Surviving the Service: A Woman’s Guide to Dealing with Cab Drivers in Lebanon

February 10, 2015Uncategorized

Lebanon is a great place to vacation in: Excellent weather, sunny beaches, clean mountains, amazing night life, among other things make the country a favorite tourist attraction. Public transportation, however, isn’t one of Lebanon’s best-selling points: Many women had the disagreeable experience of sitting in a crowded bus or a foul-smelling cab, where the leers, stares, and idle hands of passengers made said experience even more unpleasant.

I recommend, right of the bat, to AVOID ENTERING ANY VAN-CABS, even if you need to travel long distances, and are short on funds. Those vehicles are uncomfortable, smelly, unsafe, and often frequented by unsavory types. Sexual harassment, as well as sexual assaults on women, often occurs in these vans. You’re better off taking a Bus, which, although bit slower, is definitely safer and operated either by the government or by private companies.

The best option is to hire a company-based cab, such as Allo Taxi, Alfa Taxi, Charlie Taxi, Gerges Taxi, etc.

True, they are more expensive, but you’ll be much safer, not to mention more comfortable. The aim of this article is to provide readers with an understanding of the Lebanese “Service” or shared cab phenomenon, and how to avoid being inconvenienced or victimized while riding in one. Most of the tips offered here will also benefit you if you use other types of transportation, but will need to be modified to fit the situation.

Anatomy of a Service:

The Service is a regular Taxi vehicle, usually owned or rented by an individual, who offers to drop off rides at discounted rates. Since most people seldom want or can afford to pay $7-8 (LBP10,000) or more for a cab ride, especially for distances under 10 kilometers, cabbies charge LBP2,000 (Around $1.5 as of July 2011) per passenger, but pick up multiple fares going in the same general direction.

Sharing a cab this way is called “Taking a service”, and some individuals, desiring to go to a far-off location, may entice the driver by offering to pay for two or three “service” fares (between $3 and $4.5). Most of the time, it’s the driver that will ask for more than one fare to take a specific passenger to his/ her destination.

A Service (As well as other vehicles legally authorized to transport people) can easily be recognized by their looks: These are, most often, Mercedes Benz cars from the 70s or 80s, exhibiting bright red plates, a taxi sign, as well as a Ministry of Transportation sticker on the driver and front passenger’s car doors. Once inside, a driver identification plate – including the car owner’s full name, address, car name, vehicle brand, and plate number – can be found permanently attached to the dashboard. An important thing to know is that the driver may not be the owner of the car, but its renter for the day or week.

NEVER enter a public transportation vehicle that doesn’t show the red plate and taxi sign (Although the id plate and Ministry sticker are a nice touch, it doesn’t mean much as you cannot know if the cab is owned or rented).

Service Behaviors and other nerve-wrecking things you could do without:

A Taxi will usually roam around, honking its horn at each and every pedestrian that it suspects need a ride, and most often than not, take the scenic route to pick up a maximum of fares. Services drive erratically, honk way too much, stop brutally to drop off or pick up passengers, swear at other drivers (even if it’s their fault), take one way streets coming from the opposite direction, try to squeeze their vehicle in the tiniest of spots during traffic jams, and are generally bad drivers.

Cabbies use one hand for driving, using the other to smoke, honk, pick their noses or ears, or scratch an itchy spot. Sure, there are a few great drivers, who behave professionally and are courteous to passengers, but they’re the exception, not the rule.

The following tips are but a few on the type of Services that you’d rather do without. Avoiding getting in the cab if:

