It’s funny how you’ll have an opinion about something and then when it happens to you your thoughts on it totally change. That happened to me this weekend after a serviceman came to my new place to install Internet and cable Saturday afternoon and got a little too Rico Suave on me.
Before the guy even showed up, my mind drifted to a Twitter convo I’d seen on my timeline a couple of weeks ago where some women were talking about how uncomfortable, not to mention unprofessional, it was for men doing work in your home to hit on you. I think my mind must have been drifting to some utopian rom-com scenes or sitcom plots where a fine handyman comes in and you wish you’d gotten fresher than you did for your service appointment because in another time and place he could get it because I didn’t feel like it was totally inappropriate for a man to ask a woman out in that setting. What I did think about though was most of these men aren’t asking women out they’re making them feel uncomfortable in their homes with suggestive comments and inappropriate compliments. And that’s exactly how I felt Saturday.
As soon as *Thomas came in, he set his tools down, I showed him where to place the cable and Internet wires, and he showed me the work order for what I wanted done. He asked me if Brand-ee was the correct pronunciation of my name, then satisfied that he got it right, got awfully close and proceeded to tell me how he liked it with this odd “come hither” look on his face, followed up with a declaration that I must be a special woman. Um, I guess. That’s what I said to him by the way, and that turned into banter about how he could tell I was a special woman, he knew I was a special woman, and I should know that I’m a special woman, and all I thought was you’ve been in my house for two minutes and you’re already doing way more than my $150 start-up fee calls for. This is awkward.
After that exchange subsided, I asked him a question about getting a wireless router and he suggested that rather than go with the option available from the cable company, I purchase my own device from Best Buy. I asked if it would be difficult to configure myself and he said no, because you’ll just call me up and I’ll come take care of it for you, again with that 1am booty call look in his eye that made me say, no thanks, I’ll just pay whatever extra fee you’re charging me. He protested a bit and I became surprisingly uncomfortable as I thought about the fact that I was in my own home in a somewhat compromising position. It was the first time I’d really gotten the creeps from a stranger servicing my apartment and for some reason I felt more weird than I would have had I invited a man over who got a little too touchy-feely. I think I felt this way for a few reasons: one, I didn’t know this man at all; two, he didn’t know me at all and he was being ridiculously forward within the first 20 minutes of what became a two-hour service appointment; three, his advances were so bold that I almost got the sense he tries to prey on/flirt with any woman whose home he services and that he wasn’t necessarily just checking for me in my gray sweats, flip flops and freshly washed hair, he was interested in any woman who would pay him the time of day. It was also the sense of being in my apartment and in my own private space that made me think about how creepily opportunistic it would be for a predator to get a job like this and assault women in their homes. I know, I was thinking all of this before I even watched a minute of Lifetime on my newly installed cable.
I tried to figure out what made this situation different from previous ones, like the married maintenance man commenting on my looks, or the exterminator getting a little fresh during his routine visit, and I think it was a couple of things. One, those men stopped at compliments. Nobody tried to take my number or suggest I take theirs, it was a simple acknowledgement that they thought I was physically attractive. I can handle that. Two, they didn’t invade my personal space. Something about someone being a few feet from you and pushing up on you when it’s unsolicited just makes you feel vulnerable. As someone who is quick to leave the house at 1am just to get a Coke from the corner store, I don’t get nervous easily or usually feel like a target regardless of my surroundings but in the privacy of your apartment in the back of a residential building with a little space between you and the front door, you can feel a tad helpless, or at least more alert to where those kitchen knives are if someone forgets what their real job is. Three, those other men took care of what they were there to do. I definitely got my service installed this weekend, but the fact that *Thomas spent the first 30 minutes or so inside my home trying to get fresh was an even bigger red flag than it would have been had he done what he was being paid to do then decided to offer a compliment or even suggest we hang out some other time, but coming in the door that way was just wrong.
To ease my discomfort, I immediately got on the phone with one of my guy friends and talked to him the entire time from a different room making sure he knew a cable serviceman was there (I’ve seen too much “Without a Trace”) and relinquishing me of any obligations to have further conversation with this man. Aside from having to sign on the dotted line when all was done and him showing me how to use DVR afterward, our interaction from that point on was limited, as it should have been.
After that experience, I’ve decided the best way a serviceman should let you know he’s interested is to throw you his personal card when he leaves, pay a simple and harmless compliment or say he’d like to take you out sometime if necessary, and leave it at that. Anything beyond that definitely feels uncomfortable, borderline creepy, and is totally unprofessional.
Have you ever had a serviceman hit on you in your place? How did you feel about it?
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