Reposted from my other blog: UberliciousNYC: Lady Cab Driver
It always cracks me up when someone is excited by having a lady Uber driver. It happens about twice a week that a person gets in and makes some type of grandiose, hype exclamation that I’m ubering them around the city. I get everything from “Wow… I’ve never had a lady Uber driver!” to “I Uber several times a week, for years now, and you’re only the second woman I’ve gotten!” Then there’s the parent shushing a kid who has one hundred questions about why “SHE” is driving them home. Said parent ultimately chooses to make it into a teachable moment about women being able to do so many things. My favorite stamp of approval came when I picked up a family from the Cherry Blossom Festival at Brooklyn Botanical Garden. After getting the family home to the Upper East Side quicker than their other family members’ Uber driver by using the Brooklyn/Manhattan Tunnel, the kid leans over to her grandmother and says, “Good thing we have a smart driver! I like her!” I get it, though. As of last year, only 14% of Uber drivers in the US were women, so though that number is increasing, it’s still not likely that one would have a woman driver picking them up all that often. When I went to acquire my TLC license (which is needed to drive Uber here in New York City), I was one of two women in the room filled with hundreds of men. I found it hilarious when I went to the counter to hand my documents over to the clerk who responded, “It would take a woman to have all of the documents in order!” He had just sent the three men ahead of me away to get their stuff together.
The number one question I get from passengers has to do with how safe I feel driving Uber. I usually tell them that in the months that I’ve been driving, I’ve never felt that I was a target for being attacked, nor have I been concerned for my safety. I find it quite liberating, to be honest. There’s a certain bossness that comes from owning the road on your terms. When asked about safety I always laugh that I have a Mace pepper spray readily available at arm’s length, in the event that someone should get crazy, but I never feel the need to reach for it. They chuckle back that they understand and wish me safety in the most sincere of ways. I’ve read a handful of reports where women drivers in certain cities around the country have been accosted by drunken passengers or have to assert themselves a bit more forcefully, so I’m always aware of the possibilities and risks. Yesterday evening I ended up in Bushwick when a female passenger got in. “Wow! Yes! A lady cab driver, I love it!” She was young and white, and mentioned that more often than not Uber drivers have come on to her or said inappropriate things in response to her warm chattiness as a friendly rider. Apparently after mentioning to one driver that she had just worked a twelve hour day, his response was “Too bad Uber drivers can’t give massages.” Certainly a creepy response, if nothing else. She said that it made her uncomfortable but she just stopped talking to him and gave him a one-star review. I asked if she reported it to Uber or at least left a complaint along with the one-star. She hadn’t. I urged her to always notify Uber immediately after an incident if anything during a ride seems less than copacetic. Especially at this point where there are increasing reports of women being assaulted by Uber drivers.
A quick Google search of the keywords “Uber” and “sexual assault complaints” will highlight how much of a problem this has become. In March, Buzzfeed exposed from a leaked source thousands of complaints that Uber had received between 2012 and 2015 that contained the keywords “sexual assault” or “rape.” In response, “the company said it could not immediately provide internal statistics for the numbers of rape and sexual assault complaints on its platform,” and that “a 24-hour review by Uber’s legal, safety, and data teams concluded that the rape ticket counts obtained by BuzzFeed News are ‘significantly overstated.’” They also went on to clarify that “of these thousands of tickets returned for the keyword ‘rape,’ five meet Uber’s standard of an actual incident related to a trip.” As the laws pertaining to Uber and other ride-hailing app companies continue to take shape, a federal judge recently ruled that the company may be sued over alleged sexual assault. During one particular hearing, Uber moved to dismiss a lawsuit claiming that drivers are independent contractors, therefore they, as the partner company, were not responsible for the unlawful actions or violations against passengers. The judge, however, rejected dismissing the suit pointing responsibility back to Uber citing the “nature of the employment relationship” between the company and its contracted drivers.
But, aside from safety concerns, which will always be prevalent, I like being one of few women who choose to drive Uber. I love that some female passengers are disarmed by my presence. I like that my male passengers often have engaging conversation during a ride as a result of their intrigue. Because I talk about being a girl following her passion off the beaten path, many passengers are moved to leave generous cash tips. I have another blog called Archaeologist of Love (because I dig love stories), so I’ve talked romance and relationships with passengers, both men and women, and appreciate their insights on matters of the heart. I’ve had a few guy passengers that I’ve found incredibly attractive as well, but never cross the line by asking if they’d like to stay in touch. But, you never know. Every great romance starts with a meet cute for the ages!
My favorite moments as an Uber driver have certainly been influenced by my feminine energy. At least one time I picked up an 8-year-old #BlackGirlsRock princess whose mother sent her from Brooklyn to meet her father at Madison Square Garden. I felt a heightened sense of responsibility for the pretty little girl, feeling that she could have been my niece or god-daughter getting in. I wanted her, and her father with whom she was on the phone for the duration of the trip, to feel especially safe during the ride considering she was with a stranger. Then there was the time that the Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, Lakshmi Puri, got in. We talked about her role with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, and she expressed how much she was inspired by what I was choosing to do. She, herself, had only had one other woman driver in all of her travels around the world. Though UN Women had abandoned their partnership with Uber to increase the number of women drivers around the globe to one million in the next five years, she felt that it was an influential decision to make, should a woman decide to drive. She left me with these words: “I wish you much success in your pursuits, and may you ALWAYS be an inspiration to girls and women worldwide.”
The most outrageously awesome response to being a woman driver came from two ladies I picked up about a month ago who were going from the West Side into Brooklyn. As the millennials got in, the first exclaims, “Oh great! A girl driver! Yes!! I love girl drivers!!” and the other chimes in, “THE FUTURE IS FEMININE!” I was like, “Hell yeah, ladies!!!” and gave them the rock horns hand sign before we were off. But that made me come home and google that phrase: The future is feminine. I’d never heard it before, but she said it like it was a rally cry. Like it was an anthem. Like it had been branded by Serena during a Nike campaign. Turns out, back in 1995, the General Secretary of FIFA declared that the “future is feminine” with welcoming women into the sport of football (soccer). Since then, it seems some feminists have picked it up as a tag line that has come to represent women finding their place in certain male dominated fields. Or better yet, the shift in consciousness to powerful female energy to achieve success, empowerment, prosperity and abundance. So, I can totally dig it! To be a lady Uber driver is TOTALLY Uberlicious!