I've been reading a lot lately about various modi operandi taking place in taxi cabs here in the metro, most interesting of which are the stories involving "knockout gas", a rag or a hand towel being waved unnecessarily in front of the aircon and robbery/assault of the passenger once she has been inebriated. Effects of the gas apparently includes dizziness, muscle paralysis among the others. There was even a video of a taxi driver wearing a face mask circulating around the web which led me to believe there is truth to the reports even though a vital question remains unanswered. How was it that the driver was not affected by the gas?
At 8:30AM earlier this day (November 16, 2013) I rode a taxi with plate number UVJ 203 along Marcos Highway (I was on my way home to Rizal). It was a normal-looking taxi whose name I regrettably forgot to take note of since I concentrated on the plate number. Upon climbing into the vehicle, the first thing I noticed was the presence of a rag lying beside the gear stick and that the driver was wearing sunglasses which wasn't a big deal since it was a pretty sunny morning.
As we traversed Marcos Highway, I could feel him looking at me through the rear view mirror (which was easier to do since he was wearing shades) and constantly kept glancing at his right side mirror where I could feel his peripheral vision boring at me.
Alarms went off in my head when we turned to Felix Ave. going to Rizal proper.
He took the rag beside the gear stick and used it while changing gears so that the rag was between his hand and the stick which was located conveniently at the same level and 2 inches away from the vehicle's air-conditioner vents.
I contemplated on why he would do this and 3 hypotheses came to mind:
a. He was using the rag as sort of a driving glove for optimal gear changing performance.
b. He wanted to polish his gear stick so it would beautifully reflect the sunlight and what better way to do this is while driving.
c. I was on my way to be a Taxi Modus Operandi statistic.
I have read enough tales that I consciously stopped breathing normally the moment he laid his hands on that rag. I can still feel him watching me every once in a while through his sunglasses. Stupidly enough, I still gave him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he did need the cloth for optimal gear changing purposes, who knows? I knew the place we were in like the back of my hand and he didn't know I was breathing as shallowly as humanly possible so I felt a certain kind of advantage.
But then he started alternating the position of his hands between the gear stick and the right side of the steering wheel, again and again, passing the rag directly in front of the aircon vents. Then I heard a spraying sound near the driver's seat and I knew I had to get out.
I didn't dare find out whether it was (and if there really was) an invisible substance in the air or it was hypoxia from not breathing and being nervous at the same time that was making me feel slightly dizzy. I was genuinely curious whether if I inhaled I would smell a vanilla scent as reported.
I considered action-star-ily opening the doors and rolling off the moving taxi like a mad stunt woman but lifelong scoffing at over-reacting people and sheer vanity got the better of me.
Instead, I concentrated on breathing as shallowly as possible and finding a place I could safely get off at because there was no way I was taking this driver to my house. McDonald Karangalan was around 20 meters ahead and I said to the driver, "Manong sa tabi na lang po."
And he said, "Bababa ka na dito?" (I swear I heard disappointment in his voice.)
I replied, "Doon po sa may McDo."
The moment I said this, he immediately let go of the rag he was holding and thankfully decelerated and stopped in front of McDonalds to let me off the side of the road.
When I arrived home, I searched for news articles and reports of similar incidences and found the news articles listed at the end of this page. I remembered the print screen of a victim's experience my mom/sister sent me as a warning on Facebook and 'lo and behold, there he was. The very same driver I was with earlier.
I am 90% sure this is the same driver I was talking about. If not for his big sunglasses, I would have memorized his face because I was watching his movements the whole time. I didn't report anything to the authorities because, technically, I had nothing concrete to complain about except for the suspicious use of a rag while driving and a malevolent spraying sound.
News articles also mentioned this normally happens on alone female passengers and in broad daylight.
I am writing this post as gratitude to the similar write-ups I've read prior to this incident. If not for them, I wouldn't have noticed anything out of the ordinary and may have possibly fallen victim to a heinous crime. Please do not disregard stories and other warnings such as this as they do really happen and with the upcoming holiday season, who knows what other ways they would come up with.
Stay safe and alert everyone. Please spread the word.
LTFRB to probe on new modus victimizing female taxi riders || Philstar.com
LTFRB bares taxi drivers' new modus operandi || Inquirer.net
Taxi Driver Modus Operandi, Plate No. TXJ-792