By Roberta Hart
I live in a man’s world. My entire life, I have been referred to as a “tomboy”. I was an athlete, an artist, and the girl that was always there to answer questions about how to fix their latest screw ups with their girlfriends. From the time that I was very young up to present day, my closest friends have always been male. My employment has always been in a capacity that deals with a male dominated field. Although I have to tell you, even I was not prepared for the testosterone overload that would come with my current job.
I am employed in the general maintenance department located in the largest hospital complex in my state. I was nervous about taking this job because I would be the only female ever hired in a labor capacity for that department. Our crews work out of two areas within the hospital. One is located in the bowels of the boiler room, and the other is tucked away in the recesses of the parking garage. I have always wondered why the people in these positions are so well hidden from view. Now, I know why.
I will tell you a bit about these men. They range in age from twenty four to sixty. When I first began my tenure here, I knew that they were apprehensive about having a woman working with them. The conversations were awkward and they rarely made eye contact. I miss those days. Now that I have been accepted into the “burp, scratch and high five club”, I see the inner working of the male mind, and it isn’t pretty.
Women are stereotypically “catty” and “backstabbing” creatures who gossip and chatter their work day away. Well, I have news for all of you. Men are not any different. You can also add posturing and marking their territory to their list. I remember watching the boys play on the playground when I was young. First, they would push and punch each other while they waited in line to go outside. Did you know that full grown men will wait in line to punch in and out from a work day? I am sad to report that they still have not learned to keep their hands to themselves, and to use their “inside voices”.
After the teacher opens the door and allows the children to run free and frolic on the playground, they would gather into smaller groups and “claim their territory”. Well, things have not changed much. Within the maintenance department, there are plumbers, electricians, carpenters, engineers and groundskeepers. It is definitely still acceptable to be shoved into a locker if a plumber has the gall to take the electrician’s hammer. I do not mean that metaphorically. I mean it literally. Unfortunately, a fifty year old man with a beer belly does not fit in a locker the way that he used to. Duct tape is the Holy Grail to these men, but even that will only buy a few minutes when trying to restrain an angry plumber.
We have all driven past crews working on the side of the road. We sit in traffic for what feels like hours, just to see a gaggle of men standing around a hole, looking down. Have you ever wondered what was so intriguing in that hole? I have the answer. There is absolutely nothing of any interest in there. I have learned that they will exhibit the same behavior over a bundle of multi colored wires, a leaking pipe, or a simple pile of lumber. Next time that you are curious, stop the car, get out, and listen to them chatter and cluck around that hole. It will suddenly become clearer why the roads are never fixed properly, and why you have to call the plumber back four times for the same repair. Just the way that women have to go to the restroom in groups, men apparently require a group in order to form a coherent thought. There is only one major flaw in that plan, and that is posturing. Basically, it does not matter which man had the best idea or solution to their problem, it only matters which man was able to convince the others to implement it. He will be crowned “King of the mountain”, and be the first in line to go down the big slide.
As my day winds down, the smaller groups begin to merge back into one mass of testosterone. Now, I have spent my entire day with these men. I have listened to them giggle at the thought of having gas in a crowded elevator. I have watched them injure themselves repeatedly on the same pipe, tool, wire or piece of lumber. I have witnessed the ceremonial gathering around the hole. So, when we form our line to punch out, I have to wonder about this end of the day ritual that ensues. To listen to these men, you would think that they have just engineered and built the great pyramids of ancient Egypt. They are exhausted and full of aches and pains. Every task that they have “completed” that day was the most difficult one ever in the history of mankind.
Now that I have infiltrated this secret society, I feel that it is my duty to inform women of two things. The first thing is that if you ever have the opportunity to enter a workforce like this one, take it! It will be, bar none, the easiest job that you will ever do. I swear that if men had to give birth, the human race would have ceased to exist a long time ago, or they would have invented a tool to make it easier. (They just would not be able to find that tool when they go into labor, and have to go buy a new one, or borrow his buddy’s.) The second thing goes to the wives that are reading this. When your husband comes home and tells you about his day, simply smile and nod your head. Remember this, when your children come in the house from a long day of playing, are they sweaty and dirty too? Yes, they are. Trust me ladies, they are not too tired to mow the lawn or fix that leaking faucet. If he tells you that he is utterly exhausted from his long, hard day, simply make this statement. “It’s alright honey, I will just call Bill to fix it for me. You just rest.” He may react harshly, at first. Just remember to smile and remain calm. You will get the task accomplished. Because after all, he does not want Bill to be the first one to go down the big slide!
About the Author: Roberta Hart is the mother of three young sons rapidly approaching adolescence. She is a 34 year old Landscaping Supervisor and Freelance Writer residing in Western PA. Roberta’s most recent articles and essays have been published in The Cynic Online Magazine and HealthyPlace.com. She has lived all her life in a middle class, real world, suburban setting, and uses her skills as a communicator and writer to convey a message, purely in the hopes that someone, anyone is listening.