Have you ever found yourself so surprised by a situation you don’t know what to say or do? Of course, the perfect response comes to you in the middle of the night a few days later.
Last week I got one of these surprises, but the perfect response remains elusive. Here’s the deal:
My Car Won’t Start
Luckily, I’m at home and safe, but I’m trying to get to a family dinner. My husband is at work and we don’t have an extra vehicle.
My brother-in-law graciously comes over and lets me use his truck to jump the battery, then my car gloriously revs back to life long enough to get to the closest auto parts store. When I ask to purchase a new battery, they respond
“We’re too busy. You’ll have to come back later.”
What? What kind of store won’t sell a battery because employees are “too busy” when there are four guys just standing around? There must be some misunderstanding. I explain that I can’t come back later, or even leave, for that matter. My battery is dead and my car won’t start.
They elaborate that they’re too busy to change it for me and I’ll have to come back tomorrow. Again, they don’t seem to understand that my car isn’t going anywhere, but at least the disconnect is now clear. I let them know that I don’t need them to install it for me, just sell it to me and I’ll install it myself. One guy stares at me oddly for a minute, then chuckles and yells across the store to his buddy
“Did you hear that, Joe? This lady says she’s going to install it HERSELF!”
Internally, I’m seething. I want to tell him off or walk out and go someplace where the staff is helpful and respectful, not rude, sexist, and condescending.
Externally, I paste on a smile because they still have something I need.
Why is this such a big deal? Why do they initially assume I need them to install it for me? It isn’t rocket science. Why don’t they just do their jobs? Why do they tell me to come back later when changing a battery only takes five minutes and is clearly an urgent matter? Why are they so surprised that a woman can perform simple auto maintenance? Argh.
The process of actually selecting the proper battery and paying for it takes three times longer than it should because the employee still can’t believe that a woman is capable of installing a battery. He acts as though I just told him I have an extra nipple–he can’t quite believe it but is intrigued and eager for the show. He makes sure he tells all his buddies about the rare creature standing before him before he hands over the goods.
Finally, I lug the battery outside, pop the hood, and fish in the back of my car for the wrench. But it isn’t there.
I do find a pair of pliers and am able to unscrew three of the four nuts. The fourth, however, is in an awkward location and is too tight. It won’t budge.
It’s summer in Phoenix, and it is HOT. I’m frustrated and drenched with rivers of sweat. I am angry that the guys inside don’t believe I can complete the job, so the deepest part of my heart really wants to show them how wrong they are. But I can’t.
I swallow my pride and am debating whether to call roadside assistance or my family for help, but as I grab my phone the store employee walks out and takes over. He finds an appropriate wrench in his stash and, after dropping a few important parts into the depths of my car, eventually trades out the battery. I thank him and drive away.
Am I humbled? Certainly. Am I appreciative of his help? You betcha. Am I humiliated? I definitely feel uncomfortable, but more because I feel as though I let womankind down and because the employee ended up helping me (though I didn’t ask him to) when he had already made a big show of telling me he was too busy.
Update September 7, 2016: A new manager for this Pep Boys location called and apologized for this experience. HE said he knows exactly how I feel because the same thing has happened to HIM before. Um, right.
Was I overreacting? What would you have done in this situation? How could I have made better choices?
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