A couple of weeks ago I was drinking juice in CycleLab when a nice young man came in, introduced himself, and started talking about my blog. I’d never met him before, but he’d recognized my bike locked up outside.
I don’t really mind things like this.
Last summer a motorbike courier in a loading bay said “Hello Esmerelda!” (let’s pretend my real name is Esmerelda). I didn’t recognize him, but assumed he must work for my company. (My photo had been up on a noticeboard as ‘courier of the month’ fairly recently, so most of my colleagues knew what I look like, even if we hadn’t been formally introduced.) But further conversation revealed that we’d never met, and he’d never worked for Pink. I didn’t dare ask how he knew my name. Could it be that motorbike couriers make it their business to know the names of all the female cycle couriers? After all, we are pretty scarce, and very visible. And we have a reputation for being attractive.
This I find slightly creepy.
Yesterday I had an unpleasant and fairly frightening encounter with a cabbie on Charlotte Street (I’ve reported it to the police, so am not giving too many details). And this afternoon, the same cabbie (on foot this time) accosted me as I was locking my bike up on Montagu Place, and continued the altercation.
Luckily he walked away once he felt he’d made his point. I was terrified, and trembling even more violently than I had been after our first encounter. In fact, I thought I was about to burst into tears, which almost never happens. So I did something I’ve never before resorted to at work. I phoned my mum.
This helped immensely. She listened, made all the right noises, and expressed her outrage at ‘the way people will behave when they’re safely in their metal boxes’. But that wasn’t quite it. It wasn’t that the cabbie had threatened me with his car, or even anything he’d said. It was that he’d spotted me again in the street within 24 hours. You assume that won’t happen, in one of the biggest cities in the world.
I usually forget how visible – and therefore vulnerable – I am. I have had cabbies shout “if I see you again I’ll f___ing kill you!”, and let it go over my head, assuming that, in such a massive metropolis, they’ll never see me again, and wouldn’t remember me if they did. I’ve never seen the same cabbie twice – but then, you don’t really notice what people look like when they’re in cars. And cars all look the same. (So do most cabbies, come to think of it.) A female cycle courier is a different matter entirely. We stand out, and there’s not much we can do about it.
You know the worst thing?
This is what I see as I leave the house every morning.
Yes, I even live next door to a cabbie.