Saturday, November 3, 2012

Anyway, we wanted a man for the job

This is a series of posts about discrimination that happened to me as a girl and woman in the 60s-80s.  See the first two entries at:
When we had to wear dresses to school
Look around the room, you don't belong here
This is a record for my kids, and for others so we don't forget how it was and what we can't go back to.

So there I was after high school, having barely survived it, I had given up on college, my spirit had been broken.

I was working at McDonalds making breakfast during the week and doing night maintenance on the weekends.  I can't even remember how I got into the night maintenance part, but it was great and suited my mechanical tendencies very well.

I really enjoyed working at McDonalds, the camaraderie with the other employees, and the praise I got for doing a good job.  I was very good at making breakfast, the managers and customers loved me and that felt great.  (To me cooking, sewing and knitting are also just like doing mechanical things, figuring out how to do it and do it well, very fun.)

At night maintenance I did great too.  I ended up doing the night maintenance when our store came under national inspection and we passed with flying colors.  I rocked at my job and that really did a lot to boost my self-esteem.

The owners would come around from time to time and I would even play practical jokes on them and get them to laugh.  (I love making people laugh!)  I really felt like I belonged, I became confident about my work, I was actually very happy and was satisfied in the place I'd found for myself.

So after around a year there and really doing well, a full-time night maintenance position came open at one of the other stores.  I knew I was the most senior person who had experience at that job so I would be up for that spot, and I really wanted it.  It would be $150 a week, a step up, and there was a solid record that I was good at it, I figured I was a shoe in!

But then I find out through the grape vine the job had been given to a man who had only been working for McDonalds for 2 months and had never done night maintenance.  I was perplexed, what the hell was going on? The maintenance supervisor hadn't even called to tell me. So I called him.

I will never, ever forget that phone call.  I asked what was going on, why were they giving the job to this guy, why wasn't I being offered the job.  The answer?  "Well, he needs this job because he has a family to support, blah, blah, blah.  And anyway, we wanted a man for the job."  I remember hearing those words, here it was all over again, being treated like a 2nd class citizen because I'm a woman, again!  I went dead cold, it didn't crush me this time, I was furious.

My response, spoken slowly was "Oh, I see." I hung up the phone without saying goodbye.

I went back to work as usual, at least until that weekend.  Then when I came in for night maintenance, I proceeded to take apart the equipment to service it, but then did not put any of it back together.  When the day maintenance guy came in, he looked and said, "Hey you're running behind!"  I said, "No, I'm quitting." to which he laughed, and we sat down, had some soda and chatted a little.  When it got close enough for folks to be about 30 minutes away from coming in to open up I left and asked him to call them and let them know.

The store opened a couple of hours late, which was a huge deal.  I remember when I went to get my last paycheck and turn in my uniforms, there were no more friendly greetings, they were pissed.  I never explained why I did it.

I knew I was the right person for that job, and the self-confidence I'd built, the sureness of it I'd felt kept me from bowing to it this time.  I knew it was wrong and I wasn't going to put up with it.

So now what?  It was 1980, jobs were scarce  and even worse, I certainly wasn't going to get a recommendation from my previous employer! So I went to the recruiting office for the Navy.  My dad had been in the Navy in World War II, my grandfather had in his day, so I decided I'd just join up.  (This is where the adventurous part of my personality serves me well.)

I took the ASVAB and got the highest score possible, 99.  They were champing at the bit to get me in.  If women had been allowed on submarines at the time I would have been sent to 'nuc' school.  But since I was a woman, the best option they had at the time was "Ocean Systems Technician," basically anti-submarine warfare from shore based facilities.

I joined, but had to wait, so it was in 1981 I was finally flown down to Orlando for the next adventure in my life.  As you can imagine, the military had it's own set of challenges for me as a woman.  I was much better equipped to deal with them after what had happened, but still it was hard.  I'll talk about what happened there next so that these stories are recorded, and I hope others are inspired to give their own stories too so that we never go back to how it was.

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