Sexism or Incompetence?

Published March 30, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

So, I had to take my car back to the dealership today.  The door over the gas tank lid had fallen off, and they hadn’t had one in stock, and had had to order one.  (I think I may have said this part before?)  Anyway, the part was in, I made the appointment, I went in to have the part put on the car so that I could finally not drive around looking like a freakin’ moron with my gas tank’s cap exposed like that.  (My car already looks pathetic enough without that.)

And so I get into the office, wait while they pull my car around into the service-receiving-bay (or whatever they call it) and then get helped at the counter by this man who is either a complete misogynist or utterly incompetent.  (I’ll let you judge.)

I give him the card that the dealership sent me to let me know the part was in stock, and he spends a ridiculous amount of time inputting the very tiny amount of data into the computer.  Then he says he’s going to go out and look at the car, and is gone before I can even process the absurdity of that.  Normally, it’s not that odd for the person at the counter to want to look at the situation.  But normally one is not dealing with something so simple, nor is it usually a return visit.  Anyway, he gets to the end of the car, looks at the gas cap, and I can hear him, clear as day, saying “yes, it’s missing.”

The car was in for service like two weeks ago.  I’m sure it said on the file in the computer that there was no door over the gas tank, hence the reason to order one.  Not to mention did he think I had ordered a new one just because I like them?!  Is he just stupid, or does he think that, since I’m a woman, I don’t know enough to realize that the door is open, not missing?

So, anyway, he tells me to have a seat, because the process shouldn’t take long.  (It took, btw, about an hour.  That got me from the tail end of the Peloponnesian War to the build-up to the arrival of Philip II of Macedon.)

I haven’t been waiting all that long, though, when this same guy comes up to me and says “I have good news and bad news.  The good news is, we have it in stock.  The bad news is, it hasn’t been painted.”

What I should have said is “That isn’t news of any sort; it can only be news if I’m not already aware of that.  The part was special ordered for me, and I already showed you the card telling me it had come in, so obviously I already knew that it was in stock.  And they told me at the time it was ordered that it wouldn’t be painted, so that isn’t in any way, shape or form ‘news’ either!”

That, of course, is not what I said.

What I actually said was “That’s all right,” followed by assurances that I could paint it myself if I thought it really needed painting.  He seemed shocked and appalled by the very idea of putting in on the car unpainted.

Why?

This car is a domestic, relatively inexpensive, lightweight model.  Which means, of course, that as much of the car as was physically possible is made out of industrial-weight plastic.  So it’s not like the part is going to rust or something.

Furthermore, the car is silver, and the part that came in is pale gray.  Even in bright sunlight, the main difference between the door and the rest of the car is that the door isn’t shiny.  It is about a thousand times less noticeable than the missing door had been.

And yet this guy was astonished that I didn’t want to wait (and pay through the nose) for them to paint the piece before it went on the car.  No doubt because now it doesn’t match; it isn’t properly pretty.  (FYI, this car could not be pretty no matter what you do to it.  It’s functional, not decorative.)

It’s not like I was projecting the image of the average vapid housewife, here.  (If there is, in fact, such a thing as an “average housewife” these days.  I suspect there isn’t, but…the concept lingers on, regardless of the fact that the real thing has deservedly vanished into the ether.)  I was not sitting there chatting on my cell phone, nor was I doing whatever it is that everyone else does while they’re sitting around staring at their “smart” phones for hours at a time.  (I don’t even have one of the fool things.  My phone’s a flip phone, and that’s plenty good enough for me:  it does the one thing I need it to do, in that it makes phone calls.)  I was sitting there reading a book.  Not some flimsy fashion mag, not a parenting-for-dummies handbook, but a history book.  Admittedly, it was a fairly general survey, but there’s no way he could tell that.  (Nor, I suspect, would that have made any impact on his reaction to the book.)

So, really, the question is, was this guy treating me in that condescending manner because I’m female, or does he treat everyone like that?

I don’t have an answer to that question, naturally.  But it seemed worth asking.

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