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Understanding The Temptation of Bringing a Guy Along to the Mechanic

mechanic-01My identity as a female recently got another shot of validation. Not exactly the good kind either to be perfectly honest. At the end of last year I had my car inspected and found out the cost to bring it up to code was a little over 3 times what the car was worth. Well, after 11 years and not one single breakdown, the shoe was going to drop eventually. Having heard enough horror stories about trips to the mechanic from other women, I decided to try to cut them out of the picture as much as possible, so I went looking for a good lease. New car every 3 years sounded pretty nice to me.

The car leasing experience was fantastic. I was treated like a real person by the salesman and even managed to negotiate without once being talked down to or bullshit, and I was happy with the deal I walked out with. The thing with a lease is that you really have to keep up on the oil changes and not just wait for the angry red light on the dash to come on, so I scheduled an appointment at the 3 month mark. To celebrate the deal, my salesman gave me a coupon for the first oil change on the house, which I’m pretty sure he probably gives to everyone and hands them out to dismayed children on Halloween. My experience with the oil change… not so fantastic.

Going for an oil change in dude mode is not even an experience that registers as a thing. Sure, you get a half hearted song and dance that you really should consider changing the coolant or something else pricey, but you look him in the eye and say, “Just the oil, Mr. Lube, if that is even your real name; just the oil. And fill up the goddamn washer fluid this time!” I didn’t realize this could be any different until my mother-in-law complained how she hates going for an oil change because it costs her over $500 every time. I thought she must have diamond pin in the shape of a sucker pinned to her blouse every time she walked in there. No, they simply gave her the old song and dance, and when she hesitated even for a second, the balls to the wall pitch was rolled out and she found herself writing a hefty check for muffler fluid replacement.

I thought about this as I rolled in there and resolved to be the kind of chick who knew for sure that mufflers didn’t have fluid, if my car even had one anyway. I wasn’t really sure, and not about to get under there and check. Walking up the counter, I waited through the inevitable awkward stare and let them know everything wrong with my brand new precious. “Um, the oil needs changing, the trunk button won’t open the trunk, the remote starter starts the car, but won’t turn on the heat making it pretty useless, and every time I turn off the car, my iPod shuffle goes back to the beginning of the playlist and doesn’t shuffle or anything.” He smirked at me and said don’t worry, I could sit pretty in the waiting room while they did manly things. He didn’t say that last part, but oh, it was implied.

After a while, I was called back to the much dirtier part of the operation. Coming through, one of the mechanics held the door and gave me a, “There you go, little lady.” Nice. He was all of maybe 2 years older than me, but I let it go. They took the usual tack of making you feel stupid first in the run down. “Well miss, the trunk works just fine, you just gotta hold down the button for a full 2 seconds.” It worked like a charm, because I felt really fricking stupid. Next they sold me a cable that would fix my iPod problem that cost $60, nearly $20 more than I bought the iPod itself for. Next they told me the oil change went well, with no complications, brining my hopes back up. “About that remote start…”

I stood there surrounded by 3 mechanics and the manager, including the asshole who called me ‘little lady’, as they explained that the remote start feature wasn’t supposed to turn on the heat at all. “Well, I read the manual and it said that if I left the heat and defrost on when I turned off the car, the remote start would turn them on. The whole reason I got it was so that I wouldn’t have to brush off the car anymore, which I hate.” Living in Buffalo and doing this 274 times a year got kind of old. They chuckled at my bosomy foolishness. Oh, no, no, no! The remote start was only so that when I did get in the car and turned on the heat, it would be warm right away! I seemed a marginal benefit at best, but outsized, outnumbered, and apparently outwitted, I capitulated and even thanked them.

After stalking back to my car in humiliation, I found that the ‘special’ cable they sold me wasn’t even for an iPod, as they left it on the seat and didn’t bother hooking it up for me. I had to slink back to counter and received a refund, though it seemed implied that the mix up was based solely on the fact that I failed to properly communicate the problem to them. To make matters even worse, I had to go back a second time because I didn’t know if the garage door was going to open for me automatically, or if I kept going I was going to hit it with the car.

When I got home I jumped on line and found out that the remote starter was supposed to turn on the damn heat and that it was occasionally wired wrong when installed which causes my problem. Fixing it is time consuming and expensive for the dealer. Fuck. It looks like I need to work up the nerve and go back there. An no, no I’m not going to bring a guy along with me.

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

3 responses »

  1. As a ‘blossoming’ trans woman that also happens to be a mechanic (although I prefer tech., mechanic implies parts replacement and no diagnostic ability) – I can tell you there are a lot of ignorant, and lazy mechanics and to make matters worse ignorant and lazy service writers/advisors. Not all of us are like that! Some of us are craftspeople and technicians, who take pride in our abilities and go out of our way to solve customers problems. Even so, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and racism are rampant in the industry.
    From the experiences you’ve conveyed, I urge you to look for another shop! They are out there!

  2. nobody you know

    Just love when people insist on subscribing to stereotypes. Plenty of females know their way around an automobile and have never had a problem calling ‘bullshit’ when a shop tried to claim certain things were immediately needed. Some of us can even do things like adjust points in vehicles so equipped.

    Does that mean I have never encountered shop or sales people in that industry that left me rolling my eyes? No, not at all…the one that took the cake was likely the one who extolled the extended life of spark plugs in newer engines while I was in a test drive of a one-ton diesel (which for those who do not know, has not a single spark plug since it is a compression-type ignition). Service-wise, I don’t have any really good examples since I usually knew what was going on before I had to make the decision to take it in instead of doing the work myself…yes, I am one of those useful lesbians who owns tools and knows how to use them.

    Being female does NOT mean an inability to articulate what is going on with a vehicle when you take it into a shop for some form of service, even if that shop is a stealership. The continuation and perpetuation of stereotypes is never a good thing, and yet that seems to be what trans* likes to do- play by the traditional stereotype.

  3. I’m FTM, and the last time I took my car in for its periodic 50k maintenance at the dealership, I asked them to inspect my brakes too. Well, yeah, I did indeed need some new pads, but the guy also wanted to sell me a service that would “recondition” the rotors. And I have to say, that was probably the very first time I had ever been invited into the service area where they proceeded to show me the condition of my old brake pads and explain in detail why it is sometimes necessary to recondition the rotors too.

    And the thing is, I really appreciated that kind of willingness to help reassure the customers, ‘cos although the dealerships tend to charge a lot, I still go back to them once in a while exactly because they’re pretty thorough in their inspections and they seem to do reliable work. And then I started thinking, why is this only the first time that this has ever happened?! And then I remembered, oh yeah, because most mechanics are manly men who like to assume that women are too “delicate” and dumb to know and understand the inner workings of dirty and complicated machinery like “brakes”. So stupid.


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