It’s all different depending on who’s talking to whom. There’s the way guys talk to other guys, how guys talk to girls, how girls talk to guys and how girls talk to each other. You’d think that with grown folks there’d be some sort of consistency in the communication patterns so that we’re all on the same page. Sort of like how we are all supposed to follow the same set of driving rules. No matter where you go in this country, the red light means ‘stop’.
If I were to judge solely by my experiences in the last few days, I would have to draw the unlikely conclusion that all men hate talking to all women. I refuse to believe that, but these last few days have done nothing to keep my mind open about the subject.
The other day I was tasked with ensuring that a customer in another town got the assistance she’d requested. In so doing, I made a call to a supervisor in that other town to pass along the information. During the conversation I brought it to his attention that the customer had been trying to reach him, had left a few messages, and had not yet received a return call. I asked him to please call her.
This gentleman’s interest was not in helping the customer, nor was he concerned that the customer had been seeking assistance for a while. His only concern was whether or not I had the authority to repeat the customer’s request. I know this to be true because all throughout the very short conversation, he kept asking me who I was. I repeated, every time, my name and my department. At the end, still unsatisfied, he asked what my function was. He emphasized the word as though I didn’t have a purpose in my own job, let alone on the other end of his phone line. So I gave him my boss’s name.
It didn’t take long for him to realize that through my boss, there existed direct lines of communication to his boss. He stopped asking what my function was and agreed to do what he was supposed to have done prior to my call.
That conversation bothered me for a couple of days. I told myself that maybe this guy was just self-important, and that a call to tell him, however politely phrased, that he hadn’t done what he was supposed to do would have offended him regardless of the messenger’s gender. I reminded myself that had the guy been interested in doing his job initially, there would have been no need for my call at all.
No sooner than I had decided that his issue with me was solely his problem to bear, I realized it was time to take my vehicle for an oil change. I dreaded that conversation. A garage is the one place for certain that no man wants a woman to visit.
I used to frequent a shop where I told the guy at the counter what I wanted, gave him my keys, and then entered a windowless room with bad coffee and stale magazines to await the task. About half an hour later, the guy with my keys would invariably return to tell me I needed something that would boost his sale, I’d decide for myself whether or not it was actually time for that service, relay my instructions to either do it or don’t, pay the clerk, and then leave.
I don’t go there anymore. It’s a relatively long story in itself, but I just don’t.
I found a new place, closer to home, and the people in the garage were really friendly. The owner was an asshole, but since I didn’t usually have to deal with him directly, I kept going back. Then the owner left me high and dry on some tires I’d ordered, disrespected the appointment I’d made, and told his staff to tell me that I could either come back or wait the four additional hours it would take to do the job for which the previous appointment had been made.
I haven’t been back there, either.
I’m running out of places in town where I can go to have my car fixed. It’s not lost on me that my expectations of any place of business greatly exceed the goals they have set for themselves.
I found another place Saturday, and took my pick-up there for an oil change. It’s one of those places that’s designed to look all efficient-like. You pull up to it like a drive-through car wash, pull in following the tire tracks, and stay inside the vehicle while the crew quickly changes your oil. When I went with my husband an hour later to get the oil changed in his car, that’s exactly what happened. Quick and easy.
Flash forward: Husband pulled into the stall unassisted, put it in park and turned the motor off. One garage dude walks over to the driver’s window, grunts almost incoherently, “Oil change?” To which Husband replies, “Yep.” Husband pops the hood, three guys do stuff under it, Garage Dude comes back and says, “Which one?” to which Husband says, “Medium.” Garage Dude barks a two-syllable yet complete set of instructions to the three pairs of hands under the hood. Twelve seconds later, Garage Dude tells Husband how much, Husband hands over the bank card and signs the paper, and we’re out of there in all of ten minutes.
I was seething. I was in a seriously arms-crossed and foot-tappingly irate state. An hour before I had put up with such nonsense from this very same crew of people that my ranting and raving about it only made me look like the idiot in Husband’s eyes when nothing I’d said to him about earlier events could be proven during his own current experience.
Flash back: I pulled up to an empty bay and proceeded to drive in. I noticed six guys standing around with no customers. One of them walked between my passenger door and the garage door’s frame, and I had to hit the brakes to keep from pinning him against it. While I’m waiting for this guy to get out of the way, two more decide I need directional assistance, so they’re both in front of me giving me opposing steering directions. Eventually, one motions for me to stop while the other one is still motioning me forward just a little bit. They consult, decide, and one takes control. I put it in park.
Two of the six instantly appear at my window. They both ask questions, simultaneously and in rapid fire succession. Garage Dude #1 has a whole series of questions with regard to my vehicle’s mileage, whether I had been there before, and the proper spelling of my name so he can determine if I’m in his computer system. He takes great pains to spell out for me which services they offer and then asks me to choose. And oh by the way he wants to know about the condition of my wiper blades.
Garage Dude #2 intermittently wants to know where my last oil change was, why I won’t say the answer that matches the reminder sticker on my windshield, what the address is of the last place that changed my oil, whether it was the one across the bridge on the right, and whether I had let some strange guy in overalls do it or did I take the vehicle to an actual garage.
My head was swiveling back and forth to face the questioner, each in his turn, and I was answering neither of them. Both were growing increasingly frustrated that I wasn’t answering, and I was so dumfounded with the rapid barrage of questions that before I could form an answer for one, the other one started in. Garage Dude #3 entered into my realm of stupefaction and asked me to pop the hood.
I couldn’t find the release. I kept trying to pull the break release and nothing was happening. Garage Dude #3 nudged one of my inquisitionists out of the way, reached in and found it, pulled the release lever, and then promptly exited the scene. From somewhere in the distance I heard someone shout for me to turn off the motor. Garage Dude #2 was in mid-question and seemed a little put off by Dude #3’s efficiency with the hood release.
Four sets of hands were now under the hood while two heads were still in my window asking me questions, some of which from Garage Dude #2 were so totally unnecessary that I was at a loss for why he kept asking them. Someone shouted for me to turn the motor back on. That instruction was repeated by Garage Dude #1 while Garage Dude #2 was again in mid-question.
Both suddenly stopped talking and each was looking at me expectantly.
“One o’ y’all needs to get away from me.”
Whether it was my tone, my arched eyebrows, or the sudden realization that I was bigger than him, I may never know, but Garage Dude #2 scurried away. I was able then to focus on, and provide answers to, the more pertinent questions coming from Garage Dude #1.
When it was over, my oil finally changed and the man paid, three of them decided I needed assistance to drive out of the bay.
The only assistance I need, Buddy, is for you to move. Oh, and shut up, too.
Tomorrow I think I’m going to have a gun-rack mounted in the back window. If perception is everything, and communication is key, then having a visible gun-rack won’t convey the fact that I know very little about guns. But it will communicate, even if under false pretenses, the idea that I don’t need you in my face and probably won’t put up with it.
And if I should spit and scratch while I say it, then it has to be true.