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OPINION: Why I’ve taken a timeout from sitting in front seats of taxis

I've been catching taxis since I was nine. Throughout the years, I have experienced the unspoken terms and conditions that come with a girl sitting in the front seat. From collecting and counting taxi fare; making sure that the total balances out; to the occasional one-sided conversation about how you are their 'size'. To this day, I still haven't gotten used to it. I am forced to give myself a time-out from this very convenient seat because I cannot handle the responsibility that comes with it.

GOOD GUY TO CREEP IN 60 SECONDS

About a week ago I jumped into the front seat of a taxi to be greeted with "hello lala" from the driver. I ignored the driver's sly glances, small talk and how the back of his hand brushed my thigh when he changed gears. I paid no attention to this bald-headed man with a boep and carried on listening to music on my phone. He noticed that I kept looking at my watch and offered to drop me off closer to work so I wouldn't have to walk. I agreed because I was late. As soon as the last passenger got off, he started telling me how he's been eyeing me for a while. I knew exactly where the rest of this was going so I told him that I don't date people's fathers in the hope that he would back off. He asked me to take his number in case I changed my mind or I wanted to lunch, but I refused. Then he grabbed my hand just as I was about to open the door and yanked me back into the car.

NOT THE FIRST TIME A TAXI DRIVER TRIED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE

His touch took me back to my North West hometown in Rustenburg when I was in primary school. I remember waiting for my transport to school to come pick me up. It was after school on this particular day. The driver came early, but I didn't mind because I finally had the chance to sit in the front seat. We drove to a school not too far from mine. On the way he stopped, looked at me and took my hand in his. He said they were beautiful and squeezed them. I was 11. He was old enough to be my father. He suggested that we go and buy ice- cream, just the two of us. I protested that it would be unfair to the other kids and that they were probably waiting on us. He wasn't pleased, but listened. He started the car, still holding my hand, and drove to the other school. I jumped out as soon as the taxi stopped to go join my friends in the back seat. The look he gave me through the rear-view mirror still sends shivers down my spine.

ENTER THE FRONT SEAT AT OWN RISK

It's as if there is a 'enter at own risk' policy when you sit in the front seat. You can't fight it because you 'chose' to sit there. So you have to sit pretty and endure the ride.

It sometimes feels like it does not matter how you dress, all you have to do is be a woman and the harassment will follow. The f**ked up part is that taxis will start driving past you if you were to ever voice your frustrations. What is sad though, for some of us, is that we actually have no choice but to use taxis as they remain the cheapest way for us to get around.

Follow Goabaona Mathibe on Twitter:@ GabbyMath

This article was republished with kind permission from livemag.co.za

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