I love to travel. My best friend (a.k.a. "the Wife") Kristen loves to travel. We try and go on a little trip together once a year or once every other year. We went to San Fran, we went to Minneapolis together before we both moved here, and just last spring we went to the Windy City. Neither of us had ever been to Chicago- and we had a very enjoyable visit!
All except for one harrowing ride from A to B.
We started the evening out with some sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market Restaurant, and our Lyft driver was a friendly female who got us to our destination expertly and even chit chatted on our way there about Chicago and some of the things we should see and do. The meal was fantastic, and we enjoyed ourselves very much. We decided that after our dinner, we would go out for a few cocktails at Howl at the Moon, which is an extremely fun and very entertaining piano bar. Again, we called for a Lyft, and waited for our ride to arrive. We were dressed up, all excited to be in the land of adults as we both have kids and were so glad to be free of real responsibility for a few nights. We were both fully made up, long dresses and our hair was perfectly coifed. I have to say we looked rather good and felt great!
We didn’t have any drinks prior to dinner, and although we did have one drink with our meal, it was only the one. And thank God for that. Our Lyft driver arrived, and in we went, laughing and excitedly chatting about our next stop. Our driver seemed friendly enough, once again asking us about Chicago and if it was our first visit. He talked about points of interest on our ride, and we listened eagerly as he told us some cool things about Chicago. We did notice, however, that our ride was taking us a bit longer than we expected it to. Kristen started paying attention to the maps app in her phone, and as she was telling the driver that she was a 911 dispatcher and was constantly looking at maps, I started to notice the surroundings of the drive were getting more... “sketchy” by the second. She kept talking about working with the police and having to be familiar with direction and mentioned that it seemed as if we were going the wrong way. I started shifting a bit uneasily in my seat. I too got my phone out and pulled up the screen to try and see if we were actually lost. Our driver said something to the effect of “taking a wrong turn and needing to turn around.”
We got near to what looked like the end of the street, on the underside a bridge. I could see ahead of us was a desolate looking parking lot, dirt covered and scattered with what looked like abandoned vehicles with no lighting anywhere. The street went under the bridge, the column of the support of the bridge was on our left. The car rolled at a painfully slow pace down into the darkness of the parking lot, and I started to feel the onset of adrenaline coursing through my veins. I looked over at Kristen who was not looking at her map any longer, but I believe she had pulled up the dial keypad. The driver slowly, slowly as if we were barely moving at all, rolled down further, and the car hesitated for two or three seconds at the bottom, motionless. I looked at the driver, who was thoughtfully looking straight ahead, and, as if making a decision, he again drove forward and turned the car around. We started up the other side of the support column back to the lights of the street, leaving the waiting parking lot behind us. He went on to say we merely got lost and he knew where we were going now.
We headed swiftly and without any seeming question to our destination. Upon arrival, we got out, went into Howl at the Moon where we settled in and watched the entertainment. We laughed and enjoyed the show, with Kristen trying to get me to go on stage with her and join the rowdy crew who were dancing the night away. We did have a wonderful time and we were glad we went.
Later, upon reflection, it started sinking in what had happened in the car on the way there. I think we had both chosen to not think about it that night, as we were back in the land of the living and not the living dead. When we looked back, it was with a somber realization that we had narrowly missed being attacked, assaulted, or worse. Our guardian Angels were with us that evening, because all signs pointed to the probability that our driver was taking us somewhere remote, dark, hidden and under a bridge where traffic would surely drown out any cries for help. It’s to Kristen’s credit that she had the mindset of talking about her job at length, working closely with law enforcement and being familiar with direction. It’s to her credit that she had her maps pulled up on her phone and kept letting on that she knew we had to be going in the wrong direction. I do believe that could have been the thing that deterred him from attempting anything where we were concerned.
In hindsight, of course I ask myself, could we have done anything different? I don’t know. But it did inspire me to look up a few ways we can do everything possible to be safe on our vacations. I find it sad we need to do this at all, but the world is not an easy place to be sometimes, and it is worth noting the things that could help us be safe. Here is a little something I found:
Rider Safety Tips
1. Plan ahead. Before you request a ride, think about where you’re headed and review the safety features in the app so you know how to use them.
2. Request your ride inside. Avoid spending unnecessary time outside alone with your phone in your hand. Instead, wait indoors until the app shows your driver has arrived.
3. Get in the right car. Before you get in the car, check that license plate, driver photo, and driver name all match what’s listed in the app. Uber rides can only be requested through the app, so never get in a car with a driver who claims to be with Uber and offers a ride.
4. Be a backseat rider. If you’re riding alone, sit in the backseat. This ensures you can safely exit on either side of the vehicle to avoid moving traffic, and it gives you and your driver some personal space.
5. Buckle up. The Centers for Disease Control reports that seatbelt use is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries related to car accidents.
6. Share your trip details with a friend. While en route, tap “Share status” in the app to share your driver’s name, photo, license plate, and location with a friend or family member. They can track your trip and see your ETA without downloading the Uber app.
7. Protect your personal information. There’s no need to share your phone number or other contact information with your driver. If a rider and driver need to contact each other, the Uber app automatically anonymizes both phone numbers to protect everyone’s privacy.
8. Follow your intuition. Trust your instincts and use your best judgement when riding with Uber. And if you ever feel you’re in an emergency situation, call 911 immediately.
9. Give feedback on your trip. Your feedback helps us improve the Uber experience for everyone. Our 24/7 global support team reviews feedback and will follow up with appropriate action on any reports of conduct that violate our community guidelines. *
Did you know.... More than 120 Uber and Lyft drivers have reportedly sexually assaulted their passengers, according to a report by CNN. ... Both Uber and Lyft have declined to release any data on such allegations. **
Next time we travel, we will be more aware. This was a lesson learned. Thankfully we were ok, but we were very shaken up by what could have ensued. I urge all travelers, male and female, to take care to follow the above safety measures when traveling. It doesn’t matter if you have a black belt in Taekwondo, because if a gun is pulled out, pretty sure kicking from the back seat won’t work out for you. Follow along with maps, and the moment you see you’re off course, SAY something!
This is heavy stuff! These things are a bit sobering! It’s no fun to have to think of the ways in which we have to be on the lookout or keep ourselves safe. Yet this is a necessary evil about traveling, especially if you are female. The wife and I will still travel together, we will still laugh and go out and have a good time. We will just take every precaution to actually arrive at our destination. We cannot live a life in fear of what could happen. Rather, we should live a life aware of our surroundings, and the best ways in which to exist in them without any harm. When we travel, we are going to have a wonderful time and soak in all a new city or place has to offer, but we will be paying attention, and we will be sure to let our driver know we are.
Until next time my friends, safe travels!
*Uber Safety Tips, https://www.uber.com/info/rider-safety-tips/