After reading Michael White’s article about taxis and women, I decided to write about my experiences with taxis here in Riverhead through the years, and offer some advice.
Back in the ’90s, I worked a tavern on Main Street and I worked many night shifts. I’d often be by myself and even closed the bar by myself at 4 a.m. Locking up a bar in downtown Riverhead at that time wasn’t the way it is today. I wasn’t afraid, but I was always aware of my surroundings. I was never scared of working nights and never afraid of walking out to my car at 4 a.m. to go home. What was scary were the taxi rides I took every now and again when my car was down or, yes, if I had been drinking and knew I should cab it home. I had only a few blocks to go, but better safe than sorry.
Or is sorry better than a cab ride?
I had experiences where the cab did not have a handle to open the door to get out. Yes, trapped — can’t get out. Old, retired police cars were being used. I had drivers who would fly past my street, saying, “I just have to meet a friend.” A friend? Please drop me off first. Nope. I found myself sitting in a cab while this jerky driver got out and talked to his friend. Then there were the rides when you weren’t the only rider. How about getting into a cab at 4 a.m. and you have to sit in the back with two males and another male in the passenger seat? That was a spooky trip.
OK, fast-forward to today; I no longer tend bar but I do go out — and never, ever take my car. When leaving home, I often lean on family or friends to drop me off wherever I need to go. The ride home, however, is usually a taxi. I have found that today there are a few scary drivers out there. Once in a while there would be a female driver. I have also found that local restaurants and bars always have a company they use for their customers, and those are usually the better companies. Except for the one driver who picked me up before making U-turn in the middle of Main Street and getting out to kick his headlight that wasn’t working. A group of friends stood there laughing while he pulled away with my face pushed up against the window, mouthing, “Help!”
I have noticed that if you ask for a female driver, companies will send one if they can. I’ve also found that if you use the same company and they get to know you and you ask for someone decent they will find a driver you feel good with, and you can ask for that person by name. The laws that Riverhead has put in have made some things better but there are still a few strange and unusual drivers. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re all bad.
As women, we have to be aware; if you get that weird feeling when opening the door, don’t get in. If there is more than one rider you can refuse to take that cab. You can request another driver to come get you. If a company does not answer your request positively, well then it’s time to find another cab company.
Oh, and make sure there’s a handle so you can get out of the car.
Laurie Downs is a Riverhead resident and former candidate for school board.