I take myself out to lunch once or twice a week. I work in a large grey, windowless room and it’s nice to get out of it and see the sky for an hour. Today, I decided I want eggs… off to the Colonial Diner! It’s three minutes from my job, the waitresses are always warm & they have my favorite spinach & feta omelette around. I get seated, order my eggs, pull out my phone and open up Reddit to see what nonsense is floating around the web today. My meal comes quickly and I have a nice leisurely lunch.
As I’m sitting in the booth, taking my last couple bites, I hear a man’s voice over the diner chatter “....something...something….Red…..No? ....something...something….Red Audi….No?” I perk up and see the diner owner. A cheerful gentleman in his 50’s whose thinning dark hair sits atop his head like a wreath. His glasses always look like they’re just about to fall off of his nose. Every time he actually wants to to look out of them he has to lift his chin way up.
I catch his eye, “I drive an Audi”
“A…” he lifts his hand & chin so his precariously balanced glasses are in line of sight of the Post-it note in his hand, “RED Audi?”
He throws his hands up and turns his head dramatically “Oh NO, why did it have to be YOU?!” I wonder if he has some sort of stick-um on the bridge of this glasses to keep them there...
He proceeds to tell me I have a flat tire and he would be happy to have one of his guys come out to help me. I thank him and tell him it’s not necessary, I can do it. Let me state, this is true. I can change a tire. It’s not hard, just takes a little muscle. If you don’t know how, for fudge sakes, learn.
I walk out and see my tire is Super flat. Ah well… I open my trunk & get the jack out. I find where the jack goes and start to spin it up. I stop short of the frame and get the lug wrench out, attach to the first lug and twist….nothing. I give it a kick…. Nothing. I try another one, same effort, same results. This is OK, I text my buddy and hope he’s still at the office. While I’m waiting for him to respond I go back to futzing with the jack I don’t think i have it lined up right and I am correct, I don’t.
I hear behind me: “ Do you need some help?” a middle aged hispanic man in work clothes and an army baseball cap is walking up.
“Oh I am not getting the jack to work as I wish it to be,” I laugh.
“Let me help”
He walks back to his car to grab a pair of work gloves. Picks up the lug wrench and goes to work “You know you have to loosen these up before you jack up the car… otherwise..”
“The tires will just spin” I finish his sentence. I realize he didn’t see me working before and is offering friendly advice, so I check my ego.
He’s having a time with the lugs too and has to resort to kicking, the same way I did, but he has more power than me and gets the buggers to move. He looks up at me “See now you know that trick for next time” I grit my teeth.
After he loosens all the lugs, I say “Thank you!” and tell him I can do it from here. He gives a warm laugh and says “noooooo, I got it!” and cheerfully goes on to finish changing my tire. We talk about his time in the army, family in Philadelphia and how he’d like to move to Chicago, but there are 7 siblings you know, and he could never forgive himself for not seeing them for long periods of time.
While he works and talks I interject with an occasional “I can do that..” (Because I CAN) and he gives me the same “I got it!” and continues to talk and work. When he’s just about done my friend pulls up to make sure I’m ok and sees that I am.
He and my friend start talking, “ It’s nice to see people out doing good!”
The man, all finished, throws my super flat tire in the trunk and says “ Well I have 3 sisters and 2 daughters, I’d want someone to do the same for them!” He closes my trunk with a flourish to mark the end of a job well done.
We exchange thank yous and well wishes before we all get into our cars and I drive the three minutes back to my job.
And for three minutes, I was infuriated.
How many times did I tell him I CAN DO IT?! Does he think because I’m a GIRL I can’t change a tire?! Was he patronizing me?! I bet he was! He might as well have patted me on the head and told me how cute I was for deigning to think I could do manual labor. That is sooooo typical of a man! DAMN THE PATRIARCHY !!
Then I was reminded of the words he actually said
“I have 3 sisters and 2 daughters, I’d want someone to do the same for them”
Immediately, my righteous fist came down.
This was just a man wanting to do something nice for another person.
It’s like when you’re getting a glass of water and you say to a person in the room “Would you like one too?” Of course they can go get their own glass of water. You getting it for them in no way implies that they are incapable of getting their own glass of water. It’s just a little something you can do to make their life a bit easier.
It’s so easy to raise a righteous fist. To take someone else's actions and say “Well THIS is what it means to MEEEE!” with no regard to the actual intentions. Or regard to what actually happened!
I had made his actions mean something. Something that was happening solely inside my own head. Based off of what? Did he at anytime doubt my ability to change the tire? No. Did he say because I’m a girl I’m incapable of doing things? No. Did he actually pat me on the head? No. Did he ask me if I needed help and I accepted? Yes. Was he pleasant and happy to help the entire time? Yes. Did he say that he was BEING the thing he wished to see in the world? YES.
That’s where it ends. Right there.
Everything else was a story I MADE UP. A story based off of past interactions, based off of the current political climate, based off my need to be right (eous) …. All of the other stuff is just me being a self involved asshat.
I really don’t wanna be an asshat.
I’m grateful that I have the tools to check myself (before I wrigity-wreck myself...you know you said it in your head before you read it) and to remember to approach each situation as it is.
This one was simply a kind gentleman being the change he wants to see.