What did you just say to me?
I’ve spent a few days trying to decide if and how much I should be bothered by a comment that was made to me last week.
One morning before work, Clay and I drove my car to the dealership to have some recall repairs made (apparently I had two recalls out on my vehicle). The repairs were no big deal and took only a few hours, but in true dealership fashion, the mechanic showed me a long list of “problems” they believe I should address and pay them to fix.
Some of the suggested repairs are definitely legitimate concerns, but they didn’t surprise me because my car is 12 years old and that kind of thing is to be expected. I politely thanked him for the list, knowing full well that we’ll be showing it to our personal mechanic who we trust to be open and honest with us about what truly needs to be done.
Before we left, the gentleman at the dealership made a comment about being sure I addressed a broken brake light ASAP. (It wasn’t worth telling him at the time, but we already had light bulbs on the kitchen counter that we bought the night before. We were aware.) He said, “Cops in this town love to pull people over for that kind of thing.”
Again, we’re aware. I’ve lived here 12 years, Clay’s been here almost 30. We’re familiar.
But then the guy looked at me and said, “Now, don’t be offended by this,” (which is always an awesome way to start a sentence), “but if you go out with your girlfriends for a wild Girls’ Night at Longhorn Steakhouse and drink 3 glasses of wine, you might not be thinking about your broken brake lights on your drive home.”
I have a few thoughts.
Firstly, if you have to say, “Now, don’t be offended by this …”, then you probably shouldn’t say what you’re about to say.
Secondly, this man is making an assumption that I would possibly drink and drive.
Thirdly, by inferring that he thinks I could possibly drink and drive, he’s diminishing my intelligence and capability of rational thinking.
Finally, and perhaps the most offensive, is that he thinks that out of all the amazing restaurant options in Bloomington, I’d eat at Longhorn Steakhouse.
Okay, no. The part about him thinking I could possibly drink and drive is definitely the most offensive.
I’m sure he thinks he was being cute by painting such a vivid picture to illustrate his point about fixing my brake light. I can say with almost 100% certainty that his intention was not to offend me.
But he did. Polite and well-meaning or not, it’s problematic that this was how he chose to reiterate the importance of changing a freakin’ light bulb. But since he said it with a wink and a smile, it’s harmless, right?
I hate doing this, but what would he have said to Clayton if he picked up the car by himself? Would he even feel the need to “explain” why Clay needed to fix the lights? And if he did, would he do so by weaving a tale of Clayton getting drunk on beers during a wild Boys Night and then driving himself home?
And really, I’m ultimately the one to blame because rather than looking at this guy in horror, I faked a chuckle and walked away. By not sticking up for myself, I basically confirmed that it’s acceptable for him to say the same thing to the next woman who brings her car in with a broken light bulb.
But I’m a passive a-hole who feels safer seething in the privacy of her home and writing a blog post about it.
There are definitely worse things that have been said to people and I’ll probably hear things that are much worse at some point in my life (either things directed at me or someone with me). Hopefully by then I’ll be less scared of conflict and feel confident enough to actually say something so then that person knows for a fact that it’s not an acceptable thing to say ever again. Because it’s these small, seemingly harmless statements that stall or impede social progress.