My guest blogger today needs no introduction. Wait. *strokes beard* I wonder if you could tell who it is just from her/his writing? I’d be willing to bet money you could! His/her writing is that magical. She/He makes you laugh. He/She makes you think. But more than anything, he/she makes you want to be a better writer. I’ll reveal the author at the end, but don’t even consider cheating. See if you can figure it out beforehand. I double dog dare you! Take it away, mystery blogger….
I had my ass grabbed at work the other day, and it’s brought me to the rather shocking conclusion that I’m a sexist, ageist, racist, terribly prejudiced person. Probably.
Let me explain:
I work as a retinal screener, taking a mobile clinic (in the back of what I call the ‘Big Dog Van’) to various doctors’ surgery car parks across the county. I have a panic alarm on my person at all times, a stringent lone worker policy, and a CCTV system, because if the shit goes down, I’m on my own there.
No one has ever accosted or assaulted me before – although there’s a certain level of flirting to be expected from a particular type of cheeky old man, but never anything too inappropriate; just bawdiness (indeed, the very morning of the ass-grabbing incident, a bloke got onto the van, all twinkly and full of vim, and remarked (upon being shown into the camera room in the back) “Cor! This’d make a great shagging wagon!”) – until that morning, when I think they did. And even now, I’m not sure what to do with that.
The ‘they’ in question was late for her appointment, and turned up suddenly; an apparition in violently-dyed hair, heavily drawn eyebrows, a dusting of face powder and not a tooth in her head. She smiled at me sweetly as she climbed in not giving away any inkling that she might be a) crazy, b) a raging nympho or c) both.
She introduced herself, and I could hear from her accent that she was from South Africa.
Halfway through my ‘can-I-check-your-details-are-up-to-date’ spiel, she suddenly announced that she’d been to the dentist to have her teeth removed. My crazy-meter didn’t budge – I chalked it up to culture; perhaps in South Africa they tell all clinical details to any clinician, no matter how relevant. Or maybe it was her age; an old guy once began his appointment by telling me all about his enlarged testicle (wrong kind of ball, buddy – I just deal with eyeballs) so perhaps it was an ‘old people’ thing.
Details got checked, data got entered, my professional mask didn’t budge. Onwards to the sight test.
I got her to put the occluder over her face (imagine opera glasses, but flat, and with one eye blocked off) and tried to get her to read me the ever smallenifying letters on the screen, but she kept peering over at me. Halfway through reading out the letters with her right eye, she gave up, removed the occluder and turned to me with a look of rapture on her face and exclaimed “My GOD! Look at your TEETH! They’re beautiful!”
“Oh! Thank you.” I stammered, completely blindsided.
“But seriously”, she continued “they’re absolutely beautiful – I tell you, if I had your teeth, I’d never stop smiling.”
“Okay, thanks” I said, warmly. And then I tried to steer her back into concentrating on the sight test, feeling a little bit smug about my smile.
“D, E, Z…you know, you could be in toothpaste commercials – your teeth are so beautiful!”
Ut-oh. My smile was beginning to feel a bit hysterical.
“Do you work all alone here in the van?”
“Yeah…but it’s okay, I’ve got a panic alarm” (let’s just have that out there)
“That’s LOVELY! Just think, all this space – you can burp whenever you want to!”
Crazy-meter starting to crank up a few notches
“And then there’s that little room in the back! You can go in there on your lunch break and WA-HEYYY!” – she made a double fist pumping motion and rocked her hips back and forth on the seat then grinned impishly.
Was she seriously suggesting that a diligent NHS employee such as myself would go to the lengths of arranging lunch-time trysts in the back of the Big Dog Van? Apparently so.
“How is your sex life? Look at you, with your beautiful teeth, and so lovely and thin as well”
At this she reached out and patted my tummy several times. No. Way!
I backed off as far as the confines of the van would allow and held up my left hand. “Er, I’m married.”
“Oh, you know, I didn’t think to look.” She grimaced and looked at me pityingly “How is that? It can be hard, marriage, can’t it?”
“Ummm…it’s fine. Can we get back to the sight chart?”
