Saturday I was flirting with someone through text between calls. It was very healthy flirting, where we were both energetic about it and it didn’t feel like work. I didn’t cringe at anything he said, and he seemed pretty reciprocal of my attention. This was healthy and awesome and it totally boosted my confidence. I felt great starting my Sunday shift, and the weather was amazing, too. It was like, 78 degrees or something perfect, and fit, muscly men were running around all over town without their shirts on. I didn’t catcall- because that’s over the line- I was simply enjoying the view.
But then things went downhill, slowly and steadily. I was the target of a lot of unwanted attention. I’m not sure if it was the weather, my confidence, or the full moon of the day before (one of the office people suggested this because customers were “being weirdly needy” over the phone), but shit was flying all OVER the place.
I’m going to backpedal a little here and tell you about an awesome bartender who is getting married soon. She’s so excited about it, and all her regulars know about it, and everyone is so happy for her because she’s awesome. I eat at her establishment every couple weeks with a friend and she shows us pictures of her dress and tells us about how she’ll have her hair done and other wedding stuff.
I had a call to pick up at her establishment a few weeks ago. When I pulled up, a man was facing the building with his hands near his crotch, making it look like he was peeing on the building. He staggered a little and turned around, and I wasn’t 100% sure- but pretty sure- he had just peed. I usually have a hard rule that I don’t let people into my cab if I’ve seen they’ve been touching their penis because I don’t want their hands on my interior and I don’t want them handing money to me. If they have a friend with them, I embarrass them by saying this loudly to their friend, and say I will only accept payment from the person who wasn’t just touching their genitals. (note to self: I should restock my supply of wet wipes.)
Moving along. Bride-to-be comes out and tries to shoo the passenger into the cab. He resists a bit because I’m not the company he wants. I look closer at him and remember that I had a spat with him early in the winter because he was yelling at his girlfriend or wife in my cab, which is probably why he goes with a different company. He starts half-hugging the bartender. She is physically pushing on him to try and create distance, mouthing “I’m sorry!” at me for sticking him in my cab. He kisses on her head, trying to get lower to her face as she’s turning away from him, shoving at him. She’s given him $5 to try and get him into the cab faster because he’s halfheartedly complaining that my company is so expensive. I find out later he hadn’t even tipped her during the course of the night.
This bartender was gently putting up with all this physicality because this man is a regular customer and she needs to keep him happy to keep his business… and he tips her like shit. This 60 year old man is kissing on MAYBE a thirty year old bartender who he knows is engaged. He’s taking advantage of the skewed balance of power. She wants to pay rent and save up for her wedding. She’s bowing for this maybe-manageable shit, blurring lines that would be WAY firmer if she were at the bar drinking next to him instead of serving him.
Saturday night I have a man in my cab around bartime. He tells me he’s just signed his divorce papers. He asks if I’m married and I feel like this COULD be on point for conversation so I tell him no, divorced twice. Then he asks if I have a boyfriend and now I regret answering the first question.
He then tells me how to navigate a yield sign as we come up on it in a deserted suburb. This bothers me in so many ways. First, I know how a fucking yield sign works. Second, don’t tell me how to do my fucking job. Third… I don’t want to, “ignore the yield sign” like he’s told me to (which would effectively be the proper action with no oncoming traffic) because I’m a rebel and I hate doing things strangers tell me to do even if I was going to do that thing anyway if that stranger had kept their piehole shut.
Then he tells me how to go around some very obvious and well-marked construction in his condo’s parking lot.
Finally, he asks if I would like to come upstairs for a drink with him.
“No, thank you, I’m working and I can’t drink on the job.”
He presses with, “you could just come up.”
NO NO NO NO NO, I scream in my head. “I need to get back to the office and do my paperwork, then go grocery shopping, but thank you. Also, did you want to put a tip on this card?” He had signed his credit card slip and left the tip section empty.
If I were next to him at the bar and saw that he left his tab’s tip line empty, I would have told him I only date tippers. It actually wouldn’t have even gotten that far. If he had given me any driving advice at all, I would have told him to go fuck himself.
Sunday I am dressed in a t-shirt, no makeup, and jeans I’ve rolled up to three inches below my knees. I have a hoodie with me that I’ll wear once the evening chill sets in. At the beginning of my shift I drive through a local chain coffee place and get my iced coffee. As I’m pulling out, some dude on the street nearly gives himself whiplash rubbernecking me. I stare him down and yes, I am 100% sure he’s completely baffled that a lady is driving a cab. He was staring at me, walking directly away from me, with his head and upper body turned behind him, for nearly 20 seconds.
When picking up a package from a nursing home to take to a medical lab, the short guard on duty stepped into me when he opened the door to let me in. I very deliberately stopped in my tracks so he wouldn’t run his face into my boobs, and pointedly said, “would you like to go ahead of me?”
A regular customer with an account (who is still a stranger to me) long-pressed my shoulder while I was navigating a very busy, notoriously dangerous intersection (First St. and East Washington Ave.). “It’s so nice to have such a beautiful driver!” Later he complimented me on my laugh and again told me I was very beautiful. When I ended up getting dispatched his ride to return home from the bar I dropped him off at I alerted the dispatcher that I wasn’t comfortable taking him home. He was creepy when he was sober, I’d hate to think how he’d behave when drunk. One of the office staff asked if I’d like a note put on his record that I shouldn’t get dispatched his call again in the future. Honestly, the offense wasn’t severe enough to warrant it, but I felt very comfortable in saying “yes, please add that note,” because I don’t want to feel anxious about getting him again. I shouldn’t have to deal with men who are comfortable pressing themselves on me because they’re taking advantage of the skewed balance of power.
This is the point where I put my hoodie on, hoping I’ll get less attention if I look more non-gendered.
To end my night, I had a man who had hip wood-rimmed glasses on out of a new-and-hip bar. I was taking him to an address that he wasn’t completely sure on. “Let me call her and see which building it is…”
“Oh, booty call?” I asked with a chuckle.
“Heh! Yea, kinda!”
In my best dude imitation voice, “Hey can you tell me where you live so I can come do you?”
“Oh, I live in Dubuque! Want my number?”
“OH!… I was impersonating…” Then he starts talking into his phone and getting the building description.
We locate the building and he presses, “It’s only an hour and ten minutes away! Want my number?”
I kind of shake my head a little in disbelief and exasperation. “No, I’m not going to drive somewhere for sex, but thank you.”
“Have fun tonight!”
This last exchange is different than the ones before because he was very polite and offered his number instead of being insistent on getting mine, however it was pretty solicitous. It felt like less of a power play, but still inappropriate.
I ended my night with a lot less confidence because of all the unwanted attention. People preying on my lack of power and desire to pay rent (and buy tacos).
This is why you never hit on your bartender, waitress/waiter, or any other service-oriented job-haver, even if they aren’t on the clock. They’re not answering you with their true autonomous voice, they’re filtering it with the desire to continue to pay their bills. If you absolutely MUST try to date one, leave your number and a VERY respectful note ONE TIME, with a verbal acknowledgement that you understand the balance of power is upset in this situation… then hope for the best. Anything less than that and you come off as a creeper that will ruin their day, even though maybe you had the best intentions.