The Deal Mommy

My Worst Taxi- A Follow Up to the “Uber is Creepy” Post

I never thought I’d tell this story on the blog. My worst taxi story is either hilarious or terrifying, depending on my mood in the telling, but it shows me making a stupid mistake. And paying for it. However, a comment on the Is Uber Creepy? discussion (which is lively) led me to realize the story needs to be told.

Mike asked “Are you really worried that the uber driver, whose info you have on your phone and Uber has, is going to take you to a dark alley and sexually assault or rob you?”

Well, yeah. Because last year a taxi driver almost did.

It was in Rome, last August. And to be fair to Uber, it was a licensed yellow cab. I got in a cab stand and told the driver to take me to the Piazza Navona.  It was my last day in Italy and I just wanted to grab a meal before packing up for my flight.  The driver immediately started telling me in very broken English that I was “bella” and “sexy”* but after two weeks in Italy I laughed it off and replied in Spanish (which works most times) that I was an old witch.

*Just a quick aside here: certain attention you expect in your 20s. By the time you’re in your mid-40s with two kids it’s not flattering- it’s just vile. Especially when you’re plus size. There’s a certain type of creep that equates “plus size” with “promiscuous”. I once had a man in Madrid tell me I looked “like I had a lusty appetite” and he wasn’t just talking about food. 

Then he told me his name was Felipe and said, for the first of MANY times “I am Bruce Willis, No?”.  Well, actually Felipe, with your white T-shirt and earring you more resemble Mr. Clean, but whatever dude. The following conversation ensued:

Mr. Clean: “Why you go Piazza Navona?”

Me: “Voy a comer.” (I am going to eat.)

MC:  “No. No.  Piazza Navona no good.  I take you to best restaurant. But first I show you best view of my city.”

Now up until this point it was your normal cab ride with your normal (annoying, but normal) cab banter. We’re in rush hour traffic so I could have gotten out at this point. Which I should I have done when…

he switched off the meter and abruptly turned right, going up a mountain road. 

At this point my radar definitely goes up, but it’s at medium- weird, but not dangerous.  We keep going for about 10 minutes and get to a lookout point.  There is another car up there- a Mom and daughter- and thinking we were together (?) offered to take our picture. (Which was immediately deleted)

Here is where I should have run, but I didn’t…

he picked me up and lifted me onto the wall,

shoving his hands down the back of my pants and grabbing my bare butt in the process. 

Ok, so now my radar is on high, and his hand is on my ass. I grab it and shove it away, which makes him laugh (huge warning) but I still let the other car leave so I’m alone with Mr. Clean who thinks he’s Bruce Willis on the top of a mountain.

What the #@%$ was I thinking?

I’ll tell you. I was thinking:

  1. I’m a soccer mom, not a hot college student.  WTF?
  2. This is a hell of a story as long as I get out alive.

So now my focus is convincing Mr. Clean that it’s time to go. I try to get in the cab and he stands between me and the door, which I feared would happen. And here’s where he sets the terms:

Mr. C: “I showed you most beautiful view, no?”

Me: “yes, the city is bella”

Mr. C: “You are bella.  Now you must kiss me. I show you view, you kiss me.”

(Uh, I don’t remember signing that contract, but if it gets me off this mountain…I think quickly and decide to offer up my cheek.)

Which he takes as an invitation to orally examine my ear. 

That snaps me to my senses quickly!  I shout “NO!” as I would to a dog and maneuver myself into the back seat of the taxi, locking the door. Fortunately he decides the conquest isn’t worth the chase and he dejectedly gets into the driver’s seat and drives me not to the Piazza Navona but to a restaurant in Travestere. The entire time he’s still talking as if we’re on a date and I turned him down somewhere between second and third base!

When we pull up to the restaurant he tells me he’ll be back in 90 minutes to “take you on a night tour of my city”.  Needless to say, I bolt from the cab quickly.

It’s the “almost” that makes the story funny if I choose to remember it so.

I want to make clear that I don’t blame myself any more than I would slut-shame a woman dressed to go out dancing who got unwanted attention. But the bottom line is no one is going to protect me but me and I was stupid, stupid, stupid.

