Another Story for the TEDxMileHigh File
In my TEDXMileHigh talk I told two stories about men behaving badly. Since that time the number of women who have shared their own stories verifies what I now know well. A lot of men are misogynistic.
For my talk I had to choose two stories from among many I have experienced since transitioning. Each story I did not tell is as compelling as the two I told. Since I travel so often, many of the stories involve airlines and hotels. Last Saturday I added another story to the file.
You may or may not realize this, but many hotels do not really allow you to control the temperature in your room. There is a thermostat on the wall, and you can put it on a specific number, but unlike the thermostat at your house, that number does not mean much. The hotel thermostat is programmed to allow it to go a good bit higher and lower than set. Many hotels have a system that we frequent travelers have figured out how to override. It is the one pictured at the bottom of this post. After you have overridden the program, the screen reads VIP. Which means Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, should they stay at your hotel, would not have the same experience you have.
Saturday night I was in a hotel near Denver that had a temperature control mechanism I have come to dread. I set the temperature to 70, but the heater did not kick off until 74. That much of a variation is rare, so I thought it might be a malfunctioning unit and I changed rooms. Nope. The same problem existed in the new room. I am not aware of an override for this type of system, so I called engineering and prepared myself for the misogyny I knew was likely to arrive.
A young man of about 25 knocked on the door. I answered and said, “There is a problem with the heating unit and I would like for you to listen to me until I have explained the problem to you.”
The engineer did not listen. He kept repeatedly interrupting until I said firmly, “Please stop talking and listen to me! I know what I am talking about! I am a Lifetime Platinum member and I have been staying in Marriott properties since before you were born!”
The engineer continued to mansplain until in exasperation I said, “Okay, let’s assume what you are telling me is true. Why don’t you come back in 30 minutes with your temperature gun and we’ll see what the temperature is.” He rolled his eyes and left.
Thirty minutes later Mr. Engineer returned with said temperature gun and aimed it at various points on the wall. He did not want to show me the reading, but finally admitted the temperature was four degrees higher than he had told me it would be. Of course, the temperature was exactly what I had told him it would be, 74 degrees!
Here is where the story varies from any past experience. And I must admit, it was incredibly satisfying! I opened up my computer and pulled up this picture from my TEDxMileHigh talk:
I asked, “Do you know what this is?” He said, “No.” I said, “This is a picture of me speaking to 5,000 people at Bellco Theater a week ago today about how women are not treated with respect in this culture. And yes, as you can see, I got a standing ovation. Do you know why I got a standing ovation? Because women are sick and tired of being treated as if we don’t know what we are talking about.”
I continued my lecture, “Now, here is what is going to happen. The next time I am speaking to 5,000 people I am going to tell them about you, and your hotel, which I will call by name. And I have a feeling your general manager is not going to be very happy about that!” It is also possible that somewhere during my little lecture I might have cursed a little. Just sayin’.
Much to my surprise, the young engineer returned about a half hour later and sincerely apologized. I told him I respected the courage and character it took to admit his mistake. Truth be told, I felt kinda tender toward the guy. I had been pretty tough on him.
Being ignored and questioned is one of the most maddening aspects of being a female. The misogyny is routine and exasperating. I have stayed in Marriott hotels for four decades. I know what I know, dammit! Listen to me!
In his apology the young man said he had been raised by a single mom who taught him to treat women with respect. He acknowledged he had not treated me with respect. I told him he should listen to his mother.
The next afternoon I was reflecting on the experience. I would love it if I could say that in all the years I was a male, I was never guilty of mansplaining. Yep, I would love it if I could say that, but the truth is I cannot. So maybe some of these experiences are just the old adage coming true, “What goes around comes around.”
And so it goes.