Gentle readers, I was never a shrinking violet–in fact, I was voted “Most Outspoken” in my high school class–but these last couple months, as I’ve been caterwauling more loudly and openly and thoughtfully about women’s issues for Harpyness, I think I’m making progress towards living a more outgoing, unafraid, empowered life. All the positive vibes I get from the Harpies and you commenters gives me the energy bay like a hounddog when confronted with sexism, intimidation and grossness. In the past I might have grumbled or sniped a little, but now I’m a lot more willing to engage with people directly, and without apologizing.
This was brought home to me last night when I had an Evil Cabbie Experience. When I told him how to get to my apartment he cut me off with “Whatever, whatever, you don’t give me a lecture.” I pointed out, politely, that I wasn’t giving him a lecture, I was telling him the address and the best way to get there. (For non New Yorkers: one of the rules on the taxi customer’s bill of rights–as displayed in each cab–is that the driver will take you to your destination according to the route you dictate).
There was much grumbling and “no more lectures!”, but I mostly let it go, because cabbies are notoriously surly anyway, and I don’t blame them, as I’d hate to do their job. But when we pulled up outside my building and I had problems with the credit card scanner, he looked into the backseat and sneered: “How often do you take taxi? You’ve never taken taxi before, have you? You can’t even pay fare right.”
Now, in New York, that’s tantamount to saying: ‘you’re a fucking idiot.’ And from his tone and sneer, I knew that that’s exactly what this guy meant. He went out of his way to belittle me, and there was a definite air of leering intimidation about it as well, as he was a big dude and I…am not. There was no doubt that gender played a role here. As one of my (middle-aged male) colleagues said the next day: “If you’d been a 200 lb. man, this would not have happened.”
While I’d been willing to put up with the grumbling about directions, I was not about to put up with someone intentionally insulting and antagonizing me. In years past, I might have scowled, handed him the money and left. But I knew that he was counting on just that response: I would be humiliated, but I would just seethe and give up and it would be a WIN for him. Fuck that. It was time to–you guessed it–BE A BITCH.
So I pulled out my beautiful new iPhone* and dialed 311 to report this asshole (Non New Yorkers: we can report cab drivers’ “rude or abusive behavior” to the city and request a hearing.). When Evil Cabbie figured out what I was doing, the shit really hit the fan. I could barely hear the operator on the other end of the line because he began shouting so loudly for me to get out the cab. Evil Cabbie even removed the license all drivers are required to display so that I couldn’t report him by name or license number. But I sat calmly in the back of that cab, talking to the operator–who could hear the shouting–until Evil Cabbie gave up, yelled “I stick this in your face!” and showed me his license. Once I got the info, I handed him a 20 and got my receipt (I only paid because when I appear at the hearing, I don’t want him to claim I stiffed him the fare). I got my confirmation from the city today that the complaint was filed and I would be notified of a hearing date. You can be damn sure this bitch is going to show up and have her say.
A few months ago, I don’t know how I would have handled the situation. Maybe the same. But I would have been a lot more intimidated by it. Not this time, though. I think y’all are helping me be my best bitch, and for that, I thank you.
*It’s Harpy tradition to name our iphones. Mine is Themis, after the Greek goddess of social custom and order.