I take Uber for just short bursts, on main roads, and to places I know. When I pop into the hired car, I have three decisions to make:
1. Will I tip the driver?
Answer: Sure, if s/he is fast and handles my luggage if it is an airport trip.
2. Will I care if they take that route over the other.
Answer: The driver sometimes asks my preference of route which is nice.
3. Will I strike up a conversation?
Answer: I would say 4 out of 5 drivers I have had in the Fort Lauderdale area know English as a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th language and sometimes communication is not the smoothest. So I will try, but then trickle off.
There are times where I have done all three. If they seem interesting or interested in chatter and are easy on the eyes, I'll move forward with conversation, learning about them, and telling them more about me. Sometimes it did work out that I am gay just because of the stuff we talk about, tralve, what I do for a living, etc, but I usually don't elaborate unless I feel safe.
How far do you go with your Uber, Lyft, hired driver? Do you get personal? I mean, many rides start or end up at your home, they have your name and number. It feels like you should strike up a convo about something, especially if you are alone.
One woman shared her tale of sharing too much with her Uber driver. I was going to cut her story down a little, but I think it all needs to be read.
So, a few weeks ago I took my last ever Uber ride. I suppose the purpose of me writing this is just to warn others about potentially dangerous Uber drivers.
The whole USP of Uber is that they are extremely customer service based and “friendly”. The problem I have found, as a bisexual woman in a relationship with another woman, that some drivers have gotten way too personal with their questions and asked me totally inappropriate questions about my sex life. I think they feel they can do this as they are encouraged to engage in conversation. However, a lot of Uber drivers here in Brisbane have totally different cultural values and quite often overstep the line.
The most recent, and worst, instance of sexism/homophobia that I have ever experienced, happened a few weeks back. The driver found my sexual orientation abhorrent (due to religious views) and refused to let me out of the Uber for nearly two hours. I’ll tell the story in a factual way as I can get a bit carried away. I guess an important fact to note is that my phone was pretty smashed up at the time, so it was near impossible to use other than to make calls/type basic messages.
So, I ordered an Uber to take me from my home to a bar at 10pm. The ride should have taken 10-15 minutes and cost around $20. I know the route pretty well but often drivers take different routes depending on traffic. The driver was okay at first and we were talking about his home country, Ethiopia, and just general chit-chat. He saw that I had a ring on my wedding finger and asked if I was married. I’m not, but sometime I wear rings on this finger because I’m not superstitious. I told him, after he pressed me, that I had a female partner. And that’s when shit got very weird.
At first I didn’t think much of his reaction. Just the usual gross questions about how we have sex. I’m used to it from Uber drivers. Then he just went quiet. This is when I realised that I didn’t recognise my surroundings. He said we were close to my destination, and as I’m not originally from Brisbane, I suppose I trusted that he knew the way. He began circling a housing estate for about 5-10 minutes. He was telling me we were near a road I knew so rather than being suspicious, I got frustrated and told him he was a shitty driver and he would be getting 1 star. At this point, I messaged a couple of friends saying I was scared of him. Especially after he started telling me that being gay is wrong. I guess the reason he circled around for so long was to disorientate me while he decided what to do.
After I made it clear I was getting angry he drove out of the estate. When we finally approached a well-lit, main road, I tried to get out the car but he sped up turned down a long tunnel. I asked him WTF he was doing and where were we going… when I looked at his face he was totally blank and didn’t acknowledge me whatsoever. I was basically shouting at him and waving my hands in front of his face but he didn’t even flinch, let alone speak. He was totally dead behind the eyes. He then proceeded to drive out of the tunnel onto the highway and still not responding to me, even when I said I would call the police. I didn’t call the police immediately (stupidly) as I didn’t want him to freak out and do something dangerous. I wound down the window and waved my hands out of it, in a futile attempt to get other drivers attention and I thought maybe they’d be able to help. Obviously, that wasn’t likely to do anything but I was nervous…
At this point I called the police. Again, I didn’t want him to know I was calling them for fear of what he would do. So I put my bag over my face and quietly answered the questions from the 000 operator. Problem was, I didn’t know where I was and the final operator thought I was being dramatic and said she couldn’t help me if I didn’t know my location and disconnected the call after 8-9 minutes.
This is when I opened the car door on the freeway at 100km. You’d think this would make the driver stop, but he didn’t. Not for around 5 minutes. I opened the car door a fraction so it wouldn’t blow off, but he still didn’t slow down and passed several exits/stop bays. The scary reason I think he hadn’t locked the car doors is because I genuinely think he wanted me to kill myself. He wanted one less gay person in the world. So still holding the door I called the police again and he eventually let me out. I don’t know why he decided to let me out this time. But I’m so glad he did.
Once he let me out, I was 100% expecting him to drive off but he just stood there, in the stopping bay, staring at me as I ran down the motorway, crying and waving at other drivers. It gives me the creeps to think of it.
The police came quickly and charged him with deprivation of liberty. It was nearly 12am at this point.
The scariest thing I found out after is that he had been a taxi driver for years in Brisbane, so his claims he got lost are total lies. He had been off work for three months before, and the same night he drove off with me was his first day working for Uber. He was also driving me in the direction towards his hometown and the thought of what he was planning had I not got out terrifies me.
He goes to court next week. I have a feeling he will plead not guilty as he went on the news to protest his innocence. Weirdly though, he told the police he couldn’t speak English. He spoke perfect English for the cameras.
Uber reimbursed me the money for the trip. But that’s as far as they have gone to help. In the weeks before my incident, two girls were raped in Brisbane by Uber drivers. What I want from them is cameras in the cabs and also a system that can alert Uber headquarters when a driver deviates from the planned route. I was nearly 30km away from my pickup point. When I looked at the map afterwards, you can see he drove me so close to the destination (albeit by a back route) and then went off in the opposite direction. I’m guessing it was around this point he found out about my girlfriend.
Most importantly, I feel that Uber needs to vet its drivers thoroughly for any kind of prejudices they may have. It is NOT okay to ask me about my sex life. It is NOT okay to ask me if I am in a relationship, and hate my reply. It is NOT okay for Uber to encourage drivers to talk to their passengers and ask personal questions. These drivers pick up all kinds of people from many backgrounds and with many differences. Why would Uber allow people with intolerant views to pick up strangers, and even young kids, without proper vetting?
I really hope this is all over next week, but if he pleads not guilty, it will go to trial 🙁
Do you elaborate too much?
Have you found yourself saying to yourself, "why did I bring that up with the driver?"
Do you bring up that you are LGBT?
Do you have a "no-talk-policy" when it comes to hired drivers?