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  Texas : Features : Humor : Column - "A Balloon In Cactus"

Man Stores

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
I don't want to be a man. I don't want to dress like one, eat like one, or think like one. I like being a woman. Always have. So what was I doing in a Man Store last week? I had no choice, that's what.

August 25, 2005, will mark the first anniversary of the day I was forced to go into a Man Store. It's scary in there. And it's all because of a donut.

Why? I got my first flat tire, and totally freaked out. My car has one of those donut spares designed to go about 40 inches. That's why I keep a regular-sized spare -- what'm I, dumb? -- but I was running errands two hours away from my garage where it's kept. Never mind, I knew what to do. Cry.

I cried so hard, the dry cleaner where the car was laid up called her brother-in-law, the Man mechanic, and he had me thump to his shop on a square tire. He felt it all over. I thought, "What does he think this is this, a date?" I can think mean when hysterical. He then showed me a large, pointy metal object like a splayed arrowhead sticking into the tire. He said I'd have to get a specialist to repair or replace it, that he was only a mechanic. What, I had to go to another Man store?

Add helpless to hysterical and you've got the picture. I thumped over to the tire place and ran in, waving my arms and shrieking, "Help me, Help me! It's an emergency!"

The guy behind the counter looked at me like I was from Mars, not Venus, where women are supposed to be from.

"Vot's the moigency?"

"I've got a flat!!" I screamed wetly.

"Vell, vot's unusual? Ev'body gets flet. Iss common."

At least he didn't say, "Calm down!," those words which act as an emotional steroid, enhancing hysteria instead of relieving it. He said, "Zign here undt ve'll take care of der problem. Not to vorry. Diss iss vot ve're here for. Zitt in da lownch, readink der mekasseen." So I sat in the lounge to read a magazine. I can follow orders.

You wouldn't believe what Men consider a "lounge." Old plastic and foam rubber chairs held together by duct tape, a table with Styrofoam cups and a coffee maker without coffee, just a burned, bubbling stain at the bottom of the pot. The magazines strewn across a wobbly brown table weren't even copies of People Magazine from the 80s like you find at your dentist's, but a bunch of greasy Field & Streams.

The cover of one issue had a headline about "Skamania" What's a "Ska" and why would it cause a person to become maniacal? Skamania turned out to be a kind of fish, a steelhead, whatever that is. Personally, I'd rather have poached salmon.

I soon stopped sniveling and began to take an interest in the magazine when I got to an article advising that a man's "Johnson" is his outboard motor. That's not what I had heard. Live and learn. There was also an article about how important a man's rod length is. Maybe Field & Stream is where Hugh Hefner gets some of his story ideas.

Other articles covered "The History of Muck Boots," (this is an election year requiring plenty of muck raking), "Why Men Love Knives," (there's more to a Man's knife than cleaning his fingernails) and "You Want Fries With Those Eyes?" a real eye opener.

My initiation into Man Stores was interrupted by Tire Man's negative prognosis -- that donut I couldn't put on would've saved the impaled tire, totally ruined by thumping from Man Store to Man Store. They installed a $139 Dunlop. I hate it that I have three matching tires and a Dunlop.

In my opinion, women just don't belong in Man Stores and we should do everything to avoid such a possibility. My friend said that when she got a flat tire, rather than going into a Man Store, she sold her car.

Just think, I wouldn't have learned anything at all if I had thought to call the Auto Club.

Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
September 1, 2004 Column
 
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