The worst Uber ride of my life had nothing to do with the traffic, bad Waze directions, or pervasive body odor — it was terrible because my driver offered his unsolicited, detailed reasoning for why women shouldn't be elected to public office. Seriously. This literal waking nightmare could've only been made worse had he then proceeded to flirt with me. You can easily ignore idiotic blathering, but what should you do when your driver hits on you?
According to Uber's website, Uber drivers complete 15 million trips per day. While they prioritize the safety of their riders, it doesn't hurt to be prepared, just in case your spidey senses tell you that something is off. Perhaps your driver compliments your outfit, comments about being out late, or even asks if you're single. Sometimes, seemingly harmless chit chat can lead to a situation where you feel uncomfortable and the second that you feel that way, trust your instincts and pay attention. I spoke to Gloria Marcott, founder of Soul Punch Self-Defense, about how to stay safe during your ride.
Her first piece of advice is to be informed. All ride-sharing services provide you with the driver’s first name, photo, license plate number, picture of the vehicle and their driver’s rating. I'm totally guilty of only knowing that I'm looking for a blue Prius, but Marcott cautions, "Don’t skim past this information. It’s important to check out what other users have said about the driver, but most importantly it’s critical you get in the correct vehicle."
You should also know where you're going, in life as well as specifically on this ride, so you can tell if the driver takes an unfamiliar turn. This might be obvious in the age of over-sharing (I see you, Insta-storying your every waking moment) but Marcott recommends always using the feature provided in the app to share your ETA and route with your friends. Having someone keep tabs on you can end up being invaluable.
While certain safety tips seem obvious, like always sitting in the back seat, others are more specific. Marcott advises that once you get in the car and shut the door, before the drive even begins, try to re-open the door. "This will let you know if the child safety locks are engaged and let you know if you have the ability to open the door if needed. If the door doesn’t open for you inform the driver immediately and let them know to unlock the child safety locks for your trip." Genius, right?
Let's say you're in the correct car, you've shared your ETA with a pal, and you're safely en route to your destination, and now you and your driver start up a conversation. I sometimes ask my Uber driver to tell me about their craziest trip (one driver said his passenger got in and said "follow that car!" and they ended up catching his boyfriend cheating on him!) After all, most drivers are regular people just doing their jobs and are not out to harm you. I asked Marcott how to discern the difference between harmless conversation and a potentially dangerous conversation. She explains, "Any ride-share service is a business first and should be treated as such. It should be a professional and polite exchange and if it is anything other than that you have to be ready to elevate your response if needed."
If your driver starts making comments that feel ... weird, grab your phone, call someone, so you don't have to talk to them. Of course, if you're extremely uncomfortable with what your driver is saying, ask to be let out at the next public area and then report the incident. If you're headed home, you don't have to tell the driver that. Marcott advises, "You don't need to disclose that the address you are traveling to is your home or family or friend's house. You simply need to provide the address. If the driver asks you if it is your residence you can say 'No, it’s not' and be done with it."
While unwanted fliration or inappropriate comments can oftentimes be shut down by telling your driver you don't feel like talking, sometimes you just get a vibe that something is "off." IMHO, the most important tool in your kit is your intuition. If your gut is telling you that something's not right, listen to it. I love to nap during Uber rides, or actually during anything TBH, but after my conversation with Marcott, I now prefer to stay awake! Hopefully you'll have only swift, cheap, and smooth ride-sharing experiences, but in case they ever get weird, channel Marcott and stay safe! Now pass me the AUX.
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