I’ve worked with Karl at a commercial realty firm for over three years. He handles acquisitions and I’m a receptionist, but we’ve chatted from time to time about his wife and two kids. He seemed like a decent guy, I thought. Until he did the unthinkable.
It’s true. He showed me a picture of his car on his phone.
It was something I never thought could happen to me. I’d seen it on TV, and in the movies. But never in a million years did I think I would be sitting in my sanctified work space – the front desk on the 12th floor – staring at a picture of a 2018 Mazda CX-9 on a male acquaintance’s iPhone. Yet there I was, searching for an appropriate verbal response to just that.
“Wow,” I said. “That’s a car, all right.”
I knew it wasn’t the correct response, but I simply didn’t know what to say. I didn’t give a shit about Karl’s new car! Couldn’t he see that? This was an unsolicited act, and I felt cornered.
What I wish I had yelled was, “Um, police?! Seize him!”
But I felt like I couldn’t. I felt powerless to do anything but sit there and look at images of a midsize SUV on this man’s phone.
He went on to tell me specifics about it: When he had gotten it, how mucy horsepower or whatever, something about the make and model. He went on for almost 90 seconds. I nodded and offered wooden responses.
Sometimes when I tell people about my experience, they’re like, “wait that’s not really a big deal, he just was excited about his car.” But to those people I say: “You are anti-woman if you think I want to look at a picture of a man’s fucking Mazda for one single fucking second.”
And that’s feminism.
The next week I walked into the breakroom to make some coffee, and saw him there with my coworker Jane. Karl had his phone in his palm and Jane was looking at it with a sad smile and dead eyes. I avoided eye contact with Jane as she nodded worriedly. After he left we both stood there for a moment, in silence. There was so much I wanted to say to her, but I was scared.
She exhaled and left the breakroom with a fragile but friendly nod, aånd we both went on with our days.