You have had a hard day dealing with prickly clients, finally on the way home in the back private hire car driven by its owner working with Lyft. Capitol Hill is behind you and your mind is starting to relax on more personal thoughts such as planting the new azaleas in your garden or finally starting the new novel by Christina Baker Kline “a piece of the world.” As you settle back into the soft leather seats, your hand holds your iPhone X as you prepare to catch up on your personal email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Your main concern is to be given a professional service and not have to worry about your driver, after all, you are relying on the integrity of Lyft and their background checks. Although this time the driver is a bit different than usual.
“Hi,” he says as his eyes look at you through the driver’s mirror. “I’m Jim, and you are so pretty, I mean really, pretty, beautiful.”
He drives a plush LyftLUX black sedan, an Audi A8, the driver is immaculate and well groomed, but he is getting all personal as he drives and watches you through the mirror. Then the questions start.
“I hope you don’t mind my asking but are you in a relationship?”
You answer “Married, a husband.”
“A husband?” he replies, raising an eyebrow and saying it in an incredulous way as if he doesn’t believe you. You decide its time to end the direction he has taken and add “and two children.” You add a smile but keep your eyes cold. You expect him to get the message, but he seems to ignore your off-limits attitude and continues to explore.
“You have children?” as he focuses on the “you” even though he knows the answers. You start to question whether using your home address and not your next-door neighbors was a wise idea. After all, it sometimes is not safe for a woman to walk home alone in the dark.
As the driver continues to navigate towards your destination, you put your hand n the door handle to test it and find that the door is locked. You start to feel the mild panic in the pit of your stomach and try hard not to show fear. Your hand plays with the phone; maybe you should dial 911 just in case.
Then you think of all those court appearances you have made, standing up to brilliant and hard defense lawyers and their hardened criminal clients. Being appraised for every movement you make, after all, working out five days a week to keep in shape attracts male attention, and you know it. One of the tools of the trade is to use your face, your body language, and been appraised and complemented daily on your looks and your success, so you should be used to this by now.
Pulling yourself together you think of the many drivers you have engaged in great conversations about global politics, the white house, even fashion and where the latest hit restaurant is situated. As your mind races, you realize you have arrived home. You hear that familiar click of the door unlocking, and you sigh in relief. Opening the door, you think the driver just to keep everything in check.
At home, behind the security of your closed door, you finally take off your shoes, take a glass of wine to unwind from the “narrow escape” and start to post your disgust at how some drivers are too personal, trying to hit on women instead of just driving them home quietly.
After you are finishing posting on the various social media pages, your friends start to call. They all sound concerned, but all want every juicy detail. You explain that everything is OK, you were not molested, raped, robbed, or beaten, you are still alive and well, just so concerned with all the stories you read about women being groped, raped, beaten and even drugged nor were you harassed while driving with one of your children.
You choose an appropriate emoji to show your anger and think of all those lives lost to sexual predators. It’s not the initial panic; it’s the entire life changing experience where many women cannot cope with the basics of life after such a situation. Careers crumble, relationships burn, and many victims end up losing their lives in worse ways than death.
Lyft has a 24/7 critical response team serving their customers online. You key in your phone number, and after a few seconds, you get a phone call from a concerned Lyft customer service representative. She sounds concerned and most probably is, asking you to leave your personal details with the description of the incident. You start to think about escalation, what would happen if the driver decides to make this a little bit more personal. After all, no one can really stop him from driving up to your home or looking for you where he picked you up from work. Crazy can be very intuitive.
You start to grapple with the pros and cons for reporting the issue, will your family be at risk? If you don’t report it will you leave a sexual predator free to prey on other women? The customer service representative tells you that the driver most probably doesn’t remember you or where you live, but do you take a chance?
You ask the Lyft representative what kinds of taring in do their drivers have? Do they go through any kind of sexual harassment counseling? She answers you that they don’t, Lyft only gives a quick induction about how to operate the app and how to pick up and drop off passengers.
You then decide to do some research into Lyft and look online at their various disclaimers and messages. You fin that Lyft CEO Logan Green has posted a personal message on the safety page that states “We have worked hard to design policies and features that protect our community.” You then compare this statement with the terms of service of Lyft and find that it states quite clearly “Lyft is not responsible for the conduct, whether online or offline, of any User of the Lyft Platform or Services. You are solely responsible for your interactions with other Users.”
Lyft contracts 700,000 drivers and its terms of service are more about protecting their app and technology; they do not provide any terms dealing with Lyft or driver responsibility during their service hours. The go so far to include this statement in their terms of service, “We have no control over the quality or safety of the transportation that occurs as a result of the Services.”
This means that if you decide to be a Lyft customer, you agree to their terms, accepting their binding and final arbitration clauses and if anything happens it’s on your head.
A lot of your female friends have stopped using Uber services, partially due to the sexist approach that Uber integrated into their corporate culture and agreed to #deleteUber. However, Lyft is the same; you have to realize that the managers and employees of Lyft and Uber are not the drivers, they have no connection to the road or the customers.
No matter what background checks you make, the bottom line is a psychological one. Whereas a taxi driver must be a professional driver backed by state licensing and other regulations, and the taxi driver drives a company car. The rideshare driver is a private driver; this is anyone with access to their own vehicle. This is their home, their territory. You are entering their domain, unlike a taxi, which is an estranged environment for both the driver and the customer.
While Lyft is smaller than Uber, it is the same. There is no difference between the two companies. They both distance themselves from their drivers and offer no real protection for their customers. You start to wish that there were more all-women rideshare companies such as Safr and See Jane Go, but they are far and few between. It’s time for woman power to take more control over the roads.