July 27, 2017 in Oregon
Today I did something that shocked me. My behavior was reprehensible and, I hope, out of character. I’m only telling it now because it brought something long-buried in me to the surface; I have a new awareness and I’ll do my darnedest to learn from it.
Here’s what happened to the best of my memory—and I’ve changed the names:
At 9am I drove to the Toyota dealership where I had a service appointment. A young black woman came out to the drive-in area and greeted me. “What can we do for you today?”
“I have an appointment at 9:30; I made it with Carl when I stopped in the other day.” I assumed I would be led to him.
“Well, Carl isn’t in today,” she said, “so we’ll put you with another service advisor to make sure you’re well taken care of.”
That irritated me. I’d liked the guy Carl. He was an older man who seemed honest, attentive, knowledgable, and experienced—which wasn’t what I’d encountered in the service specialist at the last dealership I’d been to in the Los Angeles area. I had a complicated car situation, I thought.
The greeter walked me over to the glassed-in room and through the door I saw a young woman at the desk in there. My hackles rose.
With irritation, I said to the greeter, “I need someone really experienced, and I need someone who I can talk to about my situation.”
“Well, that would be Brenda,” she said with…was it a touch of sweet sarcasm?
Smart answer, I thought. Or smart-ass.
She walked me in to meet Brenda—a woman maybe in her late 20s who stood at a computer station table which held a pile of papers.
Brenda courteously asked my name. I gave it. She pulled up the record of what I’d told Carl I needed and she printed it out.
I could barely contain my annoyance. I want someone competent who knows about cars, I thought, someone who can give me sound advice based on years of experience. Not a pretty, young know-nothing.
But Brenda calmly went through the list of repairs I’d spoken of with Carl and she asked if those were what I still wanted. I don’t know…do they make sense?…are they what I need for my car at this mileage? I didn’t voice those questions, thinking she wouldn’t know the answers anyway. So I just told her to go ahead. She pointed out the total estimated price and had me sign the consent line.
Quietly, irrationally seething, I was civil.
Then she asked me if I’d been in their waiting area before. I hadn’t. She graciously walked me to it, pointed out the features—the area for laptops, the coffee and refreshments—and then left. I picked a spot for myself and took out my computer. I determined to get some emails pounded out, regardless of how unsatisfactory the situation was.
And after about three emails, it all hit me. I looked up and probably blanched. Esther, you’ve been a feminist for almost fifty years, I said to myself. You’ve marched for equal access for women to jobs generally held by men. You’ve written articles. You’ve been the director of a sex-equity school program where your job was to encourage girls to go into trades formerly reserved for boys, and vice-versa. You’ve argued for free choice, led awareness workshops, fought with administrators. Why the heck are you angry that your car service person is a woman?
And I could hardly believe I was in my own body and mind.
When Brenda came up to me to report on the progress with my car repairs, I listened, and then said. “Brenda, I owe you an apology.”
She looked confused. “For what?”
“Because when I walked through the door to your desk, I thought ‘Oh, s__, I’ve been assigned a woman. She won’t know anything.’”
She laughed a little at my use of the vernacular; perhaps she didn’t expect that sort of language from a woman with gray hair in the middle of a business discussion.
“I’ve been a feminist for years,” I said. My eyes stung. I felt like crying. “I’m so embarrassed about myself and my attitude. I’m so sorry. I can’t believe my own thoughts and behavior. I’m shocked and ashamed.”
She looked at me with compassion and, I think, understanding. “Oh, really, no offense taken,” she shook her head.
When the car servicing was done, she discussed with me the details of what had been done. She asked, “You say you travel a lot. What is it you do?” I told her about my nomadic lifestyle. She was fascinated and said she wished she could travel more. I told her to keep the vision of what she wants, and it could happen. Then she graciously walked me to my freshly washed car, and saw me into the driver’s seat, and bid me a lovely day.
And what I regret now was that I didn’t engage her in conversation about what led her to work in automotive service, how she found her job, how it was to be a woman in such a traditionally masculine world. It would have been a nice reciprocation for me to show interest in her. Well, at least I apologized and, I hope, released yet another layer of unconscious misogyny.
Oy, some of this stuff runs deep. But I actually never want to stop becoming more aware of what is really in my consciousness.
You know we have the total solar eclipse coming soon. Yesterday, I listened to the broadcast by a healer I like, Rob Wergin, and he said that this is a time when we’re likely to surface old beliefs and patterns, and we have the opportunity to shift them, to let them go.
So the good thing about my behavior today is that it definitely surfaced an old belief, not just of mine but of our whole culture, and now that I’ve seen it, yes, yes, yes, I let it go.
Onward to growth and positive change.