Cab Ride, Saturday Night

So I am just going to keep writing accounts of my own experiences of cat calling, sexual harassment and intimidation, and verbal abuse. I have to get these stories outside of myself.

Last night I thought I was never going to make it home. I was worried I was being abducted by my cab driver, who started out my ride by asking me if I lived alone. That should have been my first red flag. A lot of times, young guys driving cabs ask if I have a boyfriend, and I don’t think anything of it. This was not that conversation. I told him I was single but doing really well with that because I feel like I’m a lot more productive when I’m not dating someone. He asked if I was interested in a “short-term relationship” and I said that wasn’t my thing. He did not accept this answer.

I’d change the subject and he would ask a couple benign questions, but always come back to asking me about something short-term. He tried to flatter me and said he was getting off his shift after taking me home. I would say no again and again, but he would demand to know why. He slowed down the car each time, waiting for me to respond. Dumbfounded, I repeated variations of my first response but he wouldn’t let it go. It was too late when I realized he’d gone much further west than I live and I panicked, my stomach absolutely sinking. In that moment I honestly believed he had no intention of letting me go. I had written his cab number in my phone about halfway through the ride when his questions started becoming invasive but I didn’t know what to do with it in that moment.

I pointed out we were further west than where I’d said. He stopped the car in the middle of the street and asked me where he was supposed to be going. I told him, and he got annoyed with me and said I’d told him the wrong street. He turned around, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

He did drop me off at the intersection I’d originally given, but tried with me one last time. He asked for my number or my Facebook, and I told him I wasn’t comfortable with that. He didn’t say anything, and I slammed the door shut. I walked south half a block, looking over my shoulder, and hid in an alley until I saw him go. I stayed there for a couple of minutes, worried he might loop around the block. He didn’t. I am so glad I gave the intersection I did, which is not my block, but the intersection of the two largest streets closest to me.

I reported him to 311, giving the cab number I’d written down and any details about him I could remember. He said he had only been a cab driver for two months. He’s lived in Chicago for two years. He was intimidating and verbally manipulative and he should not be a cab driver.

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Defense

I was walking home around 12:30 a.m. after a party Saturday night. I was listening to Company of Thieves on my phone with my earbuds. A group of three or four people were standing on a corner at Lawrence and either Drake or another street just before Central Park Avenue. One of them, a man, tried to hand me what looked like a rolled-up Red Eye. I shook my head, said no, and kept walking. I did not break stride, I did not make eye contact.

That man grabbed my arm and shoved the rolled-up newspaper under my arm.

I was stunned.

I whipped around, yanked out my earbuds and shouted “WHAT?” I held the paper in my hand, not looking at it — looking at him.

“That’s yours,” he said, surprised by my anger.

“No it’s not,” I seethed, shaking the paper back at him. “Take it back.”

He started to walk away toward his friends. I moved to throw it at him, but a woman who seemed to be part of the group stepped forward.

“Hey, hey, hey,” she said, and took the paper back from me.

“Thank you,” I said, annoyed, and walked away.

I wanted to run but I felt stupid. I honestly wasn’t sure what had just happened. It didn’t seem like the typical street harassment situation — were those people an organized group, distributing literature at midnight(!!!)? Or was that guy just being your garden variety douche bag trying to get my attention, having no clue that all I wanted was to get home without feeling afraid?

I realized after I got home that it didn’t matter. Call it street harassment, call it general, unsolicited attention — neither made it okay for him to grab my arm, or to touch me at all. I felt immediately angry because I was scared.

That night I ranted on Facebook, I ranted on Twitter. A friend saw and texted right away. The next day, a lot of people who know and love me told me I shouldn’t walk alone at night.

I thought about that a lot. A day later, I responded to those online comments.

I will not let asshole behavior dictate my choices and actions, like when I leave a party, or when is and isn’t a good time for me to walk on my own street.

I will, however, be taking a self-defense class in the West Loop on Saturday, Dec. 6. If you’re a woman in Chicago and you want to come, let me know. I’m waiting to hear back on pricing.

It’s not on us when we get harassed. I’m doing this because I want to feel more confident walking around my own neighborhood but I hate that I have to.

I am fed up. I hope you are, too.

Any time, anywhere

So this happened on Twitter yesterday:

The young woman was almost certainly me, and this person’s interpretation of me being “very upset” was actually me hurling an F-bomb at a stranger on a residential street in the late afternoon. I didn’t see who did it, because he didn’t even stop to turn around when I yelled at him. He was wearing a gray T-shirt and he passed me on my left when I was walking east on Eastwood to a neighbor’s BBQ. It was around 5:30 p.m.

I saw a family outside their house a couple of houses up and asked them if they’d seen what happened. They didn’t, and by then the cyclist was out of sight. The father I asked didn’t seem concerned. I walked away.

I spent the next couple of hours at the BBQ with friends, but didn’t say anything. My friend Patty’s parents were visiting and I felt weird telling this story in front of them, and I tried to forget it. I couldn’t, so after I left the party I posted on Facebook. Tons of my friends came to my defense, as did two girlfriends I saw later that night.

Then it was pointed out to me that the Lincoln Squared Twitter account manager had most likely witnessed it, so I replied to what he wrote:

He didn’t respond, but continued to tweet about other unrelated things:

Finally, this morning, I posted this:

No response today. I’m putting a notice on EveryBlock just to warn people, in case he strikes again. I do wish the Twitter user had approached me instead of just posting an amused observation of my humiliation, but that’s his choice.

Thanks to everyone who has voiced his or her support and re-enforced the belief that this incident WAS a big deal. I fully realize it could have been much, much worse, and thank God it wasn’t. But some guy felt like it was okay to do this to me and that is such a blow, especially during this time when people are actually having serious conversations about this very issue. Despite that, this guy didn’t see the harm and that’s disconcerting to say the least.

Update: Lincoln Squared responded.