Walking Around with My Papers

So, yes, yesterday I was busy driving all over tarnation getting my car taken care of.  Mack had done a shitload of preliminary work physically and my dad had done a lot to mentally prepare me for the reality that, if I wanted good deals and good service, I should just settle into the notion that having a penis behind me would give me some status that just having my own body parts on my own self would not.

When I got to Mack’s house, I had him write everything down for me–where I was going, what I was getting, about how much it should cost me.  And I carried that piece of paper with me all morning, like a talisman.

And, frankly, that’s how it worked, too.  When I got to the dealership, to get my new wheel, the old guy who put it in my car was talking with a mixture of awe and appreciation about what a great deal my “husband” had gotten for me on the wheel, as if I should take great pride in my “husband’s” bargaining skills.  It was important to him that I got that, how lucky I was to have a “husband” who could do that kind of stuff for me.

And then over to get my new tires.  I pulled in, told them what to do, and they kind of nodded and went back to working on the truck they were working on.  When I finally found the owner, I pulled out my piece of paper, with Mack’s handwriting all over it, and all of a sudden, the way was clear and “Her ‘husband’ said to pull all those tires off and balance them” and it magically happened.  “You be sure to get them on there tight; you know her ‘husband’ will check.”

I still have to get everything aligned.  I’m doing that on Tuesday, but at the end of the day, I’m going to save about $150 over what my guy was going to charge me.  All because I had a guy willing to do some stuff for me and some guys willing to respect his authority.

I tell you, I’m about ready to have Mack write me up all kinds of papers for various occassions, just so I can use them to get me respect and sweet deals.

I was telling the Professor today at lunch that I can’t decide how I feel about that, as a feminist.  On the one hand, if having a friend help me means I save $150, shoot, I want to save $150.  I’m not made out of money.  But on the other hand, I want to get good deals and be trusted and respected and stuff all on my own.  And I feel like, by taking advantage of Mack’s male privilege, I’m just reinforcing the idea that Mack ought to have a little privilege, just because he’s got a dick.

You see what I’m saying?  I’m not always sure when one lives in the world as it is and works the system from the inside (Ha, ha, I’m not married to Mack, but I totally got the deal you’d have given to his wife!) and when you say fuck your system.

When we were out at the Strawberry Festival, Mack ended up talking to some guy who was telling us how they used to have a big sign in the town Mack lives in that said “Go Home, Niggers” or “Niggers not Welcome” or something like that and how this guy and his friends, back in their younger days would drive up to that town just to fight with the white people.

It’s not like that in Mack’s town anymore.  It’s not some utopia of race relations, but I see all colors of kids when I drive by the school on the way to Mack’s house.

And I wonder, did that happen becuse of or in spite of the fact that there used to be that sign there and black kids used to drive up there to beat up white kids who were waiting to beat them up?

I don’t know, you know.

But I wonder.

22 thoughts on “Walking Around with My Papers

  1. I think half the time it’s the penis, but the other half of the time it’s the tongue. Or the confidence behind it.

    At my old office I was the computer liason person, because I was the one-eyed man in that land. And I kid you not, the tech service guys would not mess with me . And it wasn’t because I was a man; it was because I knew what I was talking about and had the confidence to back it up.

    I think there’s a degree to which your car thing may have been the same way. Your list and the certain knowledge behind it played a great part in what got done. Did it matter, at the end of the day, whether the list came from a man or a woman? There’s no way to tell, I suppose. But the confidence behind the list–the attitude of “This is all I need so just do that and nothing else”–seems to have clearly motivated the guys.

    That’s what scares me even more. Not that people take advantage of women because of their womanhood, but that people will try to take advantage of anyone who seems to be ignorant OR have an outside advantage. Instead of truly having a heart of service, they have a heart of greed. “Oh here comes a woman/city boy/n—-r/f—-t. They don’t know anything about My Specialty. I think I’ll get an extra $50-$75 out of them.” When we were kids we were forbidden to mention to anyone what my dad did for a living, because the perception back then was that all lawyers were really rich. There were several times that my brother would have a mechanic quote him–a teenage boy–one price, and then quote the same job to my dad for $300 more. So I think there’s just a segment of society that charges “what they can get” and has no honour when setting their prices.

    The fact that some of them are sexist jerks is only part of their badness.

