It was somewhere between two and three in the morning when Christoffer and I stood on a block in Brooklyn fighting about something for the 100th time. We had been at Glasslands celebrating my new job (The Grindstone!), and somewhere along the line things went awry.
As usual, it ended with me running and crying in one direction, and he walking off in the other. This is it, I thought. I’m never going to see again. This, of course, true of any addiction, was not the end.
I called my friend who lives in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, and asked if I could come over. I knew she’d be up and she was. I hailed the first cab I saw and was on my way to being comforted.
I was still a mess; I couldn’t get it together and the tears were unstoppable. When the cab driver realized I was crying, he yelled at me. At first, I was taken aback. I couldn’t understand if he was joking or not, and honestly, I was too focused on my own drama to even pay attention. But when he said it a second time, it was quite clear.
“Don’t you get those disgusting woman tears all over my cab.”
“What?” I asked.
“You heard me,” he snapped. “I don’t want disgusting woman tears all over my cab.”
I may have been bawling, but I was doing so into a tissue and planned to suck it up and use my sleeve once my tissue was thoroughly drenched and useless.
“I’m not!” I yelled back with the same volume he used.
“Are you yelling at me?” he asked. “You get into my cab and you yell at me?”
“Pull over,” I said. “I’ll walk from here.”
“I’m not pulling over! You and your woman tears got into my cab and I want my full fare.”
With those words, my sadness shifted to fear. Here he was telling me that I couldn’t get out of his cab, it was close to 3am at this point, and I realized I had to get it together. At the next red light, I jumped out. I was going to fucking walk the last few blocks and I wasn’t going to pay him the measly $5 for his degrading service.
Instead of letting me go, he pulled the cab over and actually came after me. He got in my face and proceeded to yell more about my woman tears and how I was a stupid cunt that thought I was better than him.
“This woman,” he yelled, “thinks she’s better than me! This stupid woman!” I wasn’t sure to whom he was yelling, but he seemed to be making a declaration of sorts for anyone who might be within earshot.
I was stunned as I stared into his cold eyes. Sure, I had been called a stupid woman before, but not like this; not by a stranger in my face yelling it. He was inches away from me and I thought for sure he was going to smack me. Why I didn’t run in that moment, I don’t know. I think it was the sheer shock at the situation.
When I finally came to my senses, I told him to fuck off and turned to walk away. By this point, I had stopped crying and had switched into anger mode. He grabbed my arm, and told me if I didn’t pay him he was going to call the police. He, this man, this cretin, this misogynist, who had just spent the last 10 minutes of his life spewing his sexist and ignorant comments at me, was going to call the cops on me over five fucking dollars.
“I have your cab’s badge number,” I yelled. (I had been smart enough to plug that into my phone right after he told me he wasn’t letting me out.)
He scoffed. “No one would believe a cunt woman,” was his response.
What the fuck country was this? What era? Had we somehow jumped through a wormhole to another world while driving from one end of Brooklyn to the other?
To put an end to the confrontation, I grabbed a 10 dollar bill from my wallet and threw it on the ground. I knew he’d tell me to pick it up, which he did, but I was well on my way at that point. Had I not left when I did, I thought for sure I’d end up punching him. I’ve never punched anyone, so I’m sure I’d miss and he’d punch me instead.
I got to my friend’s apartment, collapsed on the floor and proceeded to cry. I was no longer crying over Christoffer; I was crying over what I had just been subjected to; the hateful few minutes that I didn’t even know was possible in 2010 in New York City.
The next morning I called 311 (New York City’s help/information line.) I told them of the incident. They were unsympathetic, but they mailed me the paperwork to make the official complaint. I filled it out when I received it a few days later and waited. That’s all I could do. I couldn’t go to the police, as the woman on the other line of the 311 call had told me, because it was out of their jurisdiction. It was the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission’s job to remedy the problem.
A couple months later I received a date to go to the court and try to press charges. Again, I called 311… where I was told that the cabbie wouldn’t be there and these type of cases were hard to prove. Great, I thought.
I weighed the pros and cons of going to court. It seemed like a waste if nothing were to come of it, but at the same time, it also seemed wrong not to tell someone that there was a woman-hating cabbie on the loose.
I ended up going, sat there for hours and realized that nothing was going to be done. I watched others with their complaints about bodega workers or waiters, and understood that my complaint, at least in the eyes of New York City, wasn’t worth pursuing. He did what he did, because the city makes it so hard to prove such behavior. It had also been close to three months by this point – maybe even longer – so I was over it. I wasn’t over what he said to me, or the position in which he put me; but I was over trying to make him pay for it. What were they going to do anyway? Slap him on the wrist? Send him a letter in the mail telling him that you can’t talk to people that way? It wasn’t going to stop him. It wasn’t about my tears; it was about his obvious hatred toward women and that was not something one could erase from someone’s mind or heart.
I moved on, and I let it go.
Two years later, I regret having not pursued it to the full extent that I could have. Recent world events have forced me to come to terms with the fact that as a woman it was my duty to have done everything in my power to prevent him from doing that again. Even if it had been just a slap on the wrist, at least he’d know that someone, some “stupid woman,” wasn’t going to take his degradation.
I’ll never know what became of the cabbie. I’ll never know if I was one in a string of women whom he verbally abused because of his obvious dislike of our gender. But I like to hope that had he pulled that shit again someone, far more invested than I, would have done something.
My woman tears aren’t disgusting; they’re sweet pearls of emotion. And I’ll cry in a cab if I want to; this is New York City, crying in public isn’t exactly an anomaly.