I was 40 when it happened, and my older daughter was 16. To make matters worse, it was our first night of the trip, and in happened in the Eternal City–Rome.
Following a few days in that city, we were scheduled to tour 5 countries on our own. Since we had no guides, and this wasn’t a charter trip, I knew there’d be difficulties in money- changing (no Euro yet), room decisions, tour questions.
But I never anticipated what happened to us on the very first night.
At dinner, I noted my older daughter (16), sitting across from me, glaring at someone across the room, her middle finger extended upward. I asked “What are you doing?” She said, “I’m telling that waiter over there what I thought of what he just did to me, as he cupped my butt, when I went to use the ladies room.”
I was upset, but not knowing Italian, I thought it best to leave. Besides, she’d gotten her middle-fingered point across.
When I got outside, I hailed a cab, not realizing a queue was in place. A battle ensued where the two cabbies argued since the one I’d summoned had apparently jumped the line. That should have alerted me, right off the bat, to his lack of ethics and fair-play.
Instead, I took the front seat, as the kids piled into the rear. It was a tiny Fiat-type vehicle, placing me uncomfortably close to the driver.
Some minutes into our drive, he asked “Espousa?” and knowing just enough Latin, I answered “Morte (Dead).” I thought he was just being polite and conversational, asking where my husband was.
It was then I felt it–his hand cupping my breast. He’d merely reached across the slight expanse and performed the act. I went nuts.
I started screaming “Stop this car.” And to the girls: “Get out, now!” while my younger one protested “But Mom, this isn’t our hotel” (she didn’t realize what had transpired.)
All the more brazen, the cabbie proceeded to shout at me that he wanted his fare. In fury, I took the loose change in my hand and threw it at him (I have no idea how much it was). It was my feeble attempt at retaliation.
I left him, in the middle of the road, acting as if he were the wronged party, while I got the girls to the curb and eventually away. But the whole experience left me with a powerful lesson: Never share circumstances of your trip with strangers, for the unscupulous ones use it to their advantage.
From that point on, if anyone asked, my husband was “meeting us at our destination point,” or “he’s waiting for us up ahead (or in the other room.)”
I never told anyone again that we were 3 women (well, one adult and two semi’s) traveling alone, ‘lest we invite man-handling. But, sadly, I’d discover: Rome wouldn’t be the only place I’d face danger as a woman traveling without a male escort.
***Have you had your own travel nightmare where you were abused by another? A frightful cabbie…horrendous hotel host…thieving tour-guide? Feel free to share at Comment section below.