  2. B made it sound like more than it was. kat is mostly right. The confidence factor cannot be ignored. Some of it comes down to relationships. I do business with these guys, I don’t let them beat me up, on the other hand, I don’t beat every penny out of a deal. The internet allows us to shop prices, craftsmanship is another thing. Anyway, I’m of the opinion that we all have certain strengths to offer each other, regardless of gender.

  3. I don’t think that’s fair. Most sexist bullshit isn’t framed, “Oh, I hate women so I’m going to screw them over.” It’s framed, “Yeah, that guy is cool. He knows what he’s talking about. He’s one of us. I’m going to cut him a break.”

    The result is that they cut you breaks they’d never cut me, because I’m a girl and they’re never going to think of me as “one of them” unless it’s because I’m attached to you somehow.

    I mean, please, I’ve been going to my mechanic for seven years. Almost every time I’ve gone in there, I’ve gotten on the phone with the Man from GM, described my problem, and gotten a diagnosis and a rough estimate of what a reasonable price should be. I went in there and said, I think it’s my whatever so that should run me x. If that’s not the case, let me know.

    And the last couple of times, I’ve not done that because I didn’t want to annoy the Man from GM with annoying phone calls and, bam, I get screwed over.


    Because my knowledge doesn’t generate good will the same way that you displaying the same knowledge does.

    I don’t think my mechanic hates me because I’m a woman. I think he deals differently with me because I’m a woman.

  4. …we all have certain strengths to offer each other, regardless of gender.

    Indeed, that is what it’s all about. There’s no way I would’ve made it as well as I have as a single mom without people helping me out along the way, and I try to help others with what limited resources and talent that I have. Even if that means that all I can do is give an encouraging word or a hug. It is a blessing to watch as people help each other in this way, like how people have teamed together to help you and others who run upon challenges & opportunities. imho, it gives each other hope.

    *This concludes my “Kumbaya” moment for today*

  5. It’s not the penis. They see me coming a mile away.

    My experience is almost always the same as yours, sans note. Mechanics will not give geeks the time of day. And they’ll rip them off, too.

  6. Not all mechanics, Slarti.

    Being the daughter of a mechanic who was honest and would do work for little or nothing for those who couldn’t afford it, I just had to say that…

  7. Its embarassing to admit, but since its important to my point…for years, I made a very good living selling cars to people. The process is designed to extract every possible dollar from you once you hit the dealership. An informed, confident buyer requires a different approach than what we used to call a “lay-down.” Gender just doesn’t play a large role. The point I made upthread is one that I believe, arm yourself with enough info to sound as though you know a little something, and yes, be confident, look people in the eye, and refer to them by name whenever possible. I was the city-slicker when I first arrived in the South. I got taken advantage of many times. After awhile, I learned a few tricks to help me deal with the local merchants.
    I’m not saying that there aren’t tradesman out there that will assume that you can be exploited due to your gender, but that it can often be overcome.

  8. Yes, exactly, that’s exactly my point. There are tradesmen out there who will assume that I can be exploited due to my gender, but it can be overcome.

    The question is, which of my purposes are served by doing that and are the costs to my other purposes worth it? And how does one make those decisions?

  9. The question is, which of my purposes are served by doing that and are the costs to my other purposes worth it? And how does one make those decisions?

    Comment by Aunt B. — May 21, 2007 @ 9:04 am

    I think anyone who devotes time and energy to a cause faces those questions on a daily basis. I’ve yet to answer that for me.

    I appreciate your acknowledgement of a favor, I just thought you made it sound like I moved heaven and earth to help you, and i clearly didn’t. There isn’t enough bandwidth for me to blog about all of the favors you have done for me and my family.

  10. Approach it like “Economic Feminism”. I spend my money with people and businesses that treat me appropriately. I’ve had “business owners” try to stick it to me and I’ve had people go out of their way to help me out. Guess where I went back to spend my money? Sometimes I look for a female owned business to spend my money with first, but often I will also spend and reccommend a business that treated me with some intelligence and respect and not as a stupid female to take advantage of.

    The last time I bought a car from a dealership and the sales guy asked if I needed to speak to my husband or to get permission to close the deal, I told him he would have to take another 5% off the bottom price because of the insult if he wanted to close with me and I got up and walked out. He beat me to the door.

  11. So I think there’s just a segment of society that charges “what they can get” and has no honour when setting their prices.

    Be careful, Katherine Coble. Keep using words like “honour” and “prices” in the same sentence, and you’ll get labelled a socialist. Suggest that anything other than mystically scientific ‘market forces’ are at work in any setting of costs, and you’re liable to be labelled a communist. Or, worse yet, a conspiracy theorist.

