I’m exhausted. I had to get up at 4.30 this morning for a trip to London to attend a swanky conference for work. I decided to stay at my partner’s parents’ house instead of going from home to knock an hour off the journey – smart! I booked a cab in good time to take me from the house to the train station, to ensure I made it on time. The taxi driver seemed perfectly personable, very chatty and actually used to live near when I live. What are the chances?
“The taxi driver seemed perfectly personable…”
“It’s good you didn’t have to get the bus” he said, very jolly for 5.30 am.
“Yes.” I said, “I didn’t want to risk missing my train, and I’m not sure how long it takes to get to the station.”
“Besides, a young girl like you” (young! Thanks, fella!) “would get intimidated on the bus here on your own.” Really? I mean, I’ve done that bus route before with my partner, and there’s a lot of teenagers get on, but I can’t imagine there’s a huge intimidating teenager problem in the wee hours of the morning. If they’re up, they’d be too tired to be intimidating.
“It’s all big black Africans and Poles here. You don’t know where they’ve come from.”
He used the phrase “swarms of refugees”. He said it was a shame that UKIP hadn’t been able to get seats “round here”. He said it used to be different, better, more “people like us”. I grimaced, silently.
“Does he think we’re living in Westeros or something?”
“Do you have a foreign problem where you are?”
“No.” I said, curtly.
“Good good. You’re probably a bit far North for them.” What the hell? Does he think we’re living in Westeros or something?
“No.” I clarified. “We have lots of foreign people in the area, it’s just they’re no problem.”
Eventually we made polite conversation about speed cameras, and I got out at the train station, and didn’t tip him. I wished him a merry Christmas, and went on my way. The whole experience made me very uncomfortable- what can you say when you’re stuck in an enclosed space with someone like that?
“I presume he thinks there views are ok, and as normal as saying “I don’t care for oranges” or “I’m looking forward to my holiday””
It got me thinking though, how did this guy make a decision that he was ok to voice these views to me? I presume he thinks they’re ok, and as normal as saying “I don’t care for oranges” or “I’m looking forward to my holiday” but unconsciously he must have read some cues about me that made him feel safe to express his views. If I’d had a Polish accent, I assume he wouldn’t have mentioned Polish people being a problem. If I’d been black, I guess he’d have edited out his feelings about not knowing where big black guys came from (top tip mister, if you’re that interested you can ask them!). He saw me: white, British, northern, seemingly well off enough to be on a business trip, and made an assumption that I agreed with him.
To be fair, I did the same to him. I usually greet people by saying “don’t you think Nigel Farage is a bellend?” but I thought better of it…
It’s a difficult situation to be in; of course people are free to express their feelings and opinions, but surely there’s a time and a place? And at work? That’s not the place, is it? This is the second time I’ve had an uncomfortable experience like this (the first was while a nurse took my blood -bonus!) and as a customer, I think it’s pretty poor practice. I’d say, if you want to be a bigot, you should be doing it in your own time.
Or, on second thoughts, get out into the world, meet a variety of people, and stop being a nasty bigot all together.