I have a new coworker who annoys the crap out of me. Oh, he means well, and I’m sure in any other context I’d think he was just fine. But within five minutes of meeting me, he called me a girl. Great. I’m 49 and have almost 13 more years of experience on this job than he does, and he is already not taking me seriously.
At the end of shift change as I’m walking off the bridge, he insists on standing outside on the sidewalk and watching me go all the way to my car to make sure I’m safe. That’s a nice gesture, very gallant, so it took me a while to figure out why it bugged me.
Don’t get me wrong. I like having doors opened for me. I like common courtesy, evidence of respect, signs that people think I’m special and deserve to be pampered. I’d be forever grateful if someone pushed me out of the way if there’s a safe falling out of a 25 story window. And if I do see one of our crazies on the bridge, I will ask my coworker to watch, and I’ll do the same for him or her.
What I resent is the implication that I’m somehow incapable of protecting myself even on the calmest of nights, the concept that I’m so flaky and incompetent that I am unable to take reasonable precautions for my own safety. I also take exception to the fact that I’ve been walking off this bridge for nearly 13 years, past all manner of drunks and oddballs, and have done so effectively and safely, and yet this guy comes along and thinks I need him to be my hero all of a sudden. (And frankly it gives me the creeps that he’s probably staring at my butt the entire time I’m walking away.) Even when I tell him it’s not necessary, he insists on doing it anyway, as if my poor judgment needs to be vetoed for my own security.
So here’s what I plan to do when I see him this week. First, I’m going to ask him if he watches the male bridgetenders walk to their cars as well. If he says yes, then I’ll say, “Fine. It’s really not necessary, and it actually makes me really uncomfortable, but do what feels right for you.” If he says no, though, I’m going to hand him a link to this blog entry.
If you are reading this, coworker in question, it offends me that you perceive me as weaker, less capable, and by implication somehow inferior to you. If you haven’t figured out yet that I’m no shrinking violet, you’re painfully out of touch with reality. This does not make you a hero in my eyes. It makes me view you as a deluded throwback to the 1950’s, and I kind of feel sorry for you.