A radical thing happened last Sunday. I walked into a bike shop with my husband, explained what was wrong with my bike, and the employee behind the counter listened and responded to me.
What’s radical about it? Mainly how different it is from my usual experience at bike or similar outdoor-activity-enthusiast shops. Like Saturday night, when I discovered said problem with my bike, pushed it to the nearest store, and explained the issue. The guy behind the counter nodded as I explained but then looked directly at my husband. “Sounds like a bent derailleur,” he told him, before detailing his options.
Or like six months ago, at a larger outdoor-enthusiast chain store, when I asked where to find sport sandals, and instead got three employees lecturing me about how sandals were a terrible idea for biking and that I should get clipless shoes instead. “No thanks, I’m not interested in clipping in,” I told them. They were not convinced. One guy suggested that he get his own bike from the back so I could try on his shoes and clip in to his bike. “No thanks! Just looking for sandals!” I said, now on the fifth time. They gave up after the seventh time they heard I wasn’t interested—once my husband walked in and said it.
It’s not fair to say that these types of stores are the only ones that treat men and women differently. Almost every time I’ve asked for a cup of water, or to use the bathroom, at a fast-food place, I’m told “that will be $50!” by some dude that then expects me to play my part. “Whhaaa? That’s so—wait, what? It’s free? Oh, ha ha, you truly got me.” Every guy friend I have admits this has never happened to them, which I’m so envious of because it’s exhausting and the other option, death stare, doesn’t get me my water or bathroom pass as quickly.
It happens the other way around, too. So many clothing store employees treat men like they’re lost puppies, or clueless “Befores” on Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. For every time I’m looked over at sports stores in favor of the man standing closest to me, I get all the attention at a clothing shop.
I called Nhatt at 718 Cyclery, the woman who helped me (and subsequently fixed my derailleur, among other things, like a boss) to thank her for the experience of speaking directly to—not around, or above, or to the dude next to—me. I told her how awesome it felt to be treated as responsible for my own decisions and issues and options. She told me she totally got it and that she always tries to treat people equally. Go Nhatt! and go 718, which everyone should visit, always.
It’s fun to talk up the people and stores that get it right. But what’s the best thing to do when you get the kind of little-girl treatment that makes me want to march out of the shop? Friends: Tell me how you would have handled it. Sassy comments heartily included.