health

The taxi driver told me: “Women are like honey. They are put on earth to be eaten.”

Turning his head and leaning toward me, the taxi driver asked, “Is your party over for the night?”

“It wasn’t really a party, just a few drinks with friends — but yes, all done,” I replied, thinking nothing of the small talk in the empty cab.

“Where are you going tonight?”

“Just home,” I said, looking down at my phone, not really interested in talking more.

He continued, “You’re very lovely, did you know? The men like the girls.”

I start to pay attention to the man in the driver’s seat. He’s in his late 50s, possibly even his 60s. He’s olive skinned, just as I am. He has a heavy beard, peppered with grey, white and black hairs. If I had to guess, I’d say he had brown eyes.

taxi driver harassment
His line of questioning became more and more intrusive. Image via iStock.

My stomach begins to feel heavy. It’s that all-too-familiar feeling of insecurity brought on by the seclusion of the cab.

“Stop it, you’re overreacting,” I say to myself, thinking I am obviously misunderstanding what he is trying to say.

I send my husband a text message anyway, a safety net of sorts. “On the way, just on the Harbour Bridge.”

After a few minutes of silence the taxi driver begins again: “You know women are like honey? They are put on earth to be eaten. I want to taste the honey.”

At this stage, I have three options:

ADVERTISEMENT
  1. Convince myself, nonsensically, that I’m still misinterpreting the intention of his words.
  2. Ask for the taxi to pull over and let me out – out, into the dark, isolated and soggy back streets of my suburb.
  3. Keep my head down, avoid eye contact – say nothing.

Out of naivety and the assumption that continues to dictate the decisions of women everywhere – “It’s all in your head” – I choose option three.

“I send my husband a text message anyway, a safety net of sorts.” Image via iStock.

Keeping my hands (and mind) busy I text my husband again, “Please meet me at the lift.”

And with that security firmly planted in mind I quickly and forcefully blurt out, “My husband is waiting for me.”

In reality, he and I know the words that leave my mouth mean so much more – they mean, “Don’t touch me,” “I’m not alone,” “You won’t get away with it,” “I won’t let this happen,” “What are you planning?”

I finish digging at the cuticle of my thumbnail long enough to reach for my wallet.

“Left here.”

“Right at this corner.”

“Here.”

“Stop the car, here.”

In hindsight I now realise I should have paid on my credit card; I should have taken his medallion number and I should have committed his number plate to memory. But not wanting to move any nearer to his body, or any nearer to his skin, instead I decided to slide a $20 note over the gearbox. I left my change behind as he left me with his parting words, “You are very sweet. I love you.”

“Not wanting to move any nearer to his body, or any nearer to his skin, instead I decided to slide a $20 note over the gearbox.” Image via iStock.
ADVERTISEMENT

A month later this experience continues to churn around my mind and it mightn’t be for the reasons you’d think. I’m not ‘terrified’ of that night, I’m not ‘haunted’ by my memories and I’m not ‘scared’ to hail another taxi. Frankly, I’m disappointed by my inaction.

Not long after, when a co-worker sent through an article from The Sydney Morning Herald, I began to feel that sense of dread return.

Late on a Tuesday night, a man was charged with indecent assault and common assault after attacking a 26-year-old woman, known as Emma.

Speaking with Justin Smith on 2UE, Emma claimed the driver continued to repeat: ‘You’re very sweet. I love you. The girls are very sweet. Like honey. The men like the girls.”

As my eyes ran over the words, my blood ran cold. Yes, this phrase has become something of a cliche, but in this instance it seemed appropriate; like all cliches. It contains a valuable nugget of truth.

As they drove closer to Emma’s home, the driver reached over, gripped her arm and attempted to kiss her. He said: “You’re like honey – I’m trying to taste the honey.”

If my blood ran cold, Emma’s must have frozen entirely.

Now, I can’t be certain that Emma and I encountered the same driver – after all, I wasn’t in the car when Emma was assaulted. However, I can say with some degree of certainty that our stories seem to bend and twist in a freakishly similar manner.

ADVERTISEMENT

But our stories differ in an acute way — yes, I was assaulted verbally and Emma physically, but there’s more to it than that. Emma reported the incident to both the police and the taxi complaint hotline, whereas I lulled myself into believing (and perpetuating) the idea that “nothing can be done.”

It is this inaction that has left me ashamed. Emma, you are a better woman than I.

I am ashamed by my inaction. Image via iStock.

For many, taking a taxi or an Uber over walking the streets alone – seems the safer option, a sensible choice. But the reality is I can’t think of one woman within my network who doesn’t have a story about feeling unsafe or being physically harmed by a cab driver.

I’m not trying to suggest all taxi drivers harbour ulterior motives – not by any stretch. I am suggesting, however, that we have reached a stage where the kind of behaviour I have described is shrugged off.

This is obvious in Emma’s story. After attempting to report the incident at a Sydney police station, Emma was told she had insufficient grounds to lodge a formal complaint. In fact, Emma claims the officer on duty said, “other people might have liked it and they might have let it go further to get a cheaper fare.”

Stories of harassment or otherwise by taxi drivers are nothing new. And nor are our responses. Our responses are positively archaic. Why?

Have you ever experienced harassment on the commute home?

Light blue and pink butterfly illustration. You click, we help. Shooting star illustration.

Mamamia is funding 100 girls in school, every day.

So just by spending time with Mamamia, you’re helping educate girls, which is the best tool to lift them out of poverty.

Thanks for helping!

Light blue and pink butterfly illustration. Girl with pigtails sitting at desk writing in notebook. Row of four books.
Three hands holding books
00:00 / ???