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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Equal Rights, or Just Plain Mean?

I got a blast from the past this morning when an old buddy from back home in Virginia called me to say hello, catch up, etc.

It was a guy I met one summer - I think my junior year of high school - during a disastrous, short-lived gig with a commercial painting contractor. I say it was disastrous 'cause I probably nearly killed myself and colleagues more than once with my unintentional Three Stooges antics on the job sites. What can I say? I can do blue collar work - remember, I'm a certified aircraft machinist - but I just wasn't cut out for painting/construction, etc.

Anyway, my guy, who I've stayed in touch with off-and-on over the years, ribbed me a little and reminded me of our old boss, who had a reputation as a curmudgeon. And we both recalled one incident in particular.

We were riding with the boss on the way to a job site, and we saw a woman on the side of the highway, standing next to a car. She had waved and was apparently in distress, so we pulled over. As we drew closer we realized she had a flat tire. I still remember, she was relatively young - looked to be in her mid 30s, and she wore a dark business power suit. Her car was in the west-bound lanes, heading toward downtown. I remember wondering if she was on her way to some big biz meeting.

Well, my boss being a southern "gentleman" told us to snap to, 'cause we were gonna change her tire. We snapped to.

And then the boss saw her bumper sticker. It read something to the effect of "Women don't need men to get the job done," or something along those lines.

Well, the boss, who was definitely not a fan of any women's rights arguments, turned to the woman and asked if she really believed the sticker's message.

She turned up her chin and answered in the affirmative. So he responded something to the effect of "If you really believe in equal rights change your own tire! C'mon boys!"

He made us get back in the truck and we left.

My buddy and I can laugh about it now, not 'cause it was funny that we left that woman stranded, but because that exchange was bizarre.

Gender does not matter to me - with the exception of my wife, of course; I did require her to be a woman - as long as you can pull your weight and do what you do and do it well. I know 50X the male bums than I know female bums.

But a small part of me understands my old-school employer's frustration. Here was a woman on the side of the road trying to flag down help for a bit of manual labor. And she was sporting a bumper sticker saying she didn't need help (from men) with anything. In his generation that sticker was the equivalent of a slap in the face.

Still, in the end I say we should have helped her. She may have been a better tire-changer than either me, my boss, or my buddy. But maybe she just didn't want to get her nice business suit dirty. I'm not being facetious. Seriously, if I was on the way into a white collar gig and wearing nice clothes I'd call AAA to change my tire before I risked getting my gear dirty.

Your thoughts?


  • That's a funny story, dook. Cruel, but funny. That's one of those movie moments that you can't really pass up. It cost you nothing to leave her there, but it gave you a great story.

    If I were you I wouldn't lose much sleep over it. If she was as good looking as you remember, she didn't change the tire, no matter how long it took. If you were really smart, you would have stayed behind by yourself to change it and asked her to give you a ride to the job. You would have gotten her number, there is no doubt about that.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 5:38 PM  

  • I find that situation to be hilariously comical. You'd think she could have put that feminist pride on the back burner so that she could get that tire fixed. I wonder how long it took before a woman came along to help???

    By Anonymous Michelle, at 5:43 PM  

  • Yep, the instinct to be a gentelman is hard to overcome some times. I'd say change the tire, and then give her a bunch of shit for not doin' it herself.

    By Blogger Fathairybastard, at 7:08 PM  

  • I would have fixed the tire too!

    While reminding her in a comical and not angry way who has doing the fixing!!

    However this sometimes happens in the workplace and there ,it is just too dangerous
    as I have seen many real cases of discrimination including one in which I was involved at my old job
    and some ridiculous but dangerous ones as well in my new job
    Can't be too careful these days but we should always be a Gentleman
    but not a suicidal one!!

    By Blogger roberto e, at 9:47 PM  

  • My thoughts? Well, I liked what you said and you said it so well.

    I too left someone standing on the road, in the dark, once and still regret it.

    We only have each other and the sooner we realize that the sooner we'll all get along.

    By Blogger Mushy, at 12:01 AM  

  • This definitely sounds like a story from the ancient past, possibly Late Cretaceous. Outside of a movie, I can't imagine a modern upper-middle class professional (male or female) who would flag down random strangers rather than calling in Roadside Assistance, whether through their OnStar, manufacturer warranty, insurance coverage, or old fashined AAA. Money is a great insulator between the well-off and life's dirty work.

    By Blogger NicFitKid, at 10:03 AM  

  • NicFitKid, I think you overestimate people's willingness to turn to the kindness of strangers.

    Besides, this was the late '80s, I believe summer of '89. OnStar may have been around at that point, but I don't know that it was common even in nice cars back then.

    Anyway, I don't know that her car was all that nice. Can't say it wasn't, but I remember her and the scenario, not the brand of car. I'm sure though if the car was that nice it would have come with a road side service plan. Pretty obvious she didn't have one.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 10:26 AM  

  • If you had helped her in spite of the sticker, might've changed her mind a little. That kind of feminism is too extreme.

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 2:05 PM  

  • w00t for Feminism!

    How about we forget the male/female 'war' stuff & just try treating people as people this century?

    By Anonymous Bronchitikat, at 5:48 AM  

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