I hate taking the car to the shop. Any car. Any shop. Any routine maintenance, or non-routine issue. It’s not because it’s a nuisance, though it almost always is. It’s because I feel like I’m always getting shafted. And not just because it’s automotive repair–which I know almost nothing about*–but because I feel like a fish out of water. Or rather, a woman in a man’s world.
There’s nothing in particular that’s left me with that opinion. Perhaps those repairmen see me just as they see men. But I feel that when I walk in there I’m the housewife, the prone to weeping subordinate to a man.
I took the car to the shop last week. It didn’t help that M determined we should all look very nice that day, and therefore I was all prettied up in a puffy skirt and dressy shirt. I dropped it off, strong as I could be, and took the kids around the shopping center for the three hours it was going to take.
What? The shopping center doesn’t sound like the most fun place to entertain two kids for three hours? Well, it was supposed to be the park for a picnic lunch, except I could find the stroller or potty for getting/staying at the nearest park. Let’s just say the day wasn’t going as swimmingly as I planned, car repair or not. But we had a picnic lunch still, a long trip to the library, and some frozen yogurt to top it off. By the time we got back to the repair shop, we had happily exhausted our stay.
Which was going to be an hour longer. At least. Because this repair guy had other priorities. Really. Those were his exact words. I seized up, feeling that down-the-nose sneer that I always thought was maybe just in my head. I argued unsuccessfully, feeling the anger quickly melting into hot tears, and then took the kids back outside to wait. Where I promptly called my husband, crying. So there. All that time spent frustrated by the stereotype I’d been judged by, only to turn into the now-tearful housewife calling her man.
My outburst caught the manager’s attention, who waited until I calmed down to inform me that he understood my frustration, agreed with my somewhat colorful assessment of his employee, and would comp us the oil change. We had a nice, adult, non-weepy conversation, then the kids and I played pleasantly until B showed up to trade cars and let me get M to his karate class and our groceries into the fridge. But no matter how successful the day was, I couldn’t help but feeling like a failure, not only to myself but to other women. I’m the reason why men see women as different, or so I felt.
At the same time, I’m glad I can be weepy sometimes, I suppose, and glad that I have a partner who can back me up when I reach the end of my rope, and glad especially that that partner doesn’t see me as any less strong because of either of those things. I’m glad I feel strongly–which is better than not feeling anything at all. It’s a strength of a different kind. Still, at the end of the day: I still hate taking the car to the shop.
*Funnily enough, in my senior year of high school, after signing up for 4 AP classes, I decided that my fifth class would be auto shop. After all, I would have enough AP credits to be nearly a junior in college, while I knew nothing about fixing a car. When I tried to sign up, though, the counselor told me that they couldn’t allow someone of my “caliber” to take auto shop. It would ruin my chances of getting into a good college, they told me. After I finished laughing, I told them that I was sure I’d be just fine taking auto shop. At which point they signed me up for journalism. Really. Because at least it was “more respectable.” I ended up trading journalism for AP Statistics (with friends, and believe it or not more interesting to me than the newspaper). But I think now: auto shop would have been worlds more useful.