Thursday, August 8, 2013

How the Girl With Blue Hair Helped Me Overcome My Fear of HardwareStores

Act #220: Embrace the blue-haired hardware goddess in you.

Last week our dishwasher began leaking and my handy, tool-belt wearing husband quickly determined exactly what parts he needed to fix it with his own bare hands.   He called in to order two springs, a connector, and a valve at a small, local appliance store located near my work and asked if I'd be willing to pick the parts up.  Of course I agreed, motivated greatly by a desire to return to my post-dinner life of spoiled first-world luxury.

To steal from a Kentucky politician's campaign slogan, I don't scare easy.  I feel confident in most situations, can talk to just about anyone, and before this point, no one really knew...........exactly how much I abhor going into hardware and appliance stores.  While I have made intentional efforts to at least have a working knowledge of most things that stereotypically fall in the male domain (like haggling car salesmen), I always feel like an inadequate, bumbling idiot in hardware stores.  I can barely tell the difference between the 8 million different screw heads and I know that the  testosterone-filled men behind the counter are laughing at me behind my back, scheming exactly how they are going to price gouge the poor little Asian lady.

But I desperately need that dishwasher fixed, so on my lunch break yesterday, I decide to drive over to the locally-owned, family-operated appliance store, bracing myself for the worst:  know-it-all, condescending, white males who will treat me like I'm incapable of grasping how mechanical parts operate..............which in this case, rings a bit true.  I sigh and take a deep breath as I pull into the parking lot and walk into the outdated, taupe warehouse-looking building. 

And lo and behold, before me stood the most exquisite sight I have ever seen. 

There, right before my eyes, working the typically all-white and all-male counter stood a young WOMAN with skin a few shades DARKER than mine,with bright, electric BLUE streaks in her hair.  And she commanded that store.  She was waiting on two male customers (who were asking HER for advice), dashing back and forth between the parts shelves, talking about electrical and plumbing parts like it was her first language.  I was blown away.  I was impressed.  I was no longer intimidated by the 8 million different screw heads before me.  This 22-year old tool goddess was my new heroine.  She owned that appliance store - well maybe not literally - but anyone who walked through those doors could take one look at her and know that this was not some little lady who didn't know her bolts and screws. 

I've had the opportunity to meet some extraordinary feminists in my lifetime, but I count  this unknowing young lady with blue hair among my most favorite, and definitely most influential.  I confidently walk up to the counter and ask for each and every part by name and manufacture number, like I personally plan to fix this dishwasher (and not like my husband sent me for the parts), and for a split second we shared an unspoken female bond.  Two brown women surrounded by hundreds of gauges and valves, owning our place in this traditionally male-dominated world. 

And I walk away thinking to myself, it's about time I learn the difference between a Phillip's and a slotted hexagon (screw heads, of course). 

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