Yesterday evening, decorated like a cupcake and teetering on offensively high heels, I was forced to choose between a half hour wait for the tram or a cab ride towards the city. Sharing this fascinating choice with me was a friend who, while not attending the same fancy party as me, lived on the way into town.
Having spotted and hailed down the distant glow of an available cab, we slid in and were greeted by an oil-slicked Indian yoof clutching a really fucking big computer-and-mobile-in-one thingo and a phone card. No news there. Having let friend out after five minutes, this person proceeded to make an overseas call in Urdu, realise he’d been hung up on, swear really loudly in English, make another call to complaing about the first call and all the while, drive really slowly.
Meanwhile, the passenger seat covering was shifting uncomfortably as I tugged down at my hem and tried to make my thoughts of “talking on the phone is illegal” and “drive faster please!” well-heard, but also remain silent, because I’ve been raised not to interrupt phone conversations. Foremost in my mind was trying to repair the perception held by this tired-faced worker that I was not a stupid westernised slut; that I was worth listening to and indeed was paying not to be ignored.
Anyway, we came to the part of Bourke St that’s closed off the traffic and yet another fascinating desicion had to be made: get out now, or get Mr. Fucking Large Phone to drive back around so that I could get to my destination on the other side of the road blockage. A particularly judicious fiscal desicion saw me ask this person to please stop the meter then. After some to-ing and fro-ing, he turned off the meter but proceeded to drive in the direction of said fancy party. Waving down my protests, he justified this act of kindess with those wonderful words: “I was going in that direction anyway”.
Now I’ve seen kindness from taxidrivers before, especially from older subcontinental ones who can only see their daughter in my face. This one was different. Having made it about halfway around the blockage, he was hailed down by another woman, whom he obliged, but asked me if it was OK first. On the last leg of this very brief journey, Mr. Fucking Large Phone rapidly but emphatically explained to this other woman, whose meter had already hit three dollars, that he wanted to drop off this “beautiful lady here”, but she’s “on the way, so that’s OK yes?”. It’s hard to overstate how quickly all this happened. Here was a man who I had assumed thought nothing of me, but turned out to find my beauty worth compromising his vocational integrity for (though these may be the same thing). The whole thing was bewildering, but also raised some pretty interesting questions. What did this guy want? What had I given up? Would he have done the same for that other woman, who wasn’t brown like me?
The key question, though, is this: do I give up my rights to be valued for more than appearance, if I use my appearance for personal gain?
PS. Speaking of Indian student/taxi drivers, here’s a pretty golden video that some guys I know made.