The Worst Born

It’s no secret that I am a feminist .

And every time I say that, every time, I feel like I need to give the whole “not-a-bra-burning-man-hating-feminist, but the radical, believes-woman-are-different-from-but-equal-to-men-and-should-be-afforded-the-same-rights-responsibilities-and-freedoms kind.” I mean, I love men. How can you not? Men are fantastic and capable and sexy and different. We women are not the same as them, but we are equal to them -and our society’s legislation, pay, and view of our bodily autonomy ought to reflect that.

I mean, that’s the goal, right?

Sometimes this perspective makes me feel that I am somehow personally responsible for upholding some sort of women’s  code. I feel that we should look out for each other. I have incredibly close relationships with the women in my life. And there are aspects of my life that only other women could truly understand.

So when you see a tipsy woman being led out of a bar by a stranger, you get her in a cab and make sure she gets home safely. If you see someone being harassed on the street or in the subway, you speak up. When there is only one other woman in a predominately male workplace you empathize with her. You meet the eye of the woman whose newborn is having a hysterical screaming fit in the grocery store line up and you smile broadly and make conversation. You lighten the load, however you can, whenever you can.

It is as though I feel like my behavior is somehow reflective of all women, so I do my best to be strong, kind, compassionate and respectful. For the greater good!

But then…then there are those times when we let each other down. This my friends, this is one such story. And beware, I will be using language.

It began because I needed an oil change.  We know my history with oil changes, yes? I was planning a trip to Calgary – which didn’t end up happening for a variety of reasons – but I wanted to have the oil change done just in case. I am not fucking around with oil changes anymore, y’all.

So Olive and I were out and about one day, and happened to pass a place called Jiffy Lube.

“Why, this looks like an upstanding, reputable establishment!” I said to myself, “I shall avail myself of a (probably) much needed oil change!”

I pulled up in front, a mechanic-looking dude stuck his head out and I told him I wanted an oil change. Because it was true – I really did! So he motioned for me to drive forward and said “Okay ma’am, just go ahead and pull into Bay #2.”

I admit it, he ‘”ma’am”-ed me. Now I know a lot of people have trouble with being called ma’am, but I am all over that shit. Yes ma’am, no ma’am. Love it. I have zero problem being a ma’am.

But then Bay #2 opened. And, uh, have you guys ever had an oil change? (If…do it or your car will explode at some point.) They make you drive into this building which basically has no floor, it’s just an open pit with two skinny little tracks that you are somehow supposed to maneuver your car tires onto without accidentally driving off and pitching you and your daughter into the dimly lit abyss below.

I started to sweat.

Dude motioned to me again. I could almost hear him through my windshield, “Ma’am? Ma’am just go ahead and drive into Bay #2”

Oh, oh is that all? Great. Grrrreat. No problem. Ha! Here I come!

Look, I am a competent driver. My last car accident was when I was 18, I drive standard, I am aware and alert and I am pretty confident about my abilities, grandma-speed not withstanding.

I stalled.

I STALLED. Do you want to know how long it’s been since I stalled my car? I can remember it exactly, it was like five years ago when we lived in Squamish and one of Adam’s hot baseball buddies who I had a crush on asked me to drive him home, and when we got into the car he was sitting so close to me that I could smell his cologne and good lord I got so flustered that stalled not once, but TWICE. It was fantastic.

So. Definitely just went ahead and stalled the car for the first time in five years, at which point two more mechanic-dudes popped their heads out. Lovely! An audience. Now all three were ma’am-ing me and motioning for me to drive into Bay #2. I KNOW, guys! I know. Bay #2. Lay off!

I was trying to laugh it off and wave like, “Ha ha! Oh gosh, how terribly funny and not at all embarrassing! What was that? Ha! Look out! Here I come into Bay #2! Just like you said!”

So I got into good ole Bay #2 with no further trouble, and was even feeling a little proud of myself for not pitching Olive and I into the abyss, though no one else seemed that impressed.


All three of the dudes are sort of looking at me quizzically now, I have piqued their interest you see, and the first guy tells me that the oil change will take fifteen minutes which absolutely astounds me because in Squamish this would be a four-hour affair leaving me wandering aimlessly around the industrial park while it was completed. Fifteen minutes? Glory be.

So I am sitting there in my car, they are doing whatever they do under the hood and below the car in the abyss, and Olive is sitting in the backseat playing with fifteen blown-up surgical gloves with faces drawn on them (long story) when the first guy comes over to my window.

“We’re going to do the 82-point inspection now, okay Ma’am?”

I nod and smile, Great! 82 point inspection! That sounds like a lot of things, right?

So he checks a few things and does something to the tires and then comes over and asks me to show him my high beams. And there was a few moments of bewildered silence on my end while I processed this request because this was suddenly sounding like the beginning of a low-budget porn, and then I realized he meant my brights – does anyone else call them brights or is high-beams a thing? I mean who is wrong here, the mechanic-dude or me –  ma’am?