  • It is really damaged: Risks of accidents or the car breaking down increases, which sucks, especially if you need to get somewhere on time.
  • Smells heavily of alcohol or drugs: Don’t drink and drive, smoke and fly? Gee, thanks, I’d rather walk and live, thank you very much.
  • Has a political / religious leader’s poster on it: Well, if he takes you to the part of town where people dislike that particular leader or religious figure, you run the risk of getting drawn into trouble.
  • Has a driver wearing traditional religious garb: if you’re interested in long sermons and why you live in sin and should convert to the One True Religion of Happiness™, hop in. You also get FREE religious music and talk shows. If it’s not your cup of tea, say no thank you.
  • Is the home of a shrewd, World-Class, Geopolitical Analyst: The driver will offer detailed insider information regarding Israeli Spy Vultures, predict the region’s future, forecast the U.S.A’s next move against the good people of Schmukistan™, and talk about the latest conspiracy theory involving Evil Pharmaceutical Companies and the Reptilian People living under the crust of the Earth. Damn it, your evil plans for World Domination is uncovered! Quickly exit the vehicle before he finds out you’re a Zionist Mutant Penguin from another planet.
  • Has a hybrid nagging-begging driver: You’re the Savior, send by God Almighty to give him money to save his poor wife or child dying from some incurable disease. The disease, much like the spouse and kid, are imaginary. Shield yourself in silence and wait for another passenger to attract his attention.
  • The Deaf driver: This driver has some hearing problems, made worse if you’re wearing something revealing or sexy. Your repeated requests to drop you off here and now will go unheeded, until you yell it in his ears, profusely apologizing after you make a quick exit.

Proper Positioning Inside the Service

A woman entering a Taxi in Lebanon will probably be harangued or attract unwarranted as well as unwanted attention from the driver and/or other passengers. Such behaviors can be minimized and often short-circuited with proper positioning and body language.

First of all, sitting next to the driver should be avoided at all cost; like mentioned earlier, the Homo Sapiens sub-species of Cabbies have one very idle hand that will grope, squeeze, and grab any exposed flesh. It is also easy for the driver to pull a weapon for intimidation or immediate use against a passenger (That’s you) in that position.

The second worst position is sitting in the back, between two passengers: Being a sandwich is NOT good, especially when you’re stuck between two males who look forward taking turns playing the “I’m sorry did I just touch you?” game. You’d also be very hard pressed to exit or escape the vehicle if you’re in between two passengers.

There are two viable remaining positions, directly behind the driver and behind the passenger front seat, offer certain advantages, namely the ability to exit the car if needed. Also, any groping appendages coming your way can be intercepted. The position behind the driver is the most tactical one, as any attempt from the latter to molest you is extremely limited. Plus, you can directly attack the offender’s Primary Targets (Eyes and throat) and force him to stop the vehicle to ensure a successful escape.

Retaliation and Escape:

Physical retaliation should be used as a last resort. Avoidance and Escape are paramount. If you’re sitting next to the driver and he attempts to caress you, for example, by attempting to put a hand on your thigh or shoulder, your first reaction should be to jam the movement by keeping your hands near the potential target, and brushing the offending limb away, using some sort of behavioral pretext (Brushing the hand on your thigh to fix those pants, etc.). If the offender repeats it, and you feel telling him off (WITHOUT Commanding, Threatening, Contradicting or Challenging), then please do so. If not, asking politely but firmly to let you off to facilitate an escape is next. Suppose he proceeds with his lecherous motives, instead of brushing or pushing the hand aside, shift your behavior by smiling, and gently caressing the arm. This will drop the opponent’s guard and raise his ego, thus keeping him open for a vicious, unexpected counter-attack such as grabbing and snapping the groping hand’s fingers, raking the eyes or palm striking the face. If you’re behind the driver, you can even yank the hand up, dislocating the shoulder.

To ensure a safe escape, you MUST force the vehicle to slow down, or even better, bring it to a complete halt. You do that by overwhelming the driver, and any other assailant(s), with a vicious barrage of attacks to the face and throat area. Once escape is possible, do so in a swift manner, preferably be in a direction perpendicular to the car. Do not run forward or backwards to avoid being ran over easily.

The driver’s main weapon is his car, but many pack sticks, chains, knives, screw drivers, even firearms. Forget about Hollywood, drivers can either shoot or drive, those attempting both at the same time will either miss by a mile or shoot themselves. In conclusion, it is always better to be safe than sorry, walking a few minutes (while being aware of your surroundings) is much better than staying in a locked metal container with a maniac who may be considering taking you to a secondary crime scene.

Like all our articles, this is just a situational awareness primer, and you can learn much more about dealing with violence by enrolling in one of our “Safe For Life” women self-defense seminars, or by taking private classes with us.

For more information, as well as free articles and videos, please contact the author by email (georges.fahmy@senshido.net) or phone (+961 3 499 712).

As always, take care, be safe, and God Bless.

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