By Katrina Richards • September 09, 2010•Writers in Residence
My boss had me meet opposing counsel and our experts today at a truck stop on the edge of town so that our expert engineer could take measurements of a diesel "tractor" truck involved in an accident. Both attorneys from the other side are older men, and both the experts are older men. I stick out like sore thumb in my deep red oxford shirt, gray plaid slacks and black Tommy Hilfiger shoes. Everyone else had the sense to wear jeans and workboots or sneakers. I will be 27 tomorrow; easily 10 years younger than each of the gentlemen meeting me.
The truck garage is loud, with pneumatic drills and wrenches, dropping pallets, and diesel engines roaring intermittently. Everything is covered in a layer of grease and dirt. I'm told this inspection could take several hours and suddenly regret not wearing jeans and sneakers to work today.
I'm overwhelmed by the feeling of not belonging; that this is a scene reserved exclusively for men; men in jeans and sneakers.
The men do treat me with respect, but I can't help catching the upturned corners of their mouths as they greet me and attempt to "shoot the bull" or "talk shop." I am a joke to them. It's funny, having a girl doing a man's job, in a man's truck stop, hanging with the men.
Despite the awkwardness, or because of it, one of the experts re-emerges from his truck with a camping chair: "it's new," he says, "so there shouldn't be any oil on it." And he carries it to the bay where we were working. I waited as long as I could before resorting to the chair, but, alas, it's hot in this garage and my shoes were an imprudent choice. As I opened the chair's bag, one of the men with opposing counsel helped me pull the cover off.
Chivalry is not dead. I might be something of a joke to them, but they aren't hateful; they are doing everything in their power to make me more comfortable, to take care of me. And I appreciate it, really. It's a man's world out here and it's a great relief to have a clean, comfortable chair in the shade while I hang out, just me and the boys.