“You know, we’re all the way out here in the middle of nowhere. I could just drive off and keep you if I wanted!”
My Lyft driver had a laugh and assured me that he would never do that to a customer, of course—but it was just another notch in my ever-growing belt of awful rideshare experiences. I laughed along with him, because it honestly wasn’t surprising to me; I’ve been through that shit before. It wasn’t until my husband called in a panic to ask me if I was okay that I realized this isn’t supposed to be normal.
I think we’re all familiar with rideshares. It’s basically a taxi service run through an app where regular folks drive you from Point A to Point B. I still remember the first time I heard of them, back in 2014 when my friend recommended we grab an Uber from downtown Austin back to my apartment. They became a de facto part of my college experience because I liked to go places, didn’t like to park, and struggled to comprehend public transit after a childhood spend out in the boonies.
But taking a rideshare as a woman has always come with a requisite amount of risk. You accept that you are, essentially, putting your life and safety into someone else’s hands. These are people who go through a brief screening process but who are generally left to their own devices unless they receive a complaint. And some, like my recent Lyft driver, try to insulate themselves from complaints; the man I rode with this last week wouldn’t let me out of the car until he had watched me give him a five-star rating and a tip. I had to contact Lyft after I reached my destination to let them know that, actually, this guy had been really creepy.
Unfortunately, that’s not the first time a rideshare driver has been weird. I doubt it will be the last, although I’ve now reached the point in my life where renting a car is a legal possibility in most states; I really doubt I’ll be leaving myself at the mercy of someone else from here on out.
There was the time in college where I had a few drinks and then took an Uber home from the concert venue I was at. The driver parked but didn’t unlock the door until he’d asked me if I wanted to go grab something to eat with him right then and there.
Or the other time a driver waited for me to be buckled in before his friend appeared from the third row seat where he’d been lying down; that friend then offered to sell me cocaine and, when I declined, tried to talk me into it with a shoulder massage.
Or the time a driver kept reaching back to touch my knee because he “wanted to see what my jeans felt like.”
Or the time a driver exited his car and tried to follow me to my apartment complex under the guise of making sure I made it home safely.
Or the time a driver told me how much he hated driving women around because they were so hard to please to get a good rating, then proceeded to ask me to get out of his car on the side of the highway with a half a mile left to walk to the airport because there was construction and he didn’t want to drive through it.
Or the countless times a driver has asked me why my boyfriend/fiancé/husband allows me to travel alone because men like that driver could easily take advantage of me. Which is usually accompanied by an assurance that they aren’t one of those men—but, seriously, my luggage is in their trunk, so even if I bailed out, they could find me through my address (and yes, that one has happened, too).
Most of the time, I have decent rideshare drivers. Most just want to have a little chat about where I’m headed or share a bit of their life story. Plenty are more than happy to sit in silence, which is fine by me. I’ve had a handful give me a sales pitch for their side hustle. I’m usually happy to just hang out and enjoy the ride.
But there are enough creeps that use the service that, if I’m traveling a long distance, through an unfamiliar area, drunk, or going out at night, I’ll take the penalty fee for canceling on drivers until I get a woman. I hate to waste someone’s time, but sometimes you just end up wondering if one of those people are going to be the last person you ever speak with—or, at the very least, if they’re going to make you so uncomfortable that your adventure is ruined.
And I hate that I feel grateful that I’ve only been made to feel unsafe, because there are other women who have had it so much worse.