By Anita Flores
At the beginning of my cab ride, my driver gave me a hearty hello, and I immediately said hello back. I liked his friendly demeanor and snazzy fedora. He was easily 60-65 years old. I said, “I’m on my way back to New York, it’s so hot there now.” I felt like we were old friends because I tend to gravitate towards equally friendly people. Then, he turns around and says, “Wow, you’re beautiful.” I immediately froze.
Me: Oh um, ok.
Him: I’m sorry, am I too much? My wife died 45 days ago. Just trying to live my life.
I glance at his hand, no ring. I don’t even know how to respond to being hit on and then told about his dead wife (but also where was the ring??). I felt annoyed, empathetic, and suspicious. It’s a wild combo.
Him: You have a boyfriend?
Him: In DC for work?
I text my boyfriend trying to avoid conversation.
This one-sided conversation goes on until we reach my destination. He stops to let me out and says, “thank you for riding with me ma’am, did you enjoy your ride?”
I think and I think and I hesitate, but I manage to stutter out in my friendliest tone: “Well, it was good but I, um, well, I wish you hadn’t given me that compliment.”
He appears to be shocked.
Him: Why? I thought women loved compliments!
Me: But, you’re a stranger. I don’t know you.
Him: I compliment women all the time. I thought they liked it.
Me: Random men have said many vulgar things to me on the street. I don’t like it. When you say I’m pretty, it makes me think of all the other things men have said to me. And if I don’t like it, they sometimes get angry with me.
Him: Oh my. Did you think I was hitting on you? I would never hit on you, I’m old enough to be your father. I have a daughter. I thought women liked compliments.
Me: And you are much bigger than me, and this is your car. You have all the power. What if you were hitting on me and you were angry with me because I didn’t reciprocate?
He nods, seemingly lost in thought.
Him: That’s true, and I could lock the doors. So, that’s why you suddenly got quiet? Why do the men say vulgar things to you? That’s terrible.
Me: I don’t know. It’s awful. That’s why I stopped talking to you. I was trying to protect myself, just in case. When women receive this kind of attention and they don’t want it, they immediately fear for their lives. We’re fearing for our lives every time a man gives us a compliment. And sometimes when I don’t answer, they call me a bitch, they tell me I’m ugly, they follow me, screaming at me.
He can’t believe it.
Him: I’m sorry.
We sit there in front of my destination, for 15 minutes, talking about his daughter, who is my age. We talk about my dad, and I tell him that my dad is in the early stages of dementia. I tell him that maybe I’ve summoned the courage to be honest with him because he reminds me of my father, who also has a warm, friendly demeanor. The dynamic is different now. He pulls out a book about herbs.
Him: Here, take a picture of this book. There’s herbs in here for dementia. Tell him to take ginger! Ginger is good for dementia.
I say thank you and smile to myself, thinking it’s thoughtful yet silly that he wants to help me in this moment, even though ginger will not do a damn thing. It feels like something a sweet, old uncle would do. I tell him, “I can’t believe that I told you the truth and that you listened, and that you apologized.” He says that it was nice to meet me and asks, “so, will you leave me a nice note on the app? Will you give me a good rating?” I laugh that I will, and I do.
And now I think to myself how incredible it is that I either made a human connection and changed the way a person thinks OR this old perv took back his creepy comment and made up a fake dead wife so he could get 5 stars.
This post appeared first on Anita’s blog. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter too.
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