“Yes! Of COURSE we can. Absolutely. I just got to talking about your TEETH! They’re so beautiful, you know. In fact, do you know what, I’d quite like to take them with me – just take them out of your mouth and pop them into mine. They’re so BEAUTIFUL!”
She finished the sight chart, and I put dilation drops in her eyes, trying to ignore her still-present grin, and the way she kept looking at my teeth.
I bit back a nervous smile and asked her to move through to the camera room.
She stood, walked as if to go past me, and then reached down and gave me several very solid pat/squeezes on the butt, still grinning at me, and reiterated “You do have beautiful teeth.”
I was so stunned at her audacity, I just laughed out loud, and continued to giggle the entire time I settled her into the room, my crazy-meter now so full it had reached the top and broken out the bells and whistles. I left her there and went to fetch my next patient, still completely flummoxed by the entire affair.
When I went back to the camera room, my South African imp was there, still grinning at me, her eyes now dilated and ready for photographing. She chuntered on as I put her details into the computer, and I barely listened up to the point where she suddenly announced that she’d been so hot that morning she’d decided not to wear a bra. “So I’m letting them flap free” she confirmed to me, grabbing her boobs as she leaned forward into the chin rest.
I completed the photographs with lightning speed, before she could tell me anything else, then I saw her off the van (not before she’d told the next patient, who was waiting in the front, all about my beautiful teeth, and what fun she was going to have, and what a good worker I was) and let her back into the surgery.
As I held the door, she stepped towards me suddenly, and I jumped back, startled. I must have looked concerned, because she grinned at me again, and started blowing kisses at me.
“Goodbye, love” she told me “Thank you for seeing me, and I do love your beautiful, beautiful TEETH!”
I returned to my next patient, and we exchanged bewildered smiles before continuing with consummate professionalism.
Back at the office, I recounted my bizarre story and it was received with hilarity from all corners.
“Oooooh NO! How AWKWARD! Hahahah that’s so weird!” (my mentor)
“That is strange, but people are funny.” (my supervisor)
“Ahhh come on, you PULLED! She definitely wanted to get you into the back of the van and lez you up!” (my brash, northern cheeky-chappie co-worker)
“Let’s see your teeth?” (another co-worker)
And then later, in the pub, as I discussed it with another group of colleagues;
“Yeah, that’s a pretty funny story of sexual harassment!”
I thought about it for a moment then and dismissed it, but later came back to dwell on that point.
What if all this had come from someone English? I definitely wouldn’t have responded the same way. Am I racist, assuming that weird behaviour is par for the course with South Africans?
What if she’d been younger? I kind of chalked the bum grabbing up to her being in her 60’s and a bit of a batty old grandma type, and having lost her boundaries with young people. I know that some old people can get a bit pinchy (in fact, truth be known, I’m a pincher myself (though to be fair, you pretty much have to be related to me for me to feel comfortable doing it, but once we’ve crossed that line, I’ll be goosing you all over the place. Especially in public, where it’s much more funny. I might even chase you first…)) so maybe it was me being ageist.
But then…what if it had been a man?
I definitely would have brought the appointment to a screeching halt and demanded an apology and that he get himself out of the van and re-book his screening appointment with one of the male screeners (or at least, I hope I would have done, once I’d gotten over the shock). It would have been seventeen kinds of uncomfortable and objectifying and distasteful, but somehow, because she was a woman I just thought it was funny…was I sexist? Have I somehow inadvertently bought into the idiotic idea that sexual overtones from a woman don’t count?
So I find myself nonplussed, definitely grabbed, and also perhaps kind of a bigot.
I just don’t know what to think.
But I tell ya what – I do have BEAUTIFUL teeth…
Did you guess Lizzi? It was too easy, wasn’t it? I mean, who else spells behavior, behaviour, amirite? Love LOVE LURVE Lizzi! #BritWin
She’s living the life of Silver Linings and *twinklysparklygoodness* because two miscarriages and a subsequent diagnosis of spousal infertility will rather upset anyone’s applecart. She borrows other people’s children in the meantime.
Have you ever had an “incident” like this in the workplace? Would you forgive this behavior more easily depending on their gender/age/race? Your comments are better than an unsolicited assgrab!