Ladies, watch yourselves. No matter your age or your size, some creep out there thinks he’s got the right to yippie-kay-yay on you.

The Deal Mommy is a proud member of the Saverocity network. 

34 thoughts on “My Worst Taxi- A Follow Up to the “Uber is Creepy” Post

  1. Becky

    For years, I’ve been lying to taxi drivers. Why are you going to Piazza Navona? To meet my husband, of course. Or…my friends are meeting me for a drink and I’m already late (sometimes that even gets a chuckle from non-creepy drivers).

    Another blogger recently shared this tip that I haven’t had a chance to use yet: Make a fake phone call to someone saying that you’re on your way, you’re 10 minutes out, oh and by the way I’m in taxi #99999 with Driver Name but I’ll see you really soon!

    And as a 20-something female, yes, I am used to garnering some attention — but there is a HUGE difference and easy-to-spot between creepy and friendly. It’s simple to tell even in different cultures and in the case of feeling secure or potentially offending a different culture, I always choose my own safety.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Great tips. I’d just gotten so used to traveling in places where that kind of personal safety wasn’t a real issue. Italy was a wake up call.

  2. pfdigest

    Yikes! All I have to add to this discussion is to advise the ladies against taking an unregistered cab in Costa Rica. I was fine as a guy, but he slowed down several times to leer at women and make propositions.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      The scary part is that mine was registered. Being a cretin apparently doesn’t disqualify you at the taxi bureau.

  3. Denise L

    Wow! What a scary situation. I’ve never felt uncomfortable in Rome taking a taxi myself or with my daughter. As a matter of fact, last summer we commented on how many female drivers we encountered! Unlike any other European city we have visited.

  4. kate

    In hindsight, it seems so clear that maybe other decisions would have been better. But it’s hard to do know what to do at the moment, and I’ve made some really stupid decisions traveling also. Glad you are ok, but it sounds like a horrible experience.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Thanks, Kate, and exactly why I decided to tell the story. Hoping someone else will have the alarm bells ring sooner and get out.

  5. Odojoe

    I kinda gave up on Uber when I was in New Orleans during Mardi Gras and Uber cost twice as much as a regular taxi.

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  8. Love to Fly

    That’s horrible and awful and I’m sorry you had to go through that.

    I do feel Uber would have its benefits over a regular yellow cab because there’s a digital audit trail of you taking the cab at a specific time.. In a yellow cab it’s more nebulous in that nothing is really tracked. For example with Uber he could turn off the meter but it’s already all logged.

    Nevertheless this is a crazy story and I’m glad you made it out of there!

  9. Jamie

    You are so brave to tell your story. I’m so sorry it happened to you. Unfortunately, most women have a story like that, though not necessarily involving taxi drivers.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Thanks, and you’re right. Part of the reason I didn’t want to tell it is because I didn’t want to minimize anyone else’s by sounding “poor me”. I know it could have been SO much worse.

      1. Jamie

        I have to say, your story sounds pretty bad. Yes, it could’ve been a lot worse. But… you didn’t know if/when you were going to get back to your destination, and a stranger touched you in a pretty disturbing way. What world do we live in if that is not an experience that leaves people feeling outraged for you. Definitely did not come off as “poor me”. Came off as the kind of thing that could happen to anyone. And the guy pretty much played it so that it would be ambiguous enough if it did happen to come to the attention of the authorities. Scary!
        This just reflects to me on how a woman alone needs to be much more careful. As some said in the other thread, I like Uber Black. My understanding is that these are licensed private car service drivers, and Uber just dispatches them. The one time we took UberX, it seemed weird. Not because I was scared (I was with my husband and two children), but because it was a grungy little car. Like obviously some dude was just driving people around in his car during his spare time. Yes, I know that’s exactly what Uber and Lyft are, it just seemed weirder in real life than it did as an abstract concept. The UberBlack cars and drivers have always been very nice and professional. It’s pricey, though. But I’ll definitely keep using it. A lot of the time when we need a car, it’s not easy to just hail a cab. Or we want/need an SUV, so we do the UberSUV, which I believe is just like UberBlack, but with bigger vehicles. All of this discussion really makes me want to do more research into exactly what each service is and what it means you are getting into.

