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viewpoint

Yo, ready for a ride?

| Thursday, February 8, 2018

It’s a Thursday night. You are just walking out of a party with some other girls.

“Hey, our Uber is almost here!”

Tipsy girls were leaning on each other while waiting for the Uber, with joyful laughs.

“You guys going back to campus? Can I tag along?” a guy asks.

“Sure! … black SUV … our Uber is here!” a girl says.

You step into the car and crawl into the back seat, chatting with the girls. You glance at the boy outside the car who’s still saying goodbye to his friends, and start to doze off.

“What the f—! There’s a person in the trunk!” your friend suddenly yells out and startles you. Your sleepiness is shaken off. You look back and see a white blanket awkwardly covering something.

“That’s just my husband, haha,” the female driver says, suddenly defending herself with an unnatural voice and a weird accent, while laughing a little nervously.

Thousands of scenes from horror movies start flashing through your mind. What’s under the blanket? Did she murder her husband and hide the body under the blanket? What is she going to do to us? You cannot breathe, as if someone was choking you. And your heart starts racing. The absolute horror completely paralyzes you.

Your friend lifts up the blanket, and uncovers … well, sit tight. You are about to go through a really creepy moment.

No, there’s no blood nor dead body. Nothing like that.

There’s just a man curled up and hiding under the blanket — an adult male, alive.

“Oh … you know it’s kinda late, and I’m just trying to protect my wife in case anyone pulls out a knife at her,” he says with a deliberate and strangely calm voice. His lips start to form a weird angle as he looks at you, and oh God, that’s the creepiest smile you have ever seen.

At that moment, the most primitive, ancient and dreadful feeling engulfs you: fear.

The adrenaline flows through your veins as a fish through a river, but you couldn’t move a single muscle. You decide to give him the benefit of the doubt first, but everything still doesn’t make sense. If the man was really concerned about his wife, he could have sat in the front row with her, and he could have stopped her from driving Uber at night or he could have driven the car himself. It just seems merely impossible to you that any normal person would want to hide himself under a blanket in the truck in order to protect his wife.

And if your friend did not happen to peak into the truck coincidentally … well, no one knows what they could have done to you.

And, you could have all died.

Wait, you might think, is this for real? Trust me, this really happened. I was there. I was just sitting in the backseat with the man hiding below the blanket behind me.

And it was undoubtedly the creepiest experience I have ever had.

This was not the first time I have personally been trapped in a little cubicle with a weird driver. A middle-aged man kept staring at me while driving and telling me that he wanted to marry me. Another driver asked me whether I wanted to visit him at his house after work. Quite a few instances and encounters have made me come to the conclusion that, maybe Uber was not selective of its drivers. The criminal and competency assessments provided by Uber are simply just not effective in filtering through the human potential to commit great evil.

I should say that I am quite the lucky one. Yet it is the first time I have ever felt this unsafe in an area around campus, near this place that I am proud to call home.

Earlier this month, the Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) received four reports of sexual offenses that are currently under Title IX investigation. What sent a chill down my spine was when I realized that the alleged locations for these events are “Main Building” and “Flanner Hall.” I think I do not need to go through wordy and lengthy explanation to come to the reasonable suspicion that these reports should be far more dreadful than those that occur in school dorms.

The Notre Dame bubble is not as safe as we thought it might be. We are simply unaware of how many crimes are committed each day, even in the daylight. I have so many friends around me, and even myself, who often ignore the slight chance that these crimes could have occurred to us. Even our internet is under attack right now. The occurrence of Elsagate should be subject to lack of parental advisory and public ignorance. And we, those 20-year-olds who oftentimes browse the internet and social media mindlessly as well.

What’s wrong with these people? This question summarizes lots of people’s struggle and frustration with witnessing the darkest side of humanity. But after asking this question, we should think about what we could have done more to protect our community. I should admit that Notre Dame is relatively a safe area, but only having the NDSP guarding us is far from being enough. We should be more aware and we should do more.

This week, we are going to vote for the student government president. As I went through most of the campaign slogans, what disappointed me slightly was that no one adequately brought up safety concern as a thing they would like to change. At least, being in a Notre Dame bubble made us ignorant of the most fundamental thing to protect. I don’t wish to speak for, nor against any candidate running for president, but I do petition that whoever gets elected could realize that in order to promote student well-being, we need to be safe first. This is an area that student government, and all of us, should strengthen.

Raising awareness should be the first step. Many students have suspected that the two or three annual email alerts sent by NDSP are not the whole picture. Student government could work with NDSP to ensure the transparency of disclosing the crime log and raising awareness with regards to crime prevention. We could also be more proactive in discerning potential crime around us, as in the Uber story. I am not saying that we should scare one another to an extreme extent, but we should just care more.

Lastly, please be safe. I hope I don’t need to say this, but the night is dark and full of terrors.

Erin Shang seeks to find the black and white from this world of messed up palette, the polygons from monotonous lines, and passion from the shattered dreams in this brave new world we’re all living in. She is a sophomore studying finance and ACMS at Notre Dame, living in Cavanaugh Hall. Erin welcomes comments of any kind, and can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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