Good Cab, Bad Cab
Years ago, my father was accused of sexual harassment by two colleagues who worked- I hate to say it- under him. He trained them in sales and they moved to Medellin to work for the company he worked for at the time. First one, then the other. They accused him at the same time, months later.
I won't talk about what they looked like, whether I thought they seemed flirtatious or conniving. They made an accusation and my father suffered the consequences, which, to be honest, weren't that bad. The company had hired him while back and these girls were new so he had, on top of male privilege, a privilege of seniority.
He was deeply offended by the accusations, fougt hard against them, and eventually these, and the girls, disappeared (they were let go, not murdered, geez). This occurrence speaks so clearly to the "he said, she said" dilemma so many go through. I love my father. I am a woman. How do I choose? I genuinely don't believe my father would be capable of anything.
But he's my father, so of course I think that. When I was a toddler, he was a taxi driver, and my mother jokes to this day that he never made any money because he was too polite. He'd open the door for every passenger, he'd help an old woman take in her groceries. He was too good for the job, she said.
This week, I was driven to my friends' place by a taxi driver. I generally keep quiet during taxi rides, but this man was the perfect balance between curious and polite:
"Are you returning from travels?" He said eyeing the suitcase riding shotgun.
"Actually, I'm leaving today," I responded vaguely. He inched his way towards the question and I satisfied his curiosity "Canada". Then, though I expected him to tell me about his experience abroad, he told me that he had never been outside of Colombia, that almost all his siblings had lived in the U.S. for about 25 years and he hadn't been even once.
"I tried in 2001, I was an employee at Leonisa and had been for 10 years. They denied me a visa. Three years later I was let go and one doesn't get a visa being a taxi driver," he shrugged it off and said: "Never too late, though."
I smiled. Fifteen minutes later, we had touched on all types of topics: his son, his wife, his profession, mine; the perks of each, the cons.
"Trabajar independiente es bueno por la libertad, but I can't even get a credit card without an employment letter," I said. "Ah si, es verdad," and suddenly we could relate.
He dropped me off, helped me with my suitcase, shook my hand. We exchanged names and Robinson went on his way, leaving the door open for another taxi encounter in the future: "if you ever need.."
I often hear of my foreign friends' love for speaking to taxi drivers; about how they're full of Spanish lessons, laughs, and joy. I myself have always had a hate-tolerate relationship with these men, because they are mostly men, and I tended to be more of the Uber, don't-talk-to-me mentality.
I hate the tacky jokes on their radio, I hate their sweaty foreheads as they turn to catch a peek up my skirt.
This week I saw two taxi drivers harass women. One of those women was me, just hours prior to meeting Robinson. The other, was in Poblado a few days before that. The man yelled out to her for "being in the way," she responded angrily, he got the last word and drove off. "¿Que tal, ah? She's in the way and gets mad at me for honking. The nerve!" He turns his head expecting encouragement and finds only my stoic face. "Mmm," I hum, shaking my head. He turns away disappointed but continues complaining about the young woman anyways, as if I'd agreed.
I was walking across the street. There was no crosswalk, but there rarely are in residential areas like Laureles, and he was coming. He had a passenger in the back. I had my headphones in, but no sound on. I saw him coming out of the corner of my eye and continued walking. A stubborn part of me comes out in these moments, a part that says "I am the pedestrian. You are the car. You can wait five seconds while I cross." Pure ego, the most transparent kind of stubbornness
He slowed down reluctantly. Inched as close as he could to me. Then, he yelled out something that I couldn't quite make out.
He said something about my marido, my husband, and then called me "boba," dumb, or stupid. The exact same word the other driver had called out to that woman days prior. I assume he said something about my husband teaching me a lesson or not having done it, or about my poor husband having to be with me. A generic comment, pure ego, the most transparent kind of stubbornness.
I wished I could be vulgar back, say something, like I often wish when old men whisper to me how "rica" I look. But I don't. I stay stoic, I shake my head and hum, at most, a single "hmm."
The problem I'm faced with, though, isn't that they do this. It's that those two drivers could be Robinson, that Robinson could be them and that neither takes away from the other. Robinson could be an asshole at noon and a delight at seven. Robinson is someone's father, and if I came to them and said "your father said this to me," they would never believe me. Perhaps they'd say I was in the way, I was flirtatious or conniving.
They're the same. We're the same.
Robinson could easily harass women every day, and then also drive an ancient woman home and help her with her groceries. I, on the other hand, avoid conversation every time, legs crossed, in the back of a cab, judging his music, his vocabulary, his demeanor, and then I go home and call my father.
Feature photo by Gonzalo Vega Gonzalez-Capitel , some rights reserved.