I have dozens of strange stories from my Uber driving days. There was the guy who 3 minutes in to the ride told me “not gonna lie to you my man … I’m a gangbanger.” Or the passed-out-drunk off-duty police officer I literally had to help carry from my car to his door at 3 a.m. Or the Bel-Air dude bros who chucked a beer bottle out my car window in the middle of a very crowded Hollywood street. Most of these stories are just good conversation pieces, stories I enjoy telling because they’re funny, but there’s one that isn’t funny at all, and it radically changed how I view sexism, misogyny, assault, and the day-to-day life of women.
Saying the two guys in my backseat were drunk is like someone saying “those NBA players are tall.” Well … yeah. It’s the not-tall ones that are the outliers. And while it doesn’t so much matter that the two guys were gay, the story doesn’t make much sense if I don’t mention that that sexual dynamic was obvious right away. What matters about this story is it was the only time in my life that someone’s behavior felt sexually invasive.
One of the guys in the backseat, shirt ripped for reasons I never understood, started off nicely enough, but it then turned a corner into him lightly but obviously hitting on me. I think I just ignored that it happened and moved on – I certainly didn’t freak out or anything. But the guy realized I wasn’t interested in him, and that’s when things got strange. This guy, who just a minute prior had been friendly, suddenly got very sarcastic and dismissive. Then he ignored me altogether and started criticizing me to his friend in the backseat knowing I could hear. He talked about me in an obvious, sexual way, making it clear he was attracted to me, but that “I was one of those types who thinks he’s too good for people.” And I sat in the front seat and felt weirdly powerless.
When you’re an Uber driving your rating matters, and because I’m me I was more neurotic than most about wanting my Uber rating to be as high as possible (don’t wanna brag guys, but at one point I was a 4.94 outta 5 so yeah, I was a pretty big deal). All that to say is in that moment I felt like I had to put up with this behavior that was creeping me out. I mean, I didn’t, and had an option not to, but I didn’t want to make things worse by calling this guy out, I didn’t want him to get even more hostile, I thought maybe I was making too big a deal out of this, I’ll just get to their place as soon as possible and move on.
Of course those guys gave me a super low rating and nasty comment.
I always feel weird telling this story because it makes me feel weak or overly sensitive. But what really makes me reluctant to share it is because of what I realized two minutes after that ride ended: women go through this every single day of their lives, only they often have less power, are more physically threatened, and have been trained by life just to accept it as a part of their existence.
Again, this is literally the only time in my life I’ve had a casual social interaction turn sexually uncomfortable, and it’s something half the human population has to deal with all the time on a far worse scale. Which is why I’m thankful I had that really uncomfortable Uber moment, because it helped me finally get it, just a tiny bit. It helps me understand stories like the Harvey Weinstein stuff better. It makes me more outraged about “locker room talk” coming from our president’s mouth. It’s why I’ve told every single host at the restaurant I work at that I know our work environment can be a hard place for women to be, and if they ever need someone to have their back I’m there.
It’s not much, but it’s what I can do.
And in case you’re wondering, my Uber rating was just fine after those guys gave me a bad review. People like that never have as much power as they think they do.