The other day we switched our phone lines so that we had cable, internet, and phone from one provider (plus it saves money! Yippee!). When the cable guy arrived I opened the front door and was greeted by a lovely plume of second hand smoke so strong I thought for a second he was squirreling a lit cigarette behind his back.
I let him in and lead him where the Ethernet fraternizes with the cable and phone and cap this and thats and say, "Have at it; I will be upstairs with my daughter. Call me if you need me."
Fifteen or so minutes later I hear, "Ma'am?"
I scurry down to see what the matter is, and he proceeds to tell me how our house isn't correctly wired for the job. We'd need to rewire EACH individual phone jack, and he isn't allowed to do that. We'll have to hire an independent electrical company to come in...shouldn't run us more than a few hundred.
Our house is four years old, and we paid a ridiculous amount so that ANY wiring needs we might ever possibly, conceivably, potentially have in the future were already in place. So, I ask him to explain EXACTLY how it is that our house isn't up to snuff. My swell cable guy went on to explain how yadda this wire yadda that wire blah that blah not correct ahem.
What he was saying didn't make any sense to me, but then I not the most fluent in Wiring Speak. So I admitted that I just didn't know what he was talking about (my polite way of saying YOU ARE NOT MAKING ANY SENSE).
He said, "Well, like I tell my daughter, you're beautiful so you don't need to be smart."
I can't tell you how incredibly relieved I felt to hear those words. What a burden lifted off my shoulders. I don't NEED to be smart. I am a female (which is what he meant by beautiful, believe me) and so I'm off the hook.
But wait! There's more!!! Later as he was leaving he felt the need to reiterate, "My wife always slaps me when I say this, but I am going to go ahead and say it anyway. If you're not smart, it's hard to understand."
Inwardly I just rolled my eyes. I didn't care what this guy thought of me and didn't feel the need to defend myself. He wasn't trying to be a jerk and in fact was trying in his ass-backward way to make me feel better about not understanding what he was saying. But my nearly nine year-old son was nearby; I didn't want to leave the impression that it was okay for people to talk to others that way. However, I *knew* the guy was just being folksy in the best way his one and a half standard deviations below average IQ would allow him.
So I just handled it the way I would have if my son hadn't been there. I smiled and nodded, thanked him, and showed him the door. Then I used it as a "teaching moment" (more rolling of internal eyes) and we discussed the difference between the words smart and ignorant, and the irony in the cable guy using the term incorrectly. We also talked about the whole sticks and stones vs. breaking bones theory and when to apply it, and a few other things as well.
I'm glad I didn't alter my behavior because I had my son as an audience. I've always trusted my instincts and they have generally served me well; parenthood isn't the time to stop. At least that is what my gut tells me.
*More irony: the cable guy totally messed up the wires when he as here. He managed to not only NOT install our new phone service, but to disconnect our old one. I discovered within thirty second of him leaving that were left without phone and internet (!!!) service. We managed to get the cable company to come back later that evening and the new cable guy had everything up and running in less than half an hour. Seems we didn't need to rewire EACH phone jack after all.