All girls who live in the city are, unfortunately, very used to being harassed on the street all day er’day. From the cliche cat-calling construction workers to homeless men telling you to “smile beautiful,” to street vendors calling, “I love you!” as you pass, we’ve adapted to this. Being hassled on the street has become so ingrained as a “norm” in my mind, that when I visit my Mom in her small town and no one on the street tells me I have nice eyes, I actually think, “Wow, I must look rough today!”
All of this just to stress how high my sexual harassment tolerance level has become since living in Philadelphia.
Which maybe explains why I never really gave much thought to the cab driver who offered me a free ride in exchange for sex.
The guy I was seeing at the time had flagged me down a cab after leaving the movies. A few blocks into the ride, the driver decided to start chatting. ”That your boyfriend?” All girls know that in times of creeperness, it is best to say that yes, they do have a boyfriend, no matter what the truth is, so I said yes. A few more blocks, then, “Ever been with a black man?” Oh God, why am I still so far from home? ”No.” ”Well, I’m bigger than your boyfriend you know.”
Now, every girl in the city has been told by at least one black man on the street that he is “bigger than” her boyfriend. I only wish that at those times, I could respond with the clarity of mind and wit of my friend Corey and quip, “Oh? Have you seen his penis?” But in the moment, I wasn’t thinking very well on my feet and just didn’t respond. Until he took it a step further, “I could slip in the back for a minute and show you, then I’ll take you anywhere you wanna go for free.”
Whhhhaaaaat? “I’ll just get out here, thanks, right here is fine,” I stammered. Really? I thanked him?! And c’mon, I’m pretty sure the going rate for some backseat sex is a little more than a $10 cab ride.
Turns out, after talking to my friends about it, creeper cab driver scenarios are pretty common. Granted, all of my friends are gorgeous, stylish young women living in a major city, so my sampling is admittedly skewed. But still.
One morning my friend H was running late for work, so she grabbed a cab. When they got there, she realized she didn’t have any cash and pulled out her credit card. ”The machine’s broken,” the driver barked. Now, drivers say that a lot, just because they prefer to be paid in cash so they get their tips right away, but usually give in if you push it. Apparently this guy’s machine was really broken. ”I wish you’d told me that when I first got in,” H told him, “Could you drive me to an ATM?” He refused and rested his arm on the back of the passenger seat. ”There are other ways you could pay you know…” he winked, peering back at H through the plastic divider. With that, H just got out and walked away, and her ride to work was free – sort of.
Several friends recounted times a cabbie wouldn’t stop honking at them. Honking at pedestrians is a common, and obnoxious, tactic drivers use to proclaim, “Hey, I’m here! Wanna ride!?” Well, no, I don’t, because if I did, I would have flagged you down. But some guys just won’t quit, going so far as to slow down to a crawl and drive along beside us as we walk. ”Hey sweetie/honey/girl, you need a ride?” ”No, I don’t.” ”It’ll be freeee…”
Gross, I know, but it happens all the time. ”Women’s Issues” are a hotspot right now, and alongside topics like birth control and “legitimate rape,” being harassed by cab drivers may not seem like such a big deal. But it is one more reminder that, although women rule the roost in every sitcom, we are still far from equal in real life.