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The Death of Southern Gentlemen January 24, 2015

Seven million years ago, when I was learning how to drive, I asked my father how to check the oil in my car.  Checking the oil was something I’d seen him do, and it seemed to me to be an Essential Part of Grown Up Car Ownership and Maintenance.  My father’s answer?  “You pull into a full serve station and say, ‘Will you please check the oil?’”  That was the end of the subject.

Not long afterwards, I was driving with my father along the Meadowbrook Parkway on Long Island when the tire blew in the car.  Dad told me to pull to the side of the road, which I did, and he proceeded to make me change my own tire.  I remember what I was wearing: a khaki colored jumpsuit (it was the mid to late 80s and I was Very Fashionable) and short boots I thought of as Peter Pan boots.  Not exactly the clothes you’d put on to do car maintenance, but I wasn’t given a choice.  I was not strong enough to turn the lug nuts with the crow bar, but Dad refused to help me beyond giving me advice and encouragement.  Out of options, I braced myself on the side of the car and jumped on the crow bar until I loosened the lug nut.   I felt like an absolute fool, jumping on the slender bar and trying not to fall, but by God I did it and I changed that tire myself on the side of the road.  Rawr.

The difference between those two things is that there isn’t any circumstance in which I will need to check the oil in order to get on my way, but there are plenty of circumstances in which I might need to change a tire.

I can’t tell you the rush it was, the feeling like I could do anything in the whole world, including changing the tire on the side of the highway wearing impractical shoes.

Five million years ago, when I was auditioning future husbands in what seemed to be an endless run of first dates, that was one of my go-to questions.  “Do you know how to change a tire?”  If the answer was no – which was awfully often – there was no second date.  And yes, I was questioning his essential manhood.  Changing a tire is one of those life skills that every human living in the first world should know how to do.

Tonight I was sitting in the lobby of the Hugh Hodgson School of Music killing time while my son attended the Oboe and Bassoon Symposium.  I was sitting in a sea of bored looking parents playing games on their phones and reading books.  A woman came in the door and announced loudly, “Does anyone have jumper cables and know how to use them?”

I had jumper cables, and I know how to use them, however, I had no interest in getting out of my comfy chair and shutting down my computer to brave the cold wind to help a stranger.  Still, no one else said anything in a reasonable amount of time, so I announced, “I do.”

A man sitting across from me said, “Are you sure it is the battery?  Does it go click click click or rawr rawr rawr click click click?”

Ah, I thought.  This guy knows something about cars.  He knows from the noises whether we are wasting time or not.  Yay!  Expert help.

“Just click click click.  No rawr,” she said.

“Then it’s the battery,” he said, and went back to reading his spy novel.

Despite the fact that we were in the Deep South, clearly there were no Southern Gentlemen in the room.  I pushed my unladylike thoughts about the ungentlemanly behavior of this man and the other men in the room hiding behind books and tablet screens to the deep recesses of my brain.  I had a Job to Do, what with no one else volunteering to do it, and all my concentration was spent on prayers that my memory of how to do this wouldn’t result in a mushroom cloud-worthy explosion.  I also allocated a small portion of my prayers to petitioning on behalf of this joker’s wife/daughter/mother that none of them ever got stuck in a dark, cold parking lot with only another man like this one nearby.

I stuffed my computer in my bag and stood up to go outside.  Together, me and my new friend Lynda drove my car to where her car was, dug under the shopping I had done earlier in the day, random jackets, reusable shopping bags, last week’s gym clothes and the other assorted crapola that can generally be found in my trunk and found the jumper cables.  It took me a minute to find the little latch thingie that opens my hood, and it took Lynda a minute to find the stick thingie that holds up her hood, but we eventually did what we needed to do, connected negative to negative and positive to positive and cranked ‘er up.  Yay us.

So, major props for my Dad for teaching me to be the kind of woman who doesn’t need a man to come rescue her in a parking lot.  And boo for the dozen or so men in the room who refused to be gentlemen and help us out.  I’ll make those two thoughts reconcile in my head somehow, someday.

Until then, “RAWR.”

Men out there: I’m really curious what you think about this incident.  Do you think women are just as capable as men at routine tasks like this, or do you feel obligated as a gentleman to help women with something that is stereotypically a manly thing to do?  Or, like everything else, am I just over-thinking this?  I welcome your comments below.

 

The Death of Southern Gentlemen

10 Comments

  1. Anthony

    First, thank you for rescuing my lovely wife. It would have been a long walk home from Athens. Secondly, I am one of those rare gentleman who sees a damsel in distress and jumps at the opportunity to rescue her, whether it be changing a tire or jumping a battery. As one of the few male teachers at my school, I encounter many opportunities to help. But in the same vein of your upbringing, I was rescued last year by a high school girl who just happened to have jumper cables and knew how to use them! Keep on putting those lazy men to shame! And thanks again!

