Monday 24 July 2017

Comment: Please drop me to my door, taxi drivers, I'm lucky I only ran into my neighbourhood weirdo and not a predator

Do taxi drivers realise what they are opening women up to when they refuse to drop them to their door?

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Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

If you live in a city, the probability that you've had an uncomfortable taxi experience is likely.

I've lived in Dublin for years and I've had my fair share of run-ins. I've sat through the standard scoldings for not being able to direct a driver through parts of the city unknown to me with the precision of a sat-nav. I've had to ask for my change countless times from chancers who thought I might become so bored of watching them fumble around that I'd just leave my tenner behind to save them the chore. I've eye-rolled my way through so many undesirable conversations - most recently one with a driver who felt the need to tell me it was "a shame" I didn't have a boyfriend after enquiring about my love life on a day-time taxi journey towards Ballsbridge.

Uncomfortable as those experiences have been, it is not the leery, cranky or mean drivers that I most dread getting into the car with - it is the ones driving around Dublin without a conscience.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, my friends and I clamoured into a taxi on Baggot Street, undeniably pretty merry after our evening.

Two journey stops were requested; the first near my apartment in North Wall and the second stop for the three girls in Glasnevin.

Humming and hawing about having to make two stops, our taxi driver suggested dropping me across the bridge from my apartment to save him the bother of going off-course by bringing me down my road.

After many protests, he did sulkily drive over the bridge, but did not drop me to the door, instead turning his indicators on and pulling in on an adjacent road.

Not having the energy to argue with a man clearly p*ssed off he had to waste two more minutes of his evening, I hopped out of a taxi and was relieved to find myself on the well-lit foot path, empty except for me.

That didn't last long as I turned the corner and made my way down the steps, running into a man who had also clearly been out for the night.

Although I had my eyes to the ground, he saluted me, asked me where I had been for the night, and began to walk alongside me to my dismay.

While I was drunk ten minutes previously, I had sobered so suddenly, very aware of the fact that I was now walking down a path with a man who seemed to me to have come out of nowhere.

Finally turning the corner into my row of apartments, he made a move for his keys. "Do you want to come up for a drink - I have whiskey," he said.

Insisting I was up early in the morning I walked on quickly, so relieved to finally put my key into my own door.

It was only when I relayed the story to my housemate that I became angry about the situation that taxi-driver had put me in. Wasn't it lucky that I had just run into my neighbourhood weirdo who was chancing his arm, and not a predator? If he had been a threat, he would have come across me in an extremely vulnerable position. But it wasn't me who put myself in that position. It was my taxi driver.

A few weeks ago, a young teacher named Lauren called into RTE Radio One's Liveline and told Joe Duffy that twelve taxis refused to take her home from Harcourt Street because the small fare wouldn't have been worth their while.

It seems pretty disgraceful to me that twelve men working as taxi drivers in this city did not look at the simple situation that was in front of them - a young woman, alone at night, asking a driver to fulfil the service they are advertising and give her a lift home. But they couldn't - all they could see was hard cash and convenience.

I'm not tarring all drivers with the lack of morals - for all the bad I've met some lovely people too - ones that have gone above and beyond to do their job. But there is an undeniable lack of empathy for women among many male taxi drivers.

Like me, Laura was lucky to get home unscathed after a taxi driver shrugged off his responsibility and drove on, seemingly having left his conscience at home.

But when you're paying for a service why should you have to rely on luck? Women aren't asking taxi drivers to fend off creeps and tuck us in at night - all they have to do is bring us to our door. I'd certainly feel safer if a bit of human compassion was on the list of job requirements.

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