Taxi driving, especially in Nigeria, is often seen as a male-dominated profession but recently, I ran into a female Taxify driver. I have always wanted to experience what that would feel like but I never got the chance.
So when I opened the Taxify app last week and it was a female driver that I was connected to, I was so excited.
I will admit that when I first saw her face staring at me from the app, I was surprised, and for one second, I thought, ‘could she weave through the crazy Lagos traffic?’ But before the thought could settle in my head, I shrugged it off. Inbuilt patriarchy, you might say! But I quickly ‘died’ the thought, like we say downtown.
In less than five minutes, my cab was at the gate waiting for me. I didn’t know what to expect; like I said she was my first female driver. I got in the front seat with her and after exchanging pleasantries, she asked if she could start the trip, you know the normal sturvs.
We drove the first minutes in silence; I had so many questions to ask her but I waited for the shock and excitement to settle in. I was fiddling with my phone, not really doing anything with it, motion sickness makes sure of that.
After a while, we were in traffic along Freedom Way but I kept giving her the side my eye and I could also see her giving me the ‘eye’ too. I looked up and saw some hawkers coming close to the car to show with their wares. Immediately, I dropped my phone into my bag. A second passed and we both laughed.
“That is how they stole my phone at Sandfield last week!” she told me.
Finally, time to ask questions
“How long have you been driving?”
“Hmm, how has it been with passengers?”
She shrugged before saying, “there are good days and there are bad days. Some people are just horrible but it’s only just a job. I don’t take it to heart.”
She really had a pleasant personality. Her voice was soft but had steel behind it. She wore gloves, said it was to protect her palms and added: “you know, one of the things I have found interesting since I started driving is that women always tell me they are happy they got me (a female driver) and that they feel safer.”
It was so true. One of the first things I felt in her car was safe. With male drivers, especially at night, I am too worried to leave my eyes on my phone for too long. One must be alert at all times. I have only had one major issue with a driver, and Taxify sorted it out immediately, but still, this is Lagos.
“Have you ever had difficult male passengers?”
She gave me the eye again we laughed
When the laughter died down, she said; “Of course; there are men who think they can drive more than you can and they want to tell you how you should place your hands on the steering sef.”
We laughed again and continued to chatter along.
“But then, I have also gotten good guys who are always impressed because I drive a cab; those ones never give me any trouble”
“How late do you stay though?”
“It depends. I try not to stay out too late but even during the day, I like to go with my instincts when picking up passengers, especially men. If my spirit doesn’t agree with the passenger, I simply cancel the ride. When I am driving more than one man, I am always alert. I keep one eye on the road, the other on them.”
We went silent. I was worried about her. She was small like me, I know how my size makes me look like a simple prey to men. I do not want to think of her getting hurt. I was proud of her for doing the job. I was proud of her guts and her bravery. Lagos is a dangerous place.
One of the things she was most happy about was the many women she has driven who were totally supportive and encouraged her to do her work with pride and without fear. She told me of a girl she took to a mall who told her to wait, ran inside and got her a cup of Pinkberry yogurt. It warmed my heart.
We talked about other things, we laughed a lot. Soon I was home. I gave her 5 stars; if there are more stars, I could have added to what I gave her. That has been my best cab ride ever. When I got inside, I flopped on the bed; I was tired but I kept thinking of her, so I powered my laptop and put in another hour of work.