Smarter Life Better Planet

We want to help create a better future for our families, our communities, and the world. But making positive change is often harder than it seems. If we are going to contribute to a better planet, we need to think bigger, to see more—to improve not just our lifestyles but our values.

Good Old-Fashioned Chivalry

I’m not very good about keeping up with car maintenance. It’s one of those things that gets put on the back burner over and over as the busy work days roll into the even busier evenings with The Kid. I get the oil changed regularly, but my right front tire has needed replacement for…uh, about a year. For a while I kept filling it with air whenever it got low. Then I loaned it to a friend and she went the extra mile and had it patched.

I think the neglect also has something to do with my environmentalist persona. I’ve got a very efficient little Toyota Echo. It gets 40 mpg average (beat that, hybrids!), and before that I had two cars in a row that ran on biodiesel. The downside is that I’m generally quite ambivalent about my cars except when I have the chance to proudly spout off facts like I just did.

I don’t love them like I should.

It’s because I know that however relatively efficient they may be, I’m still contributing to climate change every time I get behind that wheel and rush my daughter off to school, gymnastics, play dates, choir practice, swimming lessons, etc., etc., etc. The life of a working mom is often filled with daily drive-by kid drops and quick trips to the grocery store squeezed into those few hours of time-warping busyness between the end of the school/work day and dinner.

That’s why, when my tire did finally give out for good the other day on the way to an 8-year-old’s birthday party, I was very grateful to the man who shyly offered to help us out with putting on the spare as he watched me contorting myself into every angle I could find, futilely trying to torque some leverage on those machine-tightened lug nuts.

He was shy not because he wasn’t sure if he wanted to help, but because in Seattle it might be offensive for a man to offer a woman help. I could see it in his hesitation.

He was probably around 30 years old and raised to be a man who consciously doesn’t put himself above women, which is great! But in this case it kicked off an internal struggle between good-natured chivalry and something like pretending he wasn’t assuming he was stronger than me. Well, he was, and I am not a weak gal. There is no way I could have gotten those lug nuts off!

My gratitude for his help seemed to relax him and it ended up being one of those unexpectedly beautiful and simple moments—two humans on a bright spring afternoon, whose only connection was struggling together for 15 minutes to accomplish something very practical, with a little girl looking on.

He walked away confident in his own good intentions, and I drove away to shell out more than I could afford and finally got that new set of tires.

It’s funny, the more independent I’ve become as a busy working mom, the more I appreciate a bit of chivalry every now and then.

2 comments for “Good Old-Fashioned Chivalry

  1. May 24, 2012 at 4:57 am

    Nice post.. I had an interesting experience last month when a friend and I stopped to help a vehicle with Oregon plates that had it’s hood up on the side of the highway near Vancouver.

    We saw three confused looking women standing around the car from a distance and pulled over to lend a hand. As it turns out, it was only one woman. The other two were actually dudes, albeit slender, with skintight pants, and tiny t-shirts… Anyhow…

    It felt good stopping and I could tell right away by the smell that it was their radiator. Now, as you may know, among guys there’s always a bit of competition around a broken-down vehicle, and a test of manliness is he who can detect the problem first. Or sound most like he knows what he’s talking about. Even when he doesn’t. Many guys will feign basic knowledge even if they have no idea what’s going on (myself included!). I have to admit I felt a mild disgust for these guys who hadn’t even thought to call a tow truck or check their fluids when it started smoking. Come on guys, you should know this! What a bunch of hipster weenies! But I wouldn’t have felt that way if it was all women…

    Anyway, it was just an interesting moment, like yours, where a bit of gender expectations was revealed to me. In the end I hid my unchecked arrogance, called them a tow truck, and tried to leave a good impression of canadians.

    • May 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      Thanks for your honesty Bergen! Good to know about guys feigning basic car knowledge— I know that temptation in my self too. Funny how gender conditioning is crossing over more and more, and not always the best aspects of it!

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