Maggie Van Ostrand
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
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
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