  10. Farnorthtrader

    Glad to hear you made it out of the situation without even more harm. I must say I was surprised by your aside. I don’t know you or really have a full grasp of what “certain attention” you are writing about, but moms in their mid forties (yes, even plus size ones) can be beautiful and sexy and attract attention as well. I don’t really understand what changes that attention to vile between your 20s and your 40s. I think that if the attention is vile, it is vile whether you are 21 and 110 pounds or 45 and 220. If it is flattering when you are 21, then it should be flattering when you are 45 as well.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      There’s attention, and then there’s leering. There’s a post in this, but a certain class of man seems to equate “plus size” with “easy prey” as in “she can’t control herself with food, therefore she can’t control herself with men”. I call it “the Lewinsky effect”. (KEEPING POLITICS OUT OF IT, just meaning her appearance.) I’ve had men go so far as to say something to that effect to my face. I think the phrase was “you sure look like you have a lust for everything”.

  11. MBH

    Thanks so much for sharing. I had an experience I’ve shared briefly on a few other blogs, but should share here for other similarly situated women. I am in my mid-fifties, plus-sized, and travel alone. I was in Hong Kong last month for my first ever trip to Asia, arriving around 8 p.m. I went to the taxi stand (well, 2x, once to find out HK taxis do not take credit cards, back into the airport to find ATM . . . .), got in the line for the Kowloon area, the cab stand master took my hotel address (Hyatt Regency), gave me the card with my driver’s info on it, told the driver where to go, and sent us away. Traffic was bad (usual Friday night downtown traffic in a big city), and my driver clearly had no clue where this hotel was. He also not only spoke no English, but could not read English (so showing him the address confirmation page did not help). He was frustrated, so when he got to the 17 block of what he may or may not have thought was the right street, he put me out of the cab, gave me all my luggage (2 large suitcases, and carry-on) and pointed up the street. The HR is on the 18 block of a very different street, not particularly close to this one (though they start with the same English letter, I’ll grant you). I kept telling the driver that none of these buildings were hotels–my hotel was 24 stories tall. I kept miming tall and pointing up and showing him how none of the buildings around were more than 2-3 stories . . . . No luck, he pointed up the street, and left.

    I should have insisted, but I was going on very little sleep for the previous 36 hours, and was really too stunned to think of what to do. Anyway, an hour+ later, when I finally dragged myself and my luggage into the hotel, they did take the card and filed a report, but I’m pretty sure nothing happened to that driver. The culture in HK doesn’t seem very customer-oriented. It’s more of a “caveat emptor” culture.

    I like Becky’s suggestion. I’ve used versions of “I’m meeting friends” many times when I was at all uncomfortable, but in the future, I plan to make it an absolute policy to always make a fake call and assure the “other end” that I am on the way. If the driver speaks English, I may even ask if he can give me an ETA to share. It would not have helped in my HK situation, but it would help in many others, and it’s a good policy. Live and learn–what doesn’t kill us does usually make us stronger. (In my case, I’m sure dragging that luggage all over Kowloon certainly cost me several hundred calories.) But, way more important–Keep Traveling! (I have friends I would never share this story with, b/c they already think I’m nuts and/or “very brave” to travel alone.)

  12. Sara

    Wow! How scary! I just used uber a few times this week in Atlanta and I felt very safe. I will be on high alert from now on!

  13. Kelly

    Wow. Twenty years ago I was backpacking alone around in Europe and heard from a couple of people that they would not recommend Italy as a woman traveling alone so I skipped it. Unfortunately sounds like not much has changed. I think it is very helpful you shared your story – anything that helps someone be more aware is always valuable.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Thanks, Kelly. I’ve traveled solo for 20 years all over Central America, Asia and other parts of Europe and no where did I feel as harassed as I was in Italy. This story is one of numerous times on that trip where men crossed boundaries-in public-that would get an American man arrested.

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