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      No problem! It was my pleasure. I just refused to believe that in a room of that many people I was the only one with jumper cables.

      Reply

  2. Al Mele

    Unless you operate these tools with your genitalia, gender has no part in providing this sort of help. However, it is reasonable to have an expectation that more of the men were raised such that they would be able to jump a car, and so it is reasonable to expect some of those men to be Decent People – as clearly you are!

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      You’re right — I mean, obviously I *did* know how to use my jumper cables, and I used none of my girl parts to make it happen. We can debate for days why it is, but the fact is that it is safe to assume that men have a greater knowledge of car parts and are more likely to have tools and such in their cars and know how to use them. I refuse to believe that in a room of that size that I was the ONLY person with jumper cables.

      Reply

  3. Linda Schaub

    I’ll try this again … I loved this post … your father had more patience than mine who had 0 patience – heck, he could not even teach me to ride a two-wheeler and I had to learn at my friend’s house by her father. When I had my learner’s permit, he had a stick shift and a Sunday car. He took me to the high school parking lot to teach me how to drive a stick (no stick in driver’s ed tho) and yelled at me for stripping his gears. He wouldn’t take me out to practice in his Sunday car as he said I pulled too close to the curb – so he was no help and of course never taught me how to change a tire, give someone a jump (though he bought me jumper cables). After he left, my kindly Southern gentleman neighbor, Jim, who hailed from Kentucky, would not see a woman in distress but wanted to teach me everything he had taught his daughters years before. I was getting my gas tank filled and the guy who pumped the gas dropped my gas tank lock key down the window well. I was horrified – told Jim about it. “Well girl” he said, “we’ll get you fixed up right fast” … he introduced me to an allen wrench and I had the door panel off, retrieved the key and put it back on in a heartbeat. He’d see me digging in the backyard and trying to yank something heavy out of the ground and he’d come running – he was a true Southern gentleman and I cried the day he moved away. He was more of a father to me than my own father ever was.

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      What a great story, Linda! I’m glad you had your neighbor to take care of you when you needed it. He sounds like a great guy.

      Reply

  4. Helen

    I love the story. I cannot do anything so I joined AAA.

    Reply

  5. Maria Taylor

    I was not allowed to drive until I could change a tire, not only check the oil but change it, know where all fluid check bottles are, how to check them and why the fluid was there, replace the brake shoes, have a general understanding behind the mechanics and more. My Dad’s thoughts, which I’ve tried to pass along to my daughters, is that if you’re driving it, you’re taking your life and the lives of passengers and other drivers and putting them at risk, like a pilot, you should know how to maintain your vehicle so it runs safely. Proactive maintenance beats the heck out of being stranded because you ignored your vehicle. I’ll always graciously accept help but I also pay attention to make sure they know what they’re doing! Oh but I love a southern gent who opens a door!

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      Love it! And good for your girls!

      Reply

  6. Daddyo

    My father was a perfect gemtleman and would always hold a door open if a lady was approaching. But he was not that mechanically inclined genetically. When I was a teen, I actually enjoyed working on the family ‘s fleet of aging vehicles. It was a learning process that could at times be frustrating. My dad was always there to hand me a tool or a part I had forgotten to grab before I shimmied under the car. He never said anything as I would cuss up a storm after a busted knuckle, a broken part (often simultaneously), or spewing liquids that needed to be digitally diked rapidly, stranding me beneath the inflicted machine. My dad was always patiently standing by to rescue me.
    Fortunately, modern computers monitor and control newer vehicles. But, when I recently attempted to assist an older gentleman jump start his stranded GM SUV we discovered that the hood has to be closed or it will not crank. Now does that make any sense? A flickering warning light on his dashboard ⚠ HOOD OPEN ⚠ made us attempt jump starting the engine with the hood closed enough to deceive the stupid sensor but at the same time not pinch the cables. It worked like a charm. All we could do is laugh proudly and shake our heads. Bottom line…read the owners manual. My “mini” van has a 500 page (partially read) book I leave at home and a smaller quick reference guide I keep in my van. And my wonderful (WONDER WOMAN) wife got me a smartphone that might supply pertinent information if I ever learn to use it.

