For years, wife Brenda has been telling me how she gets mistreated every time she takes her car to the shop. A while back, she took her car to the dealership for routine maintenance and a few minor repairs. She came home mad.
“I’m never going back to that car shop,” she fumed. “Every time I go there, they talk to me like I’m in the first grade. I get the feeling that the guy behind the counter doesn’t think I’m qualified to drive a car into the service bay.”
“Did you tell him that you once proved your love for me by rotating a set of tires all by yourself, using nothing but a bumper jack and a lug wrench?” I asked.
“No,” she sighed. “I didn’t share that. I shouldn’t have to.”
“Why do you think people at the car shop treat you this way?” I asked.
“It’s because I’m a woman, and I’m in a car shop,” Brenda responded flatly.
I rolled my eyes. “Now don’t start up with that paranoid 'because I’m a woman’ talk,” I said. “That particular form of prejudice ended 30 years ago, when the cars got so complicated, not even the men could work on ’em. Besides, that shop is full of women. Get one of them to help you.”
“They avoid me,” she said.
“Hmmmm. Probably a result of conditioning,” I said. “I bet they’ve got women customers chasing them around all day, complaining about the way the men treat them. I think they’d rather deal with male customers who just want their cars fixed.”
“Think whatever you want,” Brenda huffed. “But today, while I was waiting for somebody to write up the repairs, the guy behind the desk told me to go stand by the wall. He said it was the only way he could tell when it was my turn. He said it not once, but twice. The second time, he wagged his finger and said, 'Ma’am, I told you to go stand over there.’ ”
Well, that’s when I went down to the car shop and found the man who told Brenda where to stand. I gently explained to the rude fellow that nobody gets to tell Mrs. Jowers where to stand, not even me. After just a few seconds of conversation, he fully agreed with me, or at least he said he did. Then I went and talked to his boss. Two days later, Brenda got a really nice letter of apology and a coupon for a year’s worth of free oil changes. I haven’t seen the finger-pointing man in the car shop since.
All of which brings me to this: I used to think that women were just whining when they said they got dissed by men in car shops. I didn’t believe women when they said they got no respect from the men who work on their houses. Lately, I’ve changed my mind.
I’ve got my reasons. For instance, a few weeks back, I stood and listened while a nice real estate saleswoman, working on behalf of her client, told a building supervisor that his crew had screwed up the roof on her client’s new house, and her client wanted it fixed before he moved in. That is a reasonable and customary request.
A few days later, the real estate lady went back to the house to see if the repairs had been done right. They hadn’t been done at all. So she called the supervisor’s supervisor and asked him to come to the house. Seconds after he got there, he shook her hand, mashed her fingers together hard and called her the B-word. To this guy, a woman who knows when a roof is screwed up deserves a little pain and some rude talk.
In recent months, I’ve gotten a real lesson in bad man manners, courtesy of lawyer Jean Harrison, who deals with a lot of construction-defect cases. Often, she has to call the men in charge of enforcing building codes in some of the small towns that surround Nashville. When she makes one of these calls, she has one simple question: What code was in effect when the house was built?
So far, not one codes guy has told her the truth. They either say they don’t know (highly unlikely), or they just make something up. I know this, because Harrison has developed a workaround for whenever she gets the runaround: She gets me to call the same person and ask the same question. Without fail, I can get the answer in 10 seconds. It’s a crying shame. Well, actually, as far as Harrison is concerned, it’s a steam-blowing-out-her-ears shame.
All I can do is make this plea to my XY-chromosome brothers: Do what your mama taught you to do, and be nice to women. You don’t gain anything by making them mad. They’ll make you pay, and you know it.
Most of all, don’t hate a woman because she knows a little something about houses, cars, tools, sports and other manly stuff. In fact, if you treat these women right, they’ll clean out the gutters, cut the grass, then come in and watch the ball game with you. If you treasure anything, treasure women such as these.