Pink taxis for women are popping up in countries all over the world (India, Lebanon, and, according to an AP story this week, Mexico). The purpose behind some of them is to provide an alternative for women who don't want to be "leered at" by cab drivers. Our first thought was "Thank God we don't have to worry about that here," but, actually, in a city in which the vast majority of taxi drivers are polite and professional, there have been a few times when a conversation (and we always have one — maybe that's the problem) has taken a turn for the decidedly leery.
We've never felt in danger, mind you, just simply annoyed at having to pretend from the LES to South Brooklyn that we don't know what "Do you like fun?" was supposed to mean in context. Actually, that one was pretty hilarious. ("Of course I like fun. Everyone likes fun! That's why it's called 'fun'!") In most cases, the driver was rebuffed by a quick fake phone call to what we were hoping sounded like a heavily armed boyfriend: "Hi sweetie, I'm almost home. Oh, you're at the front door? Just wait for me, I'll be there soon." In almost every case, these were very young drivers — the older leerers tend to just linger on you while you walk away, an act we used to interpret as "making sure we got to the door safe" until we realized it only happened during the summer, with certain outfits. Knowing that this phenomenon — and we're talking funny, harmless, a good story type of thing, not the more rare scary incidents, which we know do happen — can't just be limited to us, we asked around and got a variety of answers.
From a high-powered career gal who always announces the best route à la Holly Hunter in Broadcast News:
"Hmm. Not really, but I have gotten "Why is such a pretty girl crying?"
From a tech writer:
"I guess so, a cab driver once gave me earrings. And a scarf. And told me I'd make a good wife."
From a TV writer:
"Yeah, they just say I'm pretty and ask if I have a boyfriend; a lot of young drivers do that."
From a publicist: :
"Totally. I almost invited one guy up to my apartment to watch Anchorman before coming to my senses."
From a nonprofit director:
"Yeah, but it only happens when I wear certain things. I think they just think I'm a prostitute!"
That last one is the conclusion we came to as well — a combination of chattiness and slurred speech would probably look like flirting to any young dude with whom we just happen to be alone in an intimate space rather than, say, in a bar. One more reason to love New York, where a "leering" cab driver is (usually) just a funny story.