I work in a warehouse for a company that manufactures and distributes hardware and home improvement materials- door knobs, shower heads, lock sets etc. I procure, negotiate, and purchase goods and services that support the business. My jobs includes buying everything from pallets, to boxes, to security services and plumbing repairs. I like the job I do, I like the people I work with. I do not like the company and it’s antiquated corporate America policies, however. Recently, the company made the Forbes Worst Companies to Work for in the United States. It’s nothing to brag about but for now it’s where I am and I always throw myself into whatever I do 100% so I take my job seriously despite the fact that the company is failing in nearly every category.
In doing my job I work with an all male maintenance crew, aside from one other woman on the crew that only works Friday-Sunday so I work with her one day a week on Fridays. Her job is to empty trash, recycling, and other materials and debris off the warehouse floor and into the right container, be it a dumpster or trailer to be taken to the recycle center. All this to say, that my colleagues are men for the most part.
I consider myself a modern feminist through and through. I am very rarely offended and I can dish it out as well as I can take it . To each their own, everyone has to decide what they are ok with but my line in the sand goes pretty far. I have a dirty mind and have a difficult time covering it up, I love to joke around and enjoy the banter back and forth between me and the “guys”. I can carry on any conversation about tools, machines, repairs, replacements, parts, motors and on and on…and I am not afraid to ask if I don’t know what the hell they are talking about. It’s my job to understand the project goal, function of the equipment, and use of the parts so that I can find the best product and best deal to purchase. I’m not a fragile flower bud and I can hold my own with them and any man I work with.
I am very well respected because of the work I produce. I am the person to come to if you need something done and need someone to initiate the process. I take the words “I’ll either find a way or make one” to heart every day.
Now that you know more about me at work, let me tell you what happened on Friday. We have some walk through metal detectors that needed calibrated and/or repaired and possibly needed to purchase new ones. I called a company that could do all of this and was referred to me by another company I called that did not do the repairs. When I called him he was not in the office and asked me to email him, which I immediately did. He did not respond but instead showed up at the warehouse. We are a one million square foot facility. We are a Foreign Trade Zone, effectively we are the authorized by the Customs and Border Patrol to handle both Foreign and Domestic product on our property. With that comes a lot of regulations and rules. One of which is that no one can come onto the premises that is not employed by us without a prior appointment. Remember he did not respond to my email. Though I am fairly understanding and know that some people don’t understand the rules we have to go by, I did not have time to see him the day he came out and it was at the end of my day. I had the guard turn him away. He immediately called me and told me he would have to bill me for a visit and I let him know what the problem was. I set him up an appointment with me the following day, Friday. This should have set precedence that I was not going to be phased by him trying to push me around.
We have a Facilities Manager that I have a lot of respect for. He is very professional, extremely knowledgeable and experienced, and we work extremely well together. He attends all the visits with suppliers to answer questions about the facility and our needs. I attend to answer any questions about the quote needed, what we are looking for from a finance stand point, and for me to get an idea of what they are “selling” so that I can get additional quotes and compare “apples to apples”.
When I walked out of the office to meet “Chuck” in the lobby, the first thing he said to me was “oh, your picture was not on the email you sent”. I responded “good”. This man was in his late 60s and I suspected that in the least he was socially awkward and at most possibly experiencing the phenomena that older people get when they start to lose their filter. I can hang. This is not a big deal just wasn’t sure where this was going to go.
Very quickly it became obvious that he liked to tell stories in an effort to inflate his expertise and brag about his experience. Of course, that is to be expected from a salesperson, he just wasn’t very smooth at it. Again, socially awkward maybe??
I picked up pretty fast that his technical talk was directed to Roger and his “fluffy” talk was directed to me. This happens frequently to me in all areas when I am buying something either in real life or work life. It’s annoying and definitely makes these sales visits grueling but not impossible. He hands me some literature about the devices and begins explaining the way it works and needs to be programmed. I listen, I ask relevant questions to which he mostly answers, but prefers to tell me anecdotes about other customers.
He refers to a page he has handed me about The Apollo spacecraft. He starts telling me a story about a female NASA employee that developed some software that was used in the mission. Though his tale is told in a way that is like he is talking to a first grader, I think it’s just his limited use of the English language. Until he looks at me and says “so I think it’s pretty cool that women have jobs that are important too. It’s really impressive”. Okay….I think it’s cool too…why are you telling me this. Still I chalk it up to old man syndrome.
Roger brought up a question about whether the upright machine will alarm at steel-toed shoes, which are required in our building. “Chuck” stammers and says that they will alarm. We ask that he shut off that section of the upright metal detector so it doesn’t alarm at every employee. He tells us to just ignore it. I ask again another way that he turn it off. He clicks some buttons. He then picks up the hand held wand and starts to explain that we can just use the wand on every person, over 200 people coming through the door in under 5 minutes. As he does this, he waves the wand up and then down my leg. He then points to the wand and says” oh, what’s that say? A perfect 10 hahahaha”. Guh-ross. Now, I have no doubt what has been happening here and I lose all patience that I was maintaining for this socially unacceptable dinosaur.
I regret not saying anything at that point. As usual, I think of a million things that could have put him in the defense. But my extreme professionalism keeps me from saying any of them. I completely ignore his comment, my facial expression does not even change.
He walks away for a minute to take a phone call and I turn to the pamphlet that he had given me to see if there is an 800 number on the book so that we can get this buffoon out of here and call the manufacturer directly. I turn to Roger and mouth “let’s get him out of here”. Roger nods. “Chuck” walks back over and I ask him if he was able to turn off the alarm for the shoes. He does not answer my question and again starts telling a story that has nothing to do with the conversation. Roger tells him he wants the alarm shut off. “Chuck” touches some buttons. I ask him again is he was able to shut off the alarm but before I get it out he interrupts telling me information I did not ask for. I’m pissed. It’s obvious that he will not take me seriously. I, in turn, interrupt him with “excuse me, answer my question, did you shut the alarm off?” He says no, that he has to have tech support do it. I ask if he needs to come back or if they are going to call now? Same thing…no answer just avoidance. Again, I say “excuse me, are you going to have to come back?” He says no, he is waiting on a call. I tell him that Roger and I have a meeting in 10 minutes. This is not true but I need a way out and instead of me telling him to leave I am trying to be professional. I ask Roger what he wants to do ignoring “Chuck” trying to explain to me how the machine works and why it ins’t necessary to turn off the alarm…again…for the tenth time…..Roger tells me he’ll stay with “Chuck”. I walk back to my office.
Later, Roger and I an another person present at the meeting discuss what happened. We laugh at the shear audacity of what “Chuck” did. I question Roger on whether he picked up what was going on and he did. More guys from the team start showing up where we are talking and we all have a good laugh. I say that I’m not mad, that I’m not sure what word I’d use. Someone suggests “disgusted”. That’s not really it either. Another female co-worker walks through and happens to hear the conversation and asks if I “lost it on him”. No, no I did not. I maintained my professionalism to the point I knew I couldn’t and then I left. I had to stay above it. I had to make accommodations for him lest I lose my job or be reprimanded. He got to say whatever inappropriate bullshit he wanted to say and I had to stand there and take it. I had to nod and smile through the gross display of overt sexism in front of 3 other men. I tell the co-worker that I have no doubt she’s been through something similar and probably numerous times, I’m not special. She laughs and says “oh yes”. I say “it’s just something we deal with. It just sucks. The utter disrespect that we are shown and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. It just really sucks.” My voice trails off and there is silence in the room as everyone, now only men, realize the heaviness.