Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Like Donny, I'm out of my element

I'm fairly secure in my masculinity, or as secure as someone who grinds his own coffee, has an enduring man-crush on Eddie Vedder, and has never fired a real gun can be. To offset these minor transgressions, none of which warrant revocation of my Man Card, I do things like climb mountains and eat lots of beans. Sometimes, I even scratch my balls. This is what men do. My membership is secure.

And yet.... I'm still confronted from time to time with that most emasculating of endeavours: entering an auto-parts store. If you can walk into an Auto Zone and not feel like half a man, ladies included, then I envy you. The second I walk through those doors and see those racks of batteries and belts and thingamadoohickeys, I am both retarded and apparently sporting a vagina where my man bits used to be.

Which is not to say that actual ladies, who may very well know how to rebuild a transmission and change a timing belt, don't know their way around a tool box. Rather, I merely employ the analogy because in our sexist society the auto-parts store is still very much the perceived domain of manly men. I mean no offense to vaginas.

And no matter what I'm in there for, be it a new battery or an air filter (both of which I can install all by myself!), I have to approach the Man behind the counter (and it is always a Man; he probably wears camo when he's not at work and enjoys Slim Jims) to ask for the item in question. This wouldn't be a big deal except, as he's asking me the particulars of my vehicle, we always get to the question of which engine I have, my vehicle type having the option of two different V-6 engines, one smaller, one larger.

Now, it might be the slightest bit unmanly at this point to have to admit to having the smaller V-6. In the Man Club, bigger is invariably better. But you know what is even better than bigger?

Actually knowing what kind of engine is in your truck!

I have no idea. Never have. The thing was purchased used eleven years ago and the owner's manual was stolen in a break-in a few years later. And it's not like I can pop the hood, eyeball the engine block and accurately guess its cubic inch displacement.

So I have to tell the guy, the manly man with his first name embroidered on his uniform shirt (probably Chuck, or Tom, or Bill, or some other manly name), that I have no friggin' clue.

Which gets me the look. That fleeting look that says, "If I, Chuck, were on the membership committee, you'd lose your Man Card for this."

So be it, Chuck. I happen to like my coffee fresh-ground and I'm not afraid to say I think Eddie Vedder is a good looking man and a compelling personality.

And one other thing, Chuck: Thanks for the windshield wiper blades, but what in the hell does my engine size have to do with them?


Unknown said...

You're more of a man than me dude, I wouldn't even go in those places (way back when I had a car) unless I'm with someone who knows something.

Too fucking intimidating.

Soldier on man, you are strong.

shelleycoughlin said...

Auto Zone is on my List. You know, the List of Stores That Make Me Feel Completely Inadequate At Life.


Jacob said...

I'm exactly the same, although I do change my own air filter and lights, although changing the head lights in my cars can take over an hour because of the contortions and amount of strength required in awkward positions to get the parts off and on.

I could not change my own battery because in a Prius that involves removing sections of the car and detailed knowledge of the hybrid technology. I have posts under my hood for jacks, but they aren't attached to any battery under the hood.

I think.

I also feel entirely ignorant when walking inside a car parts store because it's one of the few places I go where I know less about what's being sold than the lowliest salesmen. Grocery store? I know more about food than any employee. Beer store? Only the rare store run or managed by a beer geek can keep up with me. Wal-Mart? I have an IQ above 85, so we'll leave it there.

However, I don't feel inadequate in my masculinity. I quit caring about being a man in middle school. I do what I like and look down on those who would look down on me. Makes it perfectly easy for me to bake a loaf of bread and fold laundry while watching football and drinking beer.

And grinding your own coffee is totally manly. It's just elitist. I also grind my own coffee.

Brewing tea with loose leaf tea in the afternoons is totally not manly, but I do it anyway.

Erin said...

I think if you go in dressed like a hippie poet, they won't expect an iota of mechanical knowledge. They'll just think you're funny and feel good about themselves.

A Free Man said...

Hey, at least you drive a truck rather than a sensibly fuel efficient Japanese hatchback. It could be worse. Everything I know about cars I learned from 'Car Talk'. I'm pretty sure that regular NPR listenership gets your car revoked as well.

mongoliangirl said...

Oh, Eddie Vedder is so fucking hot that I am going to eat him. So is my husband.
Screw Chuck. Seriously, just screw him. He can just get his cammo laden ass out there and figure that shit out himself as far as I'm concerned.
I assure you...your man card is intact and my vagine is utterly unoffended by this post.
It was, however, once offended back in '88...uh...nevermind...

Stefanie said...

The last time I went to an auto parts store, it was a woman behind the counter, and she had less of a clue what I needed there than I did. I don't know what my point in telling you this is, except that fear not; maybe SOMEDAY you too will walk into an auto parts store and know more than the person who's helping you. (Fingers crossed?)

Jacob said...

And why would someone steal your user manual? That's an odd thing for a thief to take. Seems like it'd take up room he could have used for more valuable loot, like the floor mats.

Julie said...

I think you should mark this post so you don't forget it come time for your greatest hits blog. You wrote some lines that are worth bringing up again.

You could probably pull a CLUE on your truck. The engine size might be tied to the VIN.

Allie said...

1. I think this is my favorite post ever.
2. I'm glad you like the coffee! Amazing instant can be so good, isn't it?

The Modern Gal said...

Fortunately for women who choose to enter an auto parts store, the bar is much, much lower. So if I can pick out my own wiper blades, I've earned a notch on my belt of manliness or modern gal-iness.

Also, the Lebowski reference is noted.