Thursday, October 30, 2008

Man Places

I like to gush about country life, right? All my walks, the changing of the seasons, the wildlife, even the challenges of learning new ways of doing things once taken for granted, like obtaining water are the best things ever. Okay, well here is something that I don’t particularly care for: Man Places.

One would think that there are Man Places in the city, too, and there are, but not like in the country. At least not that I’ve ever found. Lowe’s and Home Depot are not Man Places. They are too big, too diluted in character to be a contender. And here is my disclaimer right up front: this is my perspective. Another woman might march right into a Man Place and have no problem with the vibe at all, in fact not even feel the vibe, so strong is her sense of self and her place in the world.

Well, that’s not me. I have a fair amount of anxiety upon entering a Man Place and if I had my druthers, I would never do it again. Not knowingly at least. But, I am sent on a lot of errands during the building of our house. I’m not up to the task of, say, installing plumbing without some tutorials that we don’t have time for, but I am capable of driving to the plumbing supply store—a Man Place!—to get the needed parts while someone else keeps working on the project. (I will not name the Man Places I’ve been to out here, though someone familiar with the area would be able to guess the places I’m talking about. There aren’t that many stores, after all.)

The other day I had to go to the lumber supply store to buy a case of floor glue. I pulled into the gravel parking lot with my tiny, hatchback Honda and parked it between two large pickups. I got out of the car and walked to the door of the place while being watched by two men with their hoods up standing out back where the lumber is stored. They don’t wave, they don’t leer, they just stare. I went immediately into my, Oh god, I’m in a Man Place comportment. Don’t give a little hi-hi wave, don’t smile, look straight ahead and act like you know what you’re doing. There. Okay. I’m in the door. Oh, shit, this is the wrong door! Damnit, I do this everytime.. Okay, walk around the front of the building and head straight to the desk. Don’t try to find this stuff on the shelves, because you’ll never do it and they might think you’re trying to steal something.

To be fair, once I make contact with the employee, or as is often the case out here, owner of the Man Place, things go smoothly. They want my business after all. They are there to help. Everything is O-KAY. But the customers (all men, always, in a true Man Place) still look at me askance. That happened in the plumbing supply store the other day. It was so thick with Man Place vibes in there I thought I would explode from the pressure.

I knew it was a bad sign when I walked in and saw no one. No one except an older man, very grizzled, who sat down on one of the stools they have at the checkout counter for customers. (That there is another bad sign, don’t you think? Is service so slow you need a place to sit down while they compute your order?) The man had two pipe pieces on the counter in front of him, so I assumed that someone was helping him, or would be helping him soon…I took my cue from him, in other words, and had a seat on the stool closest to me and waited. Patiently. The man and I stole glances at one another, but no direct eye contact, no smiles, no way. After several minutes, some employees started appearing. All of them were apparently busy scuttling around the back aisles of the store, fetching things for called-in orders like mine, and for this lone guy. One employee asked me if I’d been helped yet and that started my transaction. Ends up I was glad for the stool as it took a goodish amount of time to rack up the bar codes. In the meantime, I became almost dizzy with the pressures that ensued.

The bell that sounds as someone enters the store kept ringing as man after man arrived. (Who knew that so many people needed plumbing supplies at 4:00pm on a Tuesday? And why aren't any of them women?) One of them looked like a real character with an extremely long grey beard and long hair under a fedora-style hat. The guy ringing up my order called to him by name. The man answered him pleasantly, then stood, hands folded in front of him, about a foot away from me and waited for his turn. So patient. So close to me.

Then another single guy came in. Then a whole group of guys. That group stood around behind me and the bearded man, milling and talking low and being all guy-like. I was keeping it real cool by now. Do not look at anyone! I’m not a robot, though (see here for a very funny Onion story on Cindy McCain) and so I did turn to glance. One of the guys smiled at me. I smiled back, but did not think it a good idea to really smile and get all relaxed and start chatting people up. Please, please, is my order done yet? What’s the damage, c’mon! was all I could think.

$449. 56. Whaaa? Are you sure you counted all those parts right? Oh god, no, don’t do it again. Here’s my credit card. Just get me outta here.

The guy who rung up my order helped me to the car with all my (expensive) supplies, and we got it loaded into the hatchback (including a ten-foot section of pipe) and he was really nice to do that and the guy who smiled at me was really nice to hold the door for us and nothing is really wrong with Man Places, I’m just not comfortable in them.

I will get John back for all these errands to the dreaded Man Places. There is a cute little quilting supply shop I know of and one day, during a quilting crisis, I will make him go fetch me some fabric. “Look, you can sew this quilt if you want, or you can go get me the needed supplies. Which will it be, buddy?” Oh, he’ll be shaking in his boots.


Eva said...

you're funny, lady.
I love the stories.

mamawhatthe said...

I laughed until I cried.

Two thumbs way up!

Meg said...

Thank you, m'ladies!
And my wish for you: that you never have to enter a Man Place alone. ;-}

Trish said...


This is one you can send off for publication beyond your blog.

I love your stuff.

Meg said...

You are a sweetie! I'm so glad to have you in my corner : )