there’s a huge swath of farmland before you hit the interstate that takes you north to his house. It was only a matter of five minutes before we were surrounded by flattened cornfields that were barely being seeded for the coming harvest. As far as you could see, it was patches of farms and houses with the Rocky Mountains off in the distance.
He continued to make small talk. Finally, he asked me, “Do you like music?”
“I love music…”
Before I could get another word in, he turned on the radio in his car, the bass shaking the windows. It was hip-hop (not my favorite), and as I started listening to the words I was shocked. It was about poppin’ pussy and eating a girl out. Fucking R Kelly, great. A red flag went up, but I didn’t say anything. He turned the music down.
“Hey, you gonna get laid this weekend?”
I squirmed in my seat and looked out the window as the barren cornfields zipped by.
“I…I don’t know.” I pulled out my phone and I texted Joe-Joe:
I’M TAKING A LYFT AND MY DRIVER IS KINDA RANDY
I pretended that I was busy on my phone hoping he would get the hint and just drive, but this guy wasn’t going to be silenced.
“It’s your birthday, you need to get laid.”
I didn’t answer him.
“Hey, you like younger guys?”
“I date older guys, actually.”
“Girls always say that, but you need someone with stamina.”
I texted Joe-Joe again:
OMG…I HAVE SOME TALES TO TELL TONIGHT!
I tried to divert the conversation. I asked him where he was from, how long he had been here, what he was going to do in the future. He gave short answers, but always diverted it back to something inappropriate. It went like that for miles. Talking about getting laid. Offering me his phone number, which I took down in case anything violent happened. He asked me to call him later.
Finally, we hit the interstate. I don’t know why, but somehow, that made me feel safer. There were other drivers around. There were witnesses if anything happened. I don’t know what he finally asked me, but whatever I told him gave him pause.
“Oh,” he said, “you’re one of them smart girls, eh?”
And wouldn’t you know it, just like that the conversation slowed to a trickle. By God’s grace, I made it safely to Joe-Joe’s house. As he sped away, I could hear R Kelly blasting from his speakers. I breathed a sigh of relief.
When I walked into Joe-Joe’s, I gave him a big hug and told him what I had just been through. He cracked open a beer for me and we both balked at the brazenness of it all and we laughed. That night, I must’ve told the story four or five times. Each time, me and whomever I was commiserating with laughed over how crazy it was.
I made Joe-Joe drive me home. I certainly didn’t want to take another Lyft. The entire way, in the back of my head I was thinking, that was so wrong. I just couldn’t shake it.
As of today, it’s been just over three weeks since my Lyft ride went awry. I’ve thought about it a lot. I should have told the driver that I had a boyfriend. Maybe he would have shut up. I should have called Lyft and let them know what happened, but I didn’t want this kid to get deported. I should have told him to fuck off and pull over and call in a decent human being to finish my commute.
Why didn’t I?
This is something I grappled with for days. I finally came up with this: I wanted to be polite. I was raised to be polite. I was raised with manners and part of that was, you never make a scene.
Of course, this whole encounter still bothers me. The fact that I didn’t stand up for myself. That no one I told said, “That’s fucked up, you should tell someone.” That even as I write this I’m worried about the Lyft driver. He was just a kid and I don’t want to get him in trouble. What is that?
Let’s be real. I’m 47 years old. I’ve had my share of bawdy conversations.
This was different though. It was unwarranted and unwanted. We were in a remote area for much of the time and I didn’t feel safe. Why, in the face of danger, do we still want to be nice ladies?