By Marivir R. Montebon
The days leading to May 18, 2009 had all my attention focused on flying to San Francisco in California. It was the most exciting time of my life to finally meet my daughter, Leani, after a year-and-a-half of being away from each other. She came in as an immigrant at age 16, accompanied by my sister, Joan who was about six months pregnant with her second child.
I booked my flight from New York two days before Leani’s arrival, for I was to have a mini reunion with my two high school friends, the ever-sweet Marivi Tiambeng-Perez and the vivacious Giselle Doherty-Bitz.
The excitement fever was beyond 100 degrees, whether F or C.
My Jet Blue flight was at 5:30 AM, hence I left my apartment at about 3:30AM and took the E train to JFK. There was no air train service when I arrived at the station that would connect us to the airport, hence I took a cab. I was with a couple who was going to the airport as well.
We agreed to pay $10 each to the driver of the black Lincoln taxi.
The couple was first dropped off at the American Airlines which was among the first airlines on the pre-departure area, being on alphabetical sequence. I was busy text messaging that I did not really notice that they already left.
The driver, a tall black man whose white beard reached his chest and was wearing a turban, sped off after receiving the fare.
When I looked through the window, I noticed that we were driving towards the hangar of the airport, then into the cargo area, which was dark and uninhabited.
The strange, secluded place frightened me. He was into something evil! I had goosebumps. But instantaneously, anger overtook my fear. I studied the driver’s face and said to myself, this yawa (devil in my Cebuano language) seems to want me for breakfast. I blurted with a loud voice, hey, where are we going? I am going to Jet Blue. Take me to Jet Blue, I said angrily.
He said, apologetically, I am sorry I am lost.
Oh-shut-up-you-are-lost! I was already on a non-stop rant mode. My flight is at 5:30AM and I don’t want you to mess with my schedule. Take me to Jet Blue at once. You don’t know who you are messing with! I said screaming. (Ooops, to my mind, I said who am I anyway? I couldn’t believe I said that but still I was so angry to stop my rant).
The driver made a sharp curve outside the cargo area leading towards the highway as I opened the taxi door on my side and let it open with my right foot, in anticipation that he could whisk me off to another secluded place. Take me to Jet Blue at once, I demanded again.
I admit, that while I was angry and feeling violated, I loved looking at my red boots, a gift from my aunt Susan, on the taxi door.
He said, Ma’am close the door, I will take you to Jet Blue. We will be hit. We will get accident.
I said to myself so the devil is scared of being hit, and he wanted to rape me a few minutes ago. Just-drive-fast-yawa, I said infuriated.
All throughout the panicky trip, I calculated that my right leg can very well reach his jaw if I did a flying kick, in case he gets crazier, putting me at risk.
My intent of opening the door while the car was in motion worked. All the other cars that tried to overtake us had heads popping out, what could be going on…why a red shoe was keeping a taxi door open. They looked at me surprised at first, then approvingly, then minding their driving as they evaded the widely open door.
Finally, down to the last curve, the taxi driver reached the Jet Blue drop off station.
I handed my $10 fare to the driver and said you are truly an as..ole. He had some nerve to ask me to pay him $20 for the long trip! Hey, I could report you to the police for assaulting me but I have to catch my flight. It was 4:45 in the morning. My flight was boarding.
I kicked the taxi door with my red boots as I disembarked. The airport cop looked at me and asked, what happened, Miss? I said, that driver is an as..ole and I am late for my flight.
From the airport door to final boarding area, I ran as fast as I could, taking off my belt, all jewelry and, asking apologetically to everyone on the line, I am so sorry, excuse me, my flight is boarding, thank you, please, excuse me. Luckily, everyone gave in.
I was the last to board.
When I reached my seat, I almost passed out. I was shaking in fear and anger. My forehead was sweating, so was my entire body, my mouth and hands trembling. What a horrible way to reach the airport.
The flight attendant asked if I was okay. I said no, I am not. I need a glass of water. She hurriedly gave me one. I called my mom to tell her what happened. She was thankful that I bravely protected myself. You are blessed, she said.
Most of the time during the five-hour flight, I slept, so tired but triumphant and grateful that I was safe.
When I reached San Francisco, I had a joyous reunion with Giselle and Marivi that I totally forgot that harrowing experience. But I loved my red boots even more. This fashionable pair of shoes, which is alive and kicking to this day, is a weapon for self-protection.