Whenever I tell this story, I find myself laughing, usually to horrified expressions. “That isn’t funny! That’s terrifying!” they object. I’m not sure why I laugh. I know it’s not actually a funny story. Maybe it’s the absurdity that makes me laugh, or maybe it’s my twisted sense of humour and the fact that I cannot break out into giggles whenever something goes horribly wrong. It’s easier to laugh than to cry, right?
A little backstory before I begin. I do not look my age. Almost daily in work, I’d get comments from older people calling me a ‘young lady’. I got questions asking me about my A Level results, which sixth form college I go to, if I was preparing to go to University. There were three girls called Laura at work and I was often refereed to as the young one, despite being the oldest out of the three of us. When I told customers I was moving to Australia they asked if my family were emigrating there or if I was going there to study, the idea that I was doing it myself and that I had already graduated university over three years ago was totally out of the question. Why? Because I look about sixteen years old. Without makeup on, I look even younger.
It’s probably due to my short height, my skinny frame and probably the awkward way I’ve always held myself. I can’t help it. I look and act like a teenager. My friend Zuzana insists she thought I was 14 when she met me. “I was 23! I had a job! How did you think I was 14 if I worked with you?” “Yeah, that’s why I was confused,” she said, ultimately telling me she thought it was more likely that I had cheated the system and acquired a job underage than the fact that I might actually be older than I look.
So let’s get to the story. How I was almost abducted by a paedophile in Miami.
I was up bright and early. 5am early and I was waiting outside my hostel for a coach to take me to Key West. I had no makeup on because 1. it was 5am and I couldn’t be bothered and 2. most of it had melted off in the Miami heat the day before, so what would be the point?
That’s when a car pulled up.
“Hey, I’m your Uber driver, get in,” he said to me.
“I didn’t order an Uber,” I said, unfazed.
“Well, where are you heading? I can take you there,” he said.
“I’m waiting for a bus to take me to Key West. I really doubt you’d want to drive me all that way,” I joked. Knowing full well, even if the dude did promise to take me to Key West I wouldn’t get in the car with him as I’d wake up in a warehouse missing a kidney.
“What are you doing out here all alone so late?” he asked, realising I looked out of place on the street with the stray partiers returning home after a night out. “Come on, get in my car, I’ll take you to the bus stop,”
“I’m at the bus stop,” I said. “And I’m not getting in the car with you,”
“Come on, I can’t leave you alone here. You’re so beautiful,” he declared. He wasn’t the first Miami creep to say this to me. I’d already been hit on more times in my life in this one city than I think I ever have in all my life. “I want to get to know you,” he insisted. “How old are you, anyway?”
“I’ll be 24 next we-” I started.
“Oh, I thought you were fourteen,” I heard him say before he sped off down the road.
I didn’t really think too much of it at the time because it was 5am and I couldn’t be bothered. When the bus eventually arrived and I had a coffee to wake me up, that’s when I really thought about what happened. A PAEDOPHILE just tried to abduct me. A paedophile just tried to abduct ME! How strange.
There’s nothing more to this story, I’m afraid. I never got the dude’s licence plate although I wish I had. It’s sad to think this guy is probably still driving round the streets of Miami Beach at 5am attempting to pick up underage girls. I just hope they’re all smart enough to not get in his car, to not fall for the Uber trick, and to tell him they’re all in their 20s.