It was a normal weekday in Lima and I was standing in front of a high-end hotel waiting to hail a cab. A guy calls out to me asking if I need a ride. I decline and walk away.
Totally innocuous right? Seemingly, but see if you feel the same way after I gave you these additional details about the incident:
- The cab driver was wearing a nice suit (totally weird)
- He was standing outside his car, a sedan with dark tinted windows (not your normal taxi)
- He called to me in English (rare)
- When I told him my destination, he offered the lowest rate I’ve ever gotten for that route
- When I declined he pushed back asking me if I thought the rate was too high (again, bizarre behavior)
What would you do in that scenario? Would you get in the car?
I refused a second time (more aggressively) and walked rapidly away from the situation.
To many a tourist in Lima, this could seem like a jackpot find: a nicely groomed English-speaking driver in a clean car that offers you a cheap fare. Heck, why wouldn’t you take it???
Thankfully, I have taken cabs many times in Lima and gained situational awareness regarding cabbing norms. I can tell you that every single one of the 5 factors listed above gave me an intuitive hit that something was amiss. Combine that with the knowledge that Expat kidnappings are a reality in Lima and there was no way you could have gotten me into that cab.
Rewind back 5 years and I probably would have made a very different decision. I still would have had the intuitive hits that something was amiss but very well may ignored them and accepted the cab ride so that I didn’t appear rude or unkind. Had we lived overseas then, it’s very possible that I would have spent hours worrying about this very scenario happening and then ignored my intuition in the actual moment. According to Gavin De Becker, that’s an all too normal scenario.
Who’s Gavin De Becker, you ask? Well, he’s the author of The Gift of Fear, a book that I started reading shortly after this incident (it’s been collecting dust on my bookshelf for 5 years). In my next post I’ll tell you more about the key insights I gleaned from the book as well as how I’ve changed my mentality over the last few years from being someone who doesn’t even want to think/know about violent crimes (for fear they’ll happen to me) to someone who is informed, situationally aware and trusting of their intuition.
SAFETY NOTE REGARDING CABS**To avoid sketchy taxi incidents, it’s best to use a taxi company that you call in advance (like Satelital). Green taxis leaving the airport are also safe (that’s the company name – Taxi Green). If you do hail one on the street, make sure that the taxi has stripes on the side and it’s license plate number written on the side as well. I’ve been told that the license plate will also have a yellow strip along the top, indicating that it’s a vetted taxi. Here’s an example of what one would look like (all though they are often white too).