Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Metaphor of Being Grabbed

I woke up in the middle of the night, about an hour ago. There's no use trying to go back to sleep. None. I just know it.

Getting online to find a bus to Judkins Park on Saturday for the Women's March on Seattle was no help at all. The buses I usually take into Seattle are either weekday buses or aren't running because of the March. 

Well, shit.

See, I'm getting more and more nervous about this event as it comes closer. It's going to be hard to get there. Warnings about writing phone numbers and medical information in Sharpie on your skin is not easing my burden. People posted that agitators might do damage and try to blame peaceful protestors for it. I really just want to protest peacefully. I do. I want my name on that long list of women who marched for tolerance, for equality, and for a non-pussy-grabbing state of our nation.

On Facebook, some people actually questioned my motivation for joining in the protests. Seriously. I'll admit I had written something smarmy, that I didn't intend to do anything illegal or lowering my standards because I was protesting that our incoming government was illegal and lowering our standards.

He who must not be named. Is it going to help to resist putting the big T label onto my rant? Can I avoid retribution by leaving his name out of this. Really?

Another person commented on my Facebook post by saying it was serious business and I should take it seriously. I AM taking it seriously! That's why I'm braving the crowds on Saturday and maybe Friday night too, despite the difficulty I'm going to have getting there and back.

So these irritating Facebook comments got me to thinking about my motivation. I'm telling you that I'm motivated to protest this new administration. I've got my pussy hat ready, along with my Sharpie, some saline solution, snacks, and a bottle of water.

See, I really have to tell you about when I was grabbed, don't I?

It's not just one time. I was cute, naive, and in the engineering field where women weren't exactly expected to be in the late 70s.

My first summer job after a year of engineering school at Purdue, I worked at the Navy Base where my dad had worked. It was great! I was going to so some important work. I knew I was. My dad had worked on some amazing technology. I could sign on to that.

The first day, the woman at the table next to me, the one charged with training me, said I was making everyone look bad and I should relax, slow down. We didn't need to show the bosses what was really possible when everyone else was taking a week to produce what I'd just completed in one morning. These people were jaded, disinterested, and were not going to tolerate my accent let alone my productivity. Just the twenty miles I traveled to work crossed a line of demarcation from a Northern accent to a Southern one. It wasn't appreciated. I was high falutin.

Then, my bosses assigned me overtime.


I was told by the irritated employee next to me that if they didn't use it, they'd lose that line item in the budget next year. This is why the fucking toilet seats cost $800, people.

Ultimately, I made some people mad, those adults who were just trying to keep their civil service jobs from one year to the next. I was some snot-nosed kid in a baby blue pant suit who thought I'd shit gold because I'd finished one fucking year at Purdue? I'll admit I was pretty smug about it. I'd worked hard to get into that engineering school and I was working hard to stay in and get decent grades. I was proud that I was smart, but that wasn't appreciated in this environment. Oh no, it was not.

Then, the managers, my dad's old cohorts, decided I'd learn more on my own project than on a line of production with disengaged civil servants. I was assigned the job of calibrating theodolites, surveying instruments. The room they put me into had a ten ton granite table that went through the floor and connected directly to the ground without touching the building. The theory was that the ground was stable and any delicate work that needed to be done couldn't tolerate  vibrations or shifts inherent in the building or the equipment running inside it.

I never did find out what that table was really used for. I'm sure they didn't design something that thoroughly just so I could calibrate a couple dozen theodolites. I'll bet it was good, but it was 'need to know,' you know. And I was not in the know.

So, I went happily to work on my theodolites. The job was fun, technical, and delicate. I loved it.

And there was still overtime, so I worked hard and they put extra money into my college fund. It was great.

Then, one night, at about 5:45, one of those original guys came and sat across the granite table from me on one of the dozen tall stools positioned around it. The hair on the back of my neck rose whenever this guy was around. He was surly and big. He was as proud of his ignorance as I was of my smarts.

He must have been about 6'4" and about 350 pounds, muscular and fat at the same time. Deep pock marks scarred his face. I'd have said he was ugly if I'd been brave enough to do it.

He had called me a cunt under his breath on that first day when I was just a little bit too enthusiastic. I heard him though.

That night, my radar didn't disappoint me one bit. I immediately went on guard. This big guy ramped up a rant about what the fuck I was doing there. He used the word 'cunt' a few more times and with more volume. I hate being called a cunt. I do. Back then, it was infuriating and embarrassing.

I was sweet when I was nineteen. Plus, I looked like I might be about fourteen. And I smiled too much. My mother had taught me that a lady never makes waves, that a lady never talks back, that if anything goes wrong, I'm to continue smiling and find some excuse to slide out of the problem which would be labeled my fault if I weren't courteous. How my mother survived her entire life on this philosophy, I'll never know.

It didn't work for me and this was one of the first times it was tested.

"What the fuck are you going to do all night here by yourself?" the big man said with sly grin coming across his angry face.

I can't remember what I said to him, probably something about getting some work done. But I stood up, shoved the work stool out of my way, and put my hands onto the cold black slab of granite opposite him. He hadn't come to my side of the big table or it would have been awkward, according to my mother's politeness philosophy, to move away from him without a sweet excuse.

He kept talking and leaned out across the wide table. I leaned back a little. I remember leaning back but keeping my hands on the surface where the coolness kept me breathing evenly. Then, he roared the line that shot all my hair, invisible and not, straight out from my spine.

"All this overtime. Who's going to protect you now? Who's going to protect you , cunt, when you leave here at night?"

And he smiled at me and dodged a little to the left.

I'd played this game with my big brother. I moved right. Courtesy be damned.

He kept talking, getting louder and cruder, telling me what might happen to a fucking cunt who stayed at work too late on a weeknight as we dodged back and forth around that table. He was much too graphic.

Ultimately, I grabbed my bag on one of my passes, and I ran, flat out in my sensible heels, out two doors and into to my baby blue Granada. I slammed down the locks on my doors once I was safely in. And I kicked up some gravel as I injected my keys, started my engine, and fled the parking lot.

I never did any overtime at that job again. I was afraid to turn the man into his bosses, but by the next day, I'd arranged to carpool with my dad's old buddies and they, without needing to hear any specifics, never left me alone after 4:45 pm that whole summer.

That, my friends, was one time I got away without having my actual pussy grabbed or violated in any other way. But my story remains a metaphor for the real thing. I am not a fan of that kind of behavior. I am truly not.

And that man who called me 'fucking cunt' is just one reason I am marching against the incoming administration this Saturday.

Thank you for listening, jules

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