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Michael Jesso’s Fabulous Derailed - Tower Road Rides

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Hot summer nights, friends getting together, drinks that can never be cold enough. We’ve all been there. On those rare occasions when the stars are just right, one friend can call another and soon enough you have your entire clan rounded up for a night out.  There’s the single girl, the mom who never gets out, the one who just lost weight and wants to show off new jeans,  the friend who just got off work and has to hurry and the friend who has to work tomorrow, but is coming anyway.  You meet at the hottest spot in town and have an amazing time together, right up to the point till its time to take a taxi home. This is where the night can get sketchy.

On a recent August night, a friend of mine who I will call Jenny left her friends a little early at a bar and hopped into a cab.  What should have been a same area of town cab ride turned into a living nightmare. At first the driver was going in the right direction, he then turned down a wrong street; Jenny let the driver know that he should have kept going straight to which he said, “Ok ok.” She knew there were other ways back to her house and figured he would go that way.

It was only when he turned out onto Confederation Way heading downtown that panic set in.  She demanded he turn around but with the car gaining speed that wasn’t happening. As the taxi drove past the last exit in Timberlea she knew she was in trouble.  Her mind went to her kids, then to how she was dressed; she stated to blame herself for what she thought was about to happen.

The taxi headed southbound on 63 so she thought he will take her back up the hill at the Thickwood overpass but he continued driving. She started yelling and screaming at the driver who responded, “You said you wanted downtown.” As the car approached the downtown bridge exit she screamed for him to bring her into downtown, which he did.  As the car drove onto Franklin it caught a red light by 711.  Jenny took no time unlocking the door and making a run for it.  Screaming her head off the whole time in case someone saw her.

Jenny’s story isn’t a unique one. It happens far too often to women in the city.  A quick mention of this ride around friends or colleagues and you will hear at least three other stories with similar situations. Waitresses who work late are the most common prey to these situations and most will not take cabs by themselves.  Most times people will refer to these rides as a “Tower Road Ride”. Tower Road is a long dirt road that goes nowhere, and on at least two occasions it’s been used by cab drivers to try and do god knows what to late night females.

Until Fort McMurray has the safety measures of Uber, here are a number of precautions for late night riders:

  1. Never take a taxi alone.
  2. Go with your friend and write down the taxi’s car number.
  3. Make sure the driver is the same guy as his ID badge.
  4. Check to make sure there is a door handle.
  5. Check to make sure the child door lock isn’t on.
  6. Make sure the debit machine and the window work.
  7. Ask the driver to repeat your destination address back to you and that they know how to get there. If they can’t name streets near your destination, take another taxi.
  8. Let the driver know you’ve been drinking.
  9. Let the driver know you texted a friend, or tell them your husband or girlfriend is waiting for you at the destination.
  10. If your taxi starts going the wrong way, call 911. Don’t wait to see where it goes, CALL 911!

It’s unfortunate, and not all taxi drivers are the same, but until there is some real safety and security in the taxi industry, its up to individuals to protect themselves. Go on the RMWB website and let your local council members know you want better protection while taking a taxi.  The Uber model of business is world class. Everyone knows where they are going, you pay up front, and the second a car is off the intended map, head office is notified and safety measures are put in place. At this point anything is better than the archaic system we have.