WE now live in an age where we are comfortable getting into a complete stranger’s car or staying in their house.

If someone had told you about ride-sharing services or homes being open for short-term stays, say, 10 years ago, you would have thought, “That’s crazy! I’d never pay an unknown person to drive me around and no way will I stay overnight in a strange house!”

Yes, I know we’ve always had taxis, but for the sake of my point, let’s forget about taxis for a while.

Technology has allowed us to live more flexibly and all these services are useful. I use ride-sharing services a lot and find Airbnb accommodations the answer to budget travelling. Ride-sharing services have become a part of daily lingo, just like how Google inserted itself into our social dictionary.

I am always fascinated by how these advances have impacted our society and am really grateful for the convenience they provide. But there is still a part of me that is cautious when I utilise these services. To every great advancement, there will always be setbacks and we must always be mindful of our security and safety.

My work sometimes requires me to stay back late, and I have no option but to use a ride-sharing service to get home safely.

I’ve had good experiences but also bad ones. I am not asking you to instantly stop using them but I hope you will be more cautious.

I know Malaysians are polite people. We don’t like confrontation. We don’t like to speak out (sometimes) even when we feel uncomfortable.

I get it. I keep quiet too when I don’t feel right in the hope that everything will work out. But I’ve learnt that this is not the way to treat our safety.

One night, I was working late in central Kuala Lumpur. I didn’t drive because I didn’t want to pay exorbitant parking fees (you know how KL malls can be!) and decided to take a ride-sharing service home. I don’t live very far from where I work, it would be a 10 minute ride at most.

I finished work a little after midnight (we were launching something special the next day and had to set up the night before) and walked down to my regular waiting spot. I am always careful to stay in brightly lit spaces, around other people and somewhere visible.

I ordered a ride-sharing service and after about 15 minutes, the driver came to pick me up.

As soon as I entered the car, I saw another man in the front passenger seat. Red flags immediately went off – I had read enough news articles and watched all the videos my mum had sent me to know that this was not a good situation.

Half my body was already inside the car, and I sat down with one leg still outside - I didn’t close the door.

“Excuse me, I expected to be picked up only by the driver. What’s going on?”

The man in the passenger seat turned to me and said, “I am from the ride-sharing service and I’m training him.”

I wasn’t sure about the ride-sharing service’s policies but I was not okay with that.

“I don’t think you can do that. Can I see some identification please?” I asked, hoping that he could make it legitimate.

“It’s okay, just get in.”

I insisted, “No, I want some ID.”

“Get in the car!” he said, raising his voice.

“No, I don’t want this ride!” I answered and got out of the car.

As soon as I shut the door, they drove off. I was a bit shaken and just wanted to get home. I didn’t want to get into another ride-sharing service or take a taxi.

So I called my husband. I also shared my experience on my Instastory because I want others to be cautious and to warn them.

Immediately, I got many messages from people (mostly young girls) who said that they had been in similar situations and most of the time just sat in the car in the hopes that they would arrive safely at their destination.

One girl even wrote “I felt really unsafe but I didn’t want to make a scene.”

If only my ride-sharing service driver was actually Hello Kitty!

Girls – making a scene is nothing, NOTHING compared to your safety. Make the biggest scene possible when you feel scared or threatened. If you can’t get yourself to safety, then make enough noise for someone to notice and come help you.

Never be afraid to speak out. My sister-in-law (quite a firecracker that one!) was in a car with a driver who took her around in circles.

A ride that was supposed to take five minutes became nearly 20 minutes when he kept re-routing the car.

She told him that he was going the wrong way and tried to give him directions – he yelled at her and told her to “shut up” and sit down. She kept fighting back and yelled at him until he eventually just dropped her off on the side of a busy road.

Get yourself out of a distressing situation. Anything is better than being trapped in a car with someone who could potentially be dangerous. We always think we’re in a “bubble”, that these things would never happen to us.

However, you can never be too careful. Always be prepared and be aware of your surroundings. I carry a whistle with me at all times. My friends laugh when they see it in my bag, but if I were ever in a situation where I need to get attention, I know the little red whistle will help me.

Be mindful of your surroundings, be careful of who you are with, and take action when you feel something is not right because most of the time, your gut feeling is right.

Sometimes I wish all rides were as joyful and safe as they once were.

Journalism graduate Iman Azman continues to navigate her way through the creative industry as a member of The dUCk Group’s marketing team. Here, she muses about her work, finding balance in life and shares what it’s like diving in head first into new experiences and opportunities. Follow her journey on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/iman_azman/

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