I had to make a run down to the dealership in Tilton yesterday for a gallon of Antifreeze (and a loaf of bread?). Seemingly an uneventful 36 mile jaunt round-trip down and back up interstate 93, but with a few twists which I feel compelled to mention in brief.
Swooping into the parking lot just beyond the terminus of the exit ramp, I parked and alighted from my vehicle. Entering the dealership, it was as it always is as if entering into the lion's cage as a piece of fresh meat. All eyes turn towards the one entering, as if they are the salvation that a prospective buyer brings. Men in neat suits with large builds and the women behind the counters servicing the customer relationship. The stereotyping is always phenomenal in these ways and a bit disconcerting, at least to me.
I entered through the double doors and, while scanning all of this, proceeded directly to the woman behind the counter at the customer service desk. As I paraded down the long hallway, I could sense, palpably, the dotted lines of visual contact and assessment going on. I was in my whatever-the-heck-I-have-of-a-guy mode. Wearing my gray New Balance sneakers which could go either way as male or female (but were womens in size 9.5), my Calvin Kleins in size 10... larger than my norm of size 8 in order to not appear to tight or fitted, a women's polo shirt in navy blue...which could pass as male except for a slight variation of the collar and of course the infamous buttons on the opposite side. My hair was it's normal curly self and really not styled in any feminine way except perhaps that it comes down, just slightly, over my ears. I was wearing my 2mm gold piercing studs still and no makeup whatsoever.
I approached the front desk and the woman had the look on her face which told me she was not speaking to a normal, every day guy. It was what I like to call, "the cutesy smile", on her face that told me... "yeah... I know!". It was not a look of disgust but rather one of interest and her tone changed to one that I often see women give to other women but not to men. Directing me to the parts department, I then thanked her and followed her directions around and to the back of the store. As I passed the snack and sandwich counter at the dealership, I noted a woman and a man standing about behind the counter. The man didn't even notice my passing but the woman... the woman immediately locked on to me and did a full scan in the span of a micro-second. A second later, she made a point to say hi to me to which I responded in kind. She had a curious and welcoming smile on her face similar to that of the woman at the reception desk. I don't know if she was waiting to hear my voice but I am sure she was curious to I was thinking. I responded using my "in-between" voice just to be safe.
At the parts department, I spoke to a shaggy, long haired gentleman of about 40 years of age and requested to pick up the anti-freeze which they had promised to hold for me when I had called earlier that morning. Returning from the back stock room with my item, I could not help but notice that the other gentleman sitting behind the counter at a computer terminal had his eyes locked on me. Like a deer caught in the headlights, he seemed to have scanned me in the same way that the women would always do and most men not....The difference I always find with the men is in that they DON'T give back that same smile that I get from the women. With the women, the smile is like "OK, you're in the club with us and we won't tell anyone about your little secret". With the men, the look is like that which one sees in Science Fiction Sitcoms like "Star Trek" in the 1960's. It's like those scenes where an android humanoid with a computer brain is given some paradoxical situation that it's circuitry cannot resolve. This is usually the point where one then detects smoke coming out of either ear and they proclaim in a rapid secession, "Does not compute.... This does not compute".... and they usually implode or blow up into a million pieces.
Well, this guy sitting at the counter looked like he had smoke coming out of both of his ears as he sat there, stolid, expressionless and unblinking... trying to resolve a conundrum which did not seem to add up. Now this gets better..... I took control of this situation and ascertained that he likely thought I was the stereotype of a gay male or some effeminate guy who only knew about such things as foofy fabric curtains and such. I started in to a conversation with the other gentleman who had returned by this time with my anti-freeze....
"So this antifreeze use Organic Acid's and is free from silicates right?", I started. "I had been using the Dex-Cool in my system but had read a lot on the automotive boards and in discussions online that the Dex-Cool had issues with sludge formation when in the presence of highly oxygenated environment. What are your thoughts on this?"
Blammo.... The android humanoid behind the terminal had smoke coming out of his ears now and was about to explode into a million pieces. I was sure that he was just waiting for me to say something in a swishy accent, like "Oh hello... I need to buy some of that like stuff that you put into your engine that makes it like not overheat or something. Do you have anything like that here in a pretty color?"
HA! Instead, they got a bit of my Jersey "How you doin?" and "who needs a house out in Hackensack" accent and a 10 minute discussion on the pro's and con's of various formulations of anti-freeze.
I walked out of there with a grin on my face and one very bewildered parts supply agent. The rest of the guys in there were cool to deal with me but then of course, they were younger. I usually get the "Does not compute looks from the older generation of guys and some of the more macho young ones". The women....well... they just keep smiling and seem to be more approachable than ever I had noted when I presented strictly as run of the mill male.
It was the smiles and friendly 'hello's' of the women at the car dealership as I walked by. It was the unblinking 'deer in the headlights' look from the gentlemen. It was the dichotomy that didn't add up when I started talking technical to the guys in the parts department about the benefits of Organic Acids in silicate free anti-freezes that had them in incredulous disbelief at the dichotomy of what they did not expect from me. Then again I could have talked makeup technique just as well to the women. Ah yes... this, then, was me in 'guy' mode today at the dealership....