All was good in life, mostly. I had a fairly smooth flight to Washington Dulles Airport from Los Angeles after reading days and I was feeling relaxed –– well-rested, even. Although I only got to spend a few days at home, it was so nice to sleep in my own bed and go to my favorite sushi restaurant, where I could order all the crispy rice with spicy tuna I wanted as a “welcome home” gift –– kind of — from my parents.
However, reality hit when I walked out of the doors of the airport and was tasked with the basically impossible mission to find a highly-rated ride sharing driver at 10 p.m. who would be willing to drive me the two hours to Charlottesville. It looked as if I was in the clear and had the ratings thing under control, since my parents were worried someone sketchy was going to drive me back –– in fact, one person’s review said my upcoming driver was “an awesome guy” and “completely trustworthy.”
Frankly, I’m not sure if these reviewers were bribed to say nice things or if maybe, like, his twin brother with a completely different persona took his place, but I can confidently say that he was not too awesome or sweet. Oct. 9 was not my night, and for the longest two hours of my life, I sat on the edge of my seat, wondering if I’d make it back to my dorm in one piece or get to eat another horribly made pizza from Crossroads in my life again.
When I got into the car, the conversation actually started out fine –– he asked me about my day, and I tried to ask him how long he had been driving for the ride sharing service, but couldn’t understand him because he didn’t speak English well. About five minutes into the drive, the conversation started getting strange when he asked me out of the blue if I had a boyfriend, if I wanted to pull over to smoke a cigarette or if I partied a lot in college. I just laughed the questions off, but they kept coming.
He kept telling me I should take a water from the backseat, but there was no way that was happening. I said I was very hydrated, which was the biggest lie. At that point, I thought something had to be up, and I frantically texted my parents asking them if his questions and comments were creepy, especially when he asked if I wanted to sleep for the rest of the drive because I had just been on a long flight. My parents told me to make sure he kept on the right route back to the dorm, but even if he had gone off-road to do God knows what, was there anything I could’ve done in that situation? We were driving in the middle of nowhere in the pitch black darkness, and there were only about two other cars driving in front of us.
As you may have guessed, since I was able to write about my ever so pleasant ride home from the airport, I did make it back to my dorm. But, I can tell you that it was a stressful drive, and I felt unprepared to do anything if things actually went bad. Being in that situation really made me realize how scary and dangerous it could be if you trust your rideshare driver completely. After all, they are strangers, and who knows how thorough those background checks are?
Of course, I had read in the news that some drivers occasionally attacked or even kidnapped their passengers, but I never thought I’d be in that situation if I looked carefully at the ratings, their profile picture and reviews. My driver that night had a 4.88 out of 5 rating, but what I failed to realize until after I looked back at his profile was that he had only been driving for two weeks. It would’ve been pretty hard to mess things up in two weeks, so a rating that high was not a good representation of him as a driver. Besides, there could be hundreds of rideshare drivers out there with good ratings who are horrible people or morbidly, have malicious plans to kidnap or kill their riders.
I did some research of my own and found that there’s an actual feature on the rideshare app where you can alert authorities and they’ll come to your location immediately to help you if you think you’re in danger. Thankfully, it never got to that point –– although I had a moment of panic when the driver made a wrong turn and I thought it was the end for me –– but there are some things you could do to make sure your rideshare driver knows you are aware of your surroundings.
I called my parents while in the car and asked them if they had my location to make sure the driver knew that multiple people knew where I was and would be able to find me if anything went wrong. Beyond that, I figured I could run out of the car at a stoplight and try to find another rideshare driver nearby, but then again, we were often in the middle of nowhere with no lights or signs of civilization in sight.
In the end, yes, I did make it back to my dorm without any major problems and yes, I could’ve overreacted completely. Nonetheless, it’s important to take safety precautions before getting into a stranger’s car alone, especially because you have no way of knowing their intentions and no control over the car. Hopefully for everyone, though, rideshare experiences will only entail bad conversation or awkward silence in the worst-case scenario, which I would take over the stress of worrying for my life and safety any day.