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August 12, 2017

Sexually harassed by the repairman

 

Like most people, when I recently needed a repair on a household appliance I used an Internet search to find a local, small-business to do the repair.

 

I found three businesses with a rating of at least four out of five stars and decided to go with the company that returned my call first—even though the employee was a bit cranky.

The repairman showed up and made the repair efficiently, and without a lot of small talk which is fine by me because I don't feel the need to chat up complete strangers.

 

My impression of the repairman was that he made my creep radar go off, he was pretty cranky to the point of being rude, and I would not use this company again.

 

 Before I continue with the story I have to say this in the repairman's defense. 

 

He's a senior man, a little bent over by age, and he walked as if a leg or foot was causing him pain.

 

I dismissed the rudeness in the few words that he said to me and chalked it up to his age, pain, and what seemed to me a misogynistic attitude due to cultural differences.

 

His heavy accent gave me the impression that he's originally from a country, or at least a region of the world where many men do not hold women in high regard as equal human beings.

 

I'm pretty good with languages, accents, and geography so I'm confident in my guess about his national origin, but I don't want to condemn an entire population of people for one man's bad behavior. For this reason, I'm not going to say where I think he's from.

 

I didn't intend to use his service again, but after paying $150.00 for a fifteen-minute repair I wanted him to correct the job that he didn't do properly the first or second time.

 

Our appliance stopped working about two weeks after the first repair, and again one week after the second repair.

 

On the second visit, the repairman tried to engage me in conversation, but I generally don't get too friendly with strangers in my home.

 

For me, it's a very uncomfortable and difficult situation with my history of depression, anxiety, and PTSD to even allow someone that I don't know into my home.

 

I was cordial, as to not be rude myself, but I didn't become fast friends with the serviceman as some people do.

 

Wisdom should come with age—but not in this case

 

On the third visit, he was all smiles and chatty. He disarmed me by engaging in a conversation that's hard to resist talking about—my adorable and helpful service dog Phoebe.

 

When a service person comes to our home, even if they tell me they are afraid of dogs and want me to put her away my pat response is, "well you'll just have to get over it because I'm not putting my dog away.

 

But I can assure you that I have her under control."

I do have my service dog Phoebe on a lease and sitting quietly at my side.

 

By that point, I've stepped a few feet away from the door and have told the stranger to come in. To be fair, Phoebe sounds like Cujo on the other side of the door, and I would bet my life on the fact that she would bite someone to save me.

 

However, Phoebe knows the word "friend". When I give her the friend command she settles down and sits at my side—eventually.

 

We're still working on this and her ability to settle down immediately but the system works.

 

 

Back to the story. The repairman asked me if my dog "...is a good dog."

"Yes."

"Is she a sweet dog?

"Yes."

"Does she give you kisses?"

"Yes."

"Let me see her give you a kiss?"

"Phoebe, kiss."

 

Phoebe plants a nice wet kiss on my cheek. Responding dutifully in the same way that the repairman had seen her hand me my cell phone when I dropped it or offered me her leash when I gave her the command—"give leash."

 

I thought the old man was just curious about how smart and attentive my dog is and wanted to see her follow another command.

 

"That's sweet, now let me see her lick your p@#$&."

 

I didn't respond because I thought between the man's senior age, upwards of seventy years old, and his thick accent, maybe I misunderstood. So he said it again, this time louder and more clearly.

 

"Let me see her lick your p@#$&."

"That is so inappropriate. You don't say things like that to a lady. You don't know me. Get out of my house!"

"I'm so sorry baby, I didn't mean to offend you sweetheart."

"I'm not your baby. Do you want my husband to go to your house and talk to your wife the way that you're talking to me?"

"I only ask you this because I hear women like it when the dog licks the p@#$&."

 

This time he begins walking toward me.

 

My service dog Phoebe, who was falling asleep at my feet as I stood in the kitchen watching the repair, jumped up and began growling at the man—as if to say "stay back!"

 

When he kept walking she lunged at him but was held back by my control of her braided leather leash in my hand.

 

A few years ago, senior citizen or not, I would probably have punched the repairman in the mouth by now, but there are better options than violence. But I have to say that I was scared at this point because I realized that he can't possibly be in his right mind to repeat and try to explain his actions by reframing his same vulgar request and saying that he, "only said this (me) because (he) thought (I am) single."

 

"What does it matter if I'm single or married you shouldn't talk to anybody like this. Get out of my house, now!"

"I'm not going to charge you for this repair."

"I know you're not going to charge me because you should have fixed it right the first time," I said this to the repairman's back as he scurried out of my house.

 

This situation would be understandably upsetting to anyone, but for someone who has experienced trauma like me, which I write about in my book 4-hours to Live - Memoir of a Female Soldier, and who struggles with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, this event had the potential to set me back years in my recovery from PTS.

 

In the process of establishing my "new normal." I created a health toolbox and in it a mental-health tool bag.

 

In the process of establishing my "new normal." I used resources from my tool bag to avoid a mental-health crisis. The calm and in control exterior fell away as soon as the man left my home.

 

Looking at the appliance that he worked on—askew in its position, the carving knife that I had secretly taken out of the chopping block and positioned behind my back for self-defense, and the thought that if my beloved service dog Phoebe had bitten the repairman to protect me, she could have been put to sleep if a judge saw her actions as unprovoked aggression.

 

I began to think, is the repairman crazy enough to come back and attack me in the future? The catastrophizing had begun.

 

Come back on Monday to find out what happened when I called the police.

 

I want to hear from you caregivers and loved ones of a person struggling with mental illness, PTSD, or recovering from a physical or emotional trauma. I especially want to hear from anyone who has found their way to their own recovery—and new normal. This is a safe community in which to share your story so leave a comment.