Today, I went through a time warp. I was reminded of an event about fifty years ago and was suddenly thrust into a subservient role that did not sit well with me.
To an outsider, it might not have seemed like much at all. I had hired a plumber to come to the house and fix a problem I had with an outside tap. I showed him the tap, explained the issue, and he looked over both the inside and outside of the relevant area of the house. The problem was more complex than I had anticipated, but I explained to the plumber that I was happy to have him come up with the best solution.
He described potential remedies, and I agreed he should do what he recommended. I was subsequently distracted briefly by other things and then realized he had gone into the upper part of the house to talk with my son. I should explain that I live in the basement mother-in-law suite of a house that I share and co-own with my son and his wife, and my son works from home part time.
When my son came into my suite and asked me to address the plumber’s concerns, I realized what had happened. I had been dismissed or gazumped, and that upset me. The plumber looked bewildered and asked to whom he should report. I said, with some gusto, that I would be the one paying the bill. He explained that, since he had worked with my son previously, he assumed that my son was the one with whom he should consult.
I feel sorry for the plumber because he did not know my history. Back in my youth, during my first ill-fated marriage, I was living in Lancashire, England. I had called in a plumber to fix something (I can’t remember what that was) and when he arrived, I answered the door. He looked at me and, after saying hello, he said “Is the master home?”
At that time, it was customary in that part of England for the man of the house to be called the “master.” This was totally unfamiliar to me as a Londoner. So, at that moment in that doorway I had to process both the concept of a man as a master and the notion that his opinion was more valid than my own. Both of those were alien to me. I can’t recall the outcome of that conversation, but I have never forgotten that question: “Is the master home?”
While my plumber today looked for someone other than me, and a man, to give him assurance, I had not realized that he had previously done business with my son. So, the plumber and I were approaching this potential deal from very different origins. He thought he was ensuring authority for his work from the primary homeowner. I thought I was being passed over for ”the master.”
Adding to this was my awareness that my son heard me say “I am the one who will be paying the bill,” to the plumber as my son was leaving my suite. I feared that this may have offended my son, but he assures me that is not the case. I am still not sure.
Regardless, being thrust back to an age when a female was not considered worthy of a tradesperson’s consultation was unnerving.