A Time for Change
The mechanic running the crew at the oil change shop was a young woman—short and slim with wisps of straw-colored hair peeking out from under her cap. She was reserved and businesslike as she described what they were about to do and outlined my options for oil. I asked what she’d suggest.
When I just nodded at her recommendation and said “Let’s go with that,” there was a subtle shift in the atmosphere—a shared awareness that we both often have to deal with people who think we need to “prove” to them we have the right to be where we are and doing what we we're doing. In my case, being a black professional in a “white world.”
In her case it's being a woman in what some still consider a “man’s job.” There are meathead men who can't help subtly--or NOT subtly---challenging a woman mechanic or salesperson in an audio shop or wherever. (“Does this chick really know what she’s doing? Is there a GUY here I can talk to?”)
A prompt on the dashboard screen had told me it was time for an oil change. After that’s taken care of the system has to be reset so the prompt doesn’t keep flashing every time you turn on the ignition. She checked her computer to see how to reset my particular car; I offered to look in my owner's manual but she said that wouldn’t be necessary.
I had to squash the impulse to pull out the manual anyway, an impulse I probably wouldn’t have had if she’d been a fifty-year-old Joe Sixpack mechanic. (Interesting how efficiently society has us all programmed.) In a moment she said, “Okay…put your key in the ignition and turn it halfway; don’t fire up the engine. Put your feet on the gas and the brake for a few seconds. Now turn on the engine.”
The reset worked, of course. She opened the garage door and as I drove through gave a little smile as if to say, “Thanks for not being a jerk.”