I live out in the Booneys and I don’t drive. So, to get around this fact, I would often stay at my then-girlfriend’s apartment on work nights and take a Lyft to and from my job. My girlfriend only lived about a seven minute trip away from where I worked, so it worked out nicely!
One day, after a particularly stressful shift, I went through the motions of taking off my apron, getting my stuff out of my locker for the day and calling my Lyft. The driver’s picture creeped me out, but I brushed it off. I’d gotten creepy looking drivers before and most of them were actually pretty nice. However, this was one time when I should have trusted my instincts and tried for a different Lyft.
The driver pulled into the parking lot and I got into the back seat. My first clue that something was wrong was that he didn’t check in with Lyft to indicate that he’d picked me up. I didn’t really care, though. I didn’t think it was any of my business and I just wanted to get back to my girlfriend’s place.
The driver had a very thick Russian accent and spoke very little English. We said our hellos and he started driving… In the opposite direction of my destination. That was another red flag, but I thought maybe there was a car accident or something on my usual route and he was just trying to avoid the chaos. There was a song I really liked on the radio and I was quietly singing along, when the driver looked back at me. He smiled a creepy smile that made my blood run cold. “Very pretty girl,” he said. “Very pretty voice.”
“Oh, um, thanks!” I stammered, while trying my best to smile politely.
About 10 minutes into the ride, I started panicking silently. He was still driving in the opposite direction of where I needed to go. “Where are you going?” I asked, trying to sound casual.
He muttered out something that I couldn’t understand about the GPS. About five minutes later, he was still driving the wrong way. I found my keys and placed them between my fingers, then hid them from sight behind my hoodie. If I had to fight him off for any reason, I didn’t want him to see my only weapon.
20 minutes passed and I realized that he’d just driven past the building where my mom works. Coincidentally, it was around this time that she called. “Oh, hi, MOM!” I said, trying to put emphasis on the fact that people would notice that I was gone if he was indeed kidnapping me. She asked me where I was, because her car was parked in the lot of my GF’s apartment so she could pick me up and take me home. “Oh, I’ll be there soon, mom! I promise!” The conversation took about a minute or two.
I realized with terror that he was taking me to the airport! “Where are you taking me?!” I finally demanded.
Again, he said something about the GPS.
“Well, mine does work, so we’re going to use it!”
“I don’t understand.”
So, I showed him my phone screen. As soon as I did, he tried to grab my phone! I ripped it back. He was not going to take away my one connection to the outside world! “Turn left NOW!”
Thankfully, he finally listened to me and made a left turn. I guided him step by step back to my girlfriend’s apartment complex.
What should have been a seven minute drive lasted for 45 minutes or more. When we arrived at the complex, I started to get out of the car. The creep handed me a $20 bill. I could only imagine that he was bribing me to stay quiet.
I didn’t stay quiet. I told my girlfriend, mother and best friend. Then I spent the money on pizza and filed a police report.
I don’t know what would have happened had I not taken control of the situation. Please be careful out there. This is one of those situations that you don’t think can happen to you… Until it does.