    On a half-serious and sarcastic note, though, the land for this great nation of honest and free markets, and the labor used to tame it, were purchased at a fair price by people who never broke a deal, contract, or treaty with anyone regardless of ethnicity or gender. I’m happy to see that sense of fair play still at work even here among the lower economic rungs.

  12. Just out of curiousity SaraClarke….. why is that so insulting? I’m just a newlywed and I Know better than to buy a car without consulting my wife first.

  13. W – if sara isn’t married, I can see where it would be considered an insult. Women have a talent that most men do not. Upon meeting a person (let’s use a female for example), the farthest we get is “look, boobies!”. In that time, a woman has determined whether the person is married, their approximate age, and sometimes even if the person has any children, all by looking for certain visual cues.

    My wife, for years, expected me to be able to do this as well; we’d have many a conversation later: “How did you know she was married?” “Goofy, look at her ring finger!” “I can’t do that unless she holds it near her boobs”.

    Now, I am currently making my own assumption that saraclark isn’t married, based on the fact that she finds the thought of having to consult a mate for a big purchase to be insulting. I could be wrong there, too. As B is always talking about, we always assume our experience is the default. To me, a marriage where everything, including financials is not shared completely, is a marriage on a shaky foundation at best. But what works for me and mine might not work for someone else.

  14. Slarti, do salesmen ask you if you need to get someone else’s permission to buy things? I’m betting they don’t.

  15. nm, I’ll be honest, I’m not going to be of much help here: the situation could never come up with us because to purchase anything over $1000 without the other present is unthinkable.

    But, we might have a weird marriage, I don’t know.

    It works for us, though.

    Secondly, I’ve never been asked that because it’s something I usually volunteer. I am the type of person who cannot say “no” to a salesman. “I’ll have to check with my wife” is the only out I have. Telemarketers have a ball with me; thank goodness for call waiting.

    Like I said, I’m not of much help because I’m so weird.

  16. Slarti, you are trying to change the subject. The subject isn’t whether you, or I, or Saraclark, wants to consult with a spouse about big purchases. Or even about whether “I have to check with my spouse” is a useful out in a pressure sales situation. (It is.) The subject is whether it is appropriate for a retailer to ask a woman whether she needs her husband’s permission to make a large purchase. Along with some speculation that men are not asked whether they need their wives’ permission to make similar purchases. Do you really not see the difference between “I’m gonna have to talk to my wife about this” and “don’t you have to get you wife’s OK to do this?”

  17. nm, you are very perceptive;

    Yes, I did change the subject, but in my original reply, I said to W:

    W – if sara isn’t married, I can see where it would be considered an insult.

    So, at least give me credit for THAT. :)

    Now, let’s say she IS married. Now we’re getting into a fuzzy area. We are seeing something different because we come at it from different points of view. Now, to ask the question is definitely an imposition of one’s view of proper marital financial dealings, and I’m assuming that the salesman would ask a married man a similar question. This is because, supposedly, the salesman and I have silimar views on the subject, so I find it reasonable. I find it rude, but reasonable.

    Here’s where we diverge, and we’ll just have to leave it at that:

    Sara automatically assumed she was being treated like a “little lady” and that the question was only asked because of her gender. Based on what she wrote here (I wasn’t there; “tone” sometimes says much more than anything), there isn’t enough evidence, IMHO. I would not have asked the question, but if I were the type to impose my views of proper marital financial conduct, I would ask the question of a wife standing before me, as well as a husband standing before me.

    Like I said, his “tone” could have told a much different story, but “sales guy asked if I needed to speak to my husband or to get permission to close the deal” doesn’t AUTOMATICALLY mean gender discrimination. We don’t know what the salesman would have said to a man. You can make assumptions, but you don’t know.

    But let’s face it, what we’re really talking about here is that we have different “defaults”. I don’t expect to change your mind; and try as I might, I could never automatically assume the worst from anyone (man or woman), so you’d have a hard time changing my default. It’s just who we are. That’s cool.

    Nevertheless, if you come to B’s party Sunday, I’ll sing you a blues song. ;)

  18. Slarti, you might want to try googling “women + ‘car dealers’ + attitudes”. And you might realize that the preponderance of the evidence is that car dealers routinely condescend to women, to the point that some automakers beg their dealers to take courses in how not to do that, and are distressed that so many of them won’t make the necessary changes.

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