So, yesterday on the way back from the club, I had to take a taxi. It was almost 22:00 and the only public transport remaining that went from downtown to my outskirts did so in a very roundabout way. And I was hurrying home.
I had no cash with me, only my Visa card, and the trade center with the nearest and apparently only ATM around was closed. So I promised the taxi driver that I would hand him the money when I get home, or from an ATM on the way.
So he drove me off the main road, onto a dark, bumpy path to a gloomy factory, saying there was an ATM there. I was scared, of course. It was late evening, it was dark, and there I am sitting in a taxi, being driven who knows where. I mentioned my fears to the driver, and he realized the implications and apologized for making me uncomfortable. There was indeed an ATM near an entrance there, with ISO standard grumpy Soviet-style clerks around. I got some money off my card, paid the driver, and we drove back, with me recovering from my initial fear.
He was a forty-something guy, and really seemed humble and well-meaning. I felt mostly comfortable there, but there were just a few things that raised my eyebrow.
When we were about to enter the main road again, he laid his hand on mine, saying I emanated some kind of positive aura that made him warm. Then after a few minutes of random small talk (which taxi drivers are often prone to), he asked for my name.
Wait, what? Why is he asking this? I noticed he’s never used any gendered language so far. Is he confused about me? Is that his roundabout way of finding out? Which name should I tell him? Does he see what my makeup is hiding? Crap, how does he read me by default, anyway? My coat and trousers probably register as masculine, but it’s dark and we’re driving without lighting… Gah… I wish I knew…
“Name or pseudonym? You… took a long time answering that…”
“Well, it’s because no taxi driver has ever asked me my name before, so I was wondering why you did…”
Our random small talk continued, about just about anything really – he said he didn’t like driving in silence. From that point on he used feminine language when referring to me. And when we were close to my home, suddenly he asked, out of the blue:
“Maia, perhaps we could stop here for five or ten minutes to talk?”
What?! What’s on his mind, anyway?
“Well, we’ve talked for the whole road, haven’t we?”
“I’d rather just go home. I’m in a bit of a hurry.”
He didn’t insist, nor did he seem angry or upset, so he just fetched me to my house. “Come again!” he said as I exited the taxi. I dropped a glove, and he called my attention to it, calling me Nastya.
“I’m not Nastya.”
“Oh, sorry… Maia.”
What. The. Heck. If someone else told me such a story, I’d think they made it up…