    Reply

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The Death of Southern Gentlemen

10 Comments

  1. Anthony

    First, thank you for rescuing my lovely wife. It would have been a long walk home from Athens. Secondly, I am one of those rare gentleman who sees a damsel in distress and jumps at the opportunity to rescue her, whether it be changing a tire or jumping a battery. As one of the few male teachers at my school, I encounter many opportunities to help. But in the same vein of your upbringing, I was rescued last year by a high school girl who just happened to have jumper cables and knew how to use them! Keep on putting those lazy men to shame! And thanks again!

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      No problem! It was my pleasure. I just refused to believe that in a room of that many people I was the only one with jumper cables.

      Reply

  2. Al Mele

    Unless you operate these tools with your genitalia, gender has no part in providing this sort of help. However, it is reasonable to have an expectation that more of the men were raised such that they would be able to jump a car, and so it is reasonable to expect some of those men to be Decent People – as clearly you are!

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      You’re right — I mean, obviously I *did* know how to use my jumper cables, and I used none of my girl parts to make it happen. We can debate for days why it is, but the fact is that it is safe to assume that men have a greater knowledge of car parts and are more likely to have tools and such in their cars and know how to use them. I refuse to believe that in a room of that size that I was the ONLY person with jumper cables.

      Reply

  3. Linda Schaub

    I’ll try this again … I loved this post … your father had more patience than mine who had 0 patience – heck, he could not even teach me to ride a two-wheeler and I had to learn at my friend’s house by her father. When I had my learner’s permit, he had a stick shift and a Sunday car. He took me to the high school parking lot to teach me how to drive a stick (no stick in driver’s ed tho) and yelled at me for stripping his gears. He wouldn’t take me out to practice in his Sunday car as he said I pulled too close to the curb – so he was no help and of course never taught me how to change a tire, give someone a jump (though he bought me jumper cables). After he left, my kindly Southern gentleman neighbor, Jim, who hailed from Kentucky, would not see a woman in distress but wanted to teach me everything he had taught his daughters years before. I was getting my gas tank filled and the guy who pumped the gas dropped my gas tank lock key down the window well. I was horrified – told Jim about it. “Well girl” he said, “we’ll get you fixed up right fast” … he introduced me to an allen wrench and I had the door panel off, retrieved the key and put it back on in a heartbeat. He’d see me digging in the backyard and trying to yank something heavy out of the ground and he’d come running – he was a true Southern gentleman and I cried the day he moved away. He was more of a father to me than my own father ever was.

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      What a great story, Linda! I’m glad you had your neighbor to take care of you when you needed it. He sounds like a great guy.

      Reply

  4. Helen

    I love the story. I cannot do anything so I joined AAA.

    Reply

  5. Maria Taylor

    I was not allowed to drive until I could change a tire, not only check the oil but change it, know where all fluid check bottles are, how to check them and why the fluid was there, replace the brake shoes, have a general understanding behind the mechanics and more. My Dad’s thoughts, which I’ve tried to pass along to my daughters, is that if you’re driving it, you’re taking your life and the lives of passengers and other drivers and putting them at risk, like a pilot, you should know how to maintain your vehicle so it runs safely. Proactive maintenance beats the heck out of being stranded because you ignored your vehicle. I’ll always graciously accept help but I also pay attention to make sure they know what they’re doing! Oh but I love a southern gent who opens a door!

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      Love it! And good for your girls!

      Reply

  6. Daddyo

    My father was a perfect gemtleman and would always hold a door open if a lady was approaching. But he was not that mechanically inclined genetically. When I was a teen, I actually enjoyed working on the family ‘s fleet of aging vehicles. It was a learning process that could at times be frustrating. My dad was always there to hand me a tool or a part I had forgotten to grab before I shimmied under the car. He never said anything as I would cuss up a storm after a busted knuckle, a broken part (often simultaneously), or spewing liquids that needed to be digitally diked rapidly, stranding me beneath the inflicted machine. My dad was always patiently standing by to rescue me.
    Fortunately, modern computers monitor and control newer vehicles. But, when I recently attempted to assist an older gentleman jump start his stranded GM SUV we discovered that the hood has to be closed or it will not crank. Now does that make any sense? A flickering warning light on his dashboard ⚠ HOOD OPEN ⚠ made us attempt jump starting the engine with the hood closed enough to deceive the stupid sensor but at the same time not pinch the cables. It worked like a charm. All we could do is laugh proudly and shake our heads. Bottom line…read the owners manual. My “mini” van has a 500 page (partially read) book I leave at home and a smaller quick reference guide I keep in my van. And my wonderful (WONDER WOMAN) wife got me a smartphone that might supply pertinent information if I ever learn to use it.

    Reply

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Lori Duff

Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side.  Her latest book, "If You Did What I Told You..." is set to be released in the Fall of 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here.

The Death of Southern Gentlemen January 24, 2015

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