When I finally figured out what he meant after a few seconds of awkward silence, I was feeling pretty flustered because of the stalling, and then the thinking I was in a secret porn and then the jargon, and when I went to switch on my brights high beams guys,  I turned on my fucking wipers. And of course the windshield was dry, and for a few terrible moments the only sound was their dull, dry screeching – “Whoooom wheeeem. Whoooom wheeemmmm. Whooom Wheee-” – echoing off the walls of the empty Jiffy Lube while I scrambled frantically to shut them off.

And then there was silence. I quietly turned on my high beams. The real ones this time.

Then there was a pause, and he was like “Oooookay….! Now could you just shift into neutral and take your foot off the brake for a second?”

So I did. And sat there for a few moments, and he stood there for a few moments. I was starting to wonder what was up so I looked at him and he was standing there with this pained, deliberately blank expression on his face, and he says, very slowly, “Ma’am…isn’t that your foot…still on the brake?”

And fuck. FUCK. It was. It TOTALLY was.

And at this point I am sure he was thinking, “Holy shit – how did this lady get here?” and I am just sitting there stewing in my mortification and feeling like I am just letting down every single woman in the world and chalking up another strike in the “idiot-women-can’t-drive-or-know-anything-good-about-car-stuff” column. And he looks at the brake lights, silently nods, and walks away. I am pretty sure he skipped like fifty points of the inspection, but I think at that point we had reached some sort of tacit agreement to just wrap this thing up. Enough for one day, you know?

I was texting furiously with my brother while all of this was going on. Partially to have something to do with my hands (you know when you feel super awkward and then suddenly your hands seem to just sort of flail uselessly like you’ve never used them before? Texting solves that) and I am giving him a play by play of this TERRIBLE situation and he is writing incredibly helpful things like,

“This is a beautiful thing happening right now.”


“There there, little miss. Don’t fret. Why don’t we just call your husband to come get you?”


“Just lean on the horn and then get the hell outta there”

Eventually the saga ended. I decided to go for broke and keep the oil-change-of-shame going by rolling over and being up-sold some sort of weird fancy oil? That’s better than the normal oil? It lasts longer or something? I honestly don’t know he kept asking me things and showing me things and ma’am-ing me and I was just avoiding eye contact and muttering,”Mm hmm. Yep! Great! Ok. Yep! Sounds good! Synthetic! Oh good. I see! Ah. Mmmmm!”

And finally I paid some amount for the pleasure of being regarded as an idiot housewife for fifteen of the WORST minutes of my life and the finally the doors of Bay #2 (fucking Bay #2! My nemesis!) opened and suddenly the path to freedom lay in front of me. Right there! Once I got over the abyss, of course!

I put on my lights the FIRST try and shifted into gear and did NOT stall in the slightest, and then I just drove the eff out of there as fast (yet safely) as I could.

And it was DOOOOONE. Guys, it was over! And I was feeling pretty great honestly because like I know that I am a competent driver, I am also pretty confident in my intellectual abilities, and besides – the oil change was done! One thing off the list! That’s the important part here, right?

Until , that is, I turned the corner and there was a giant semi blocking my exit out of the parking lot. And there wasn’t enough room to turn around between the two rows of parked cars on either side of me, not even if I broke out the most Austin Powers-y of sixty-point-turns. So I did the only thing I could, and to all my fellow women, please know that I am truly sorry for what happened next.

The three mechanic-looking dudes were standing outside having a smoke break, and I swear I could feel their eyes following me as I drove, smiling and waving, past them in fucking reverse,  all of the way out of the parking lot, up the block, and slowly, slooowly, around the corner.

Like I said. Different, but equal.



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  • Reply Corina February 18, 2015 at 11:05 AM

    hahaha I swear this exact thing happened to me a few weeks ago when I rolled into Canadian Tire with a massively flat tire and stalled on the way into the garage, then nearly took a mirror off, all cumulating in a nice man actually driving it in FOR me and then trying to explain all wheel drive to me as i very nearly ate it slipping on the floor. The whole experience keeps me up at night. Normally I feel like a complete badass driving that car but that day…I was a housewife. aaaarrrrrggg!!! Loved this post.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine February 18, 2015 at 5:36 PM

      I feel like I would have given almost anything for them to just drive it in for me! 😉
      I am SO glad I’m not alone in this!

  • Reply Children of Hippies - Sweet Madeleine June 19, 2015 at 12:45 AM

    […] I am reasonably sure that roughly 80% of you read this blog purely for the voyeuristic thrill of laughing at what fresh hell I have managed to get myself into now. I imagine you leaning back in your desk chair and yelling at your coworker, “Oh my god, you need to read this post about her oil change. Madeleine is the worst! ” […]

  • Reply Ramble On - Sweet Madeleine November 13, 2015 at 12:55 AM

    […] discovered that writing hard and clear about whatever is happening  – whether it’s a humiliating oil change or what happens to the child of a hippie orrr the brutal aftermath of infidelity and divorce […]

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