Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I could be worse...

I was reading the SF Chronicle on-line today and came across this. It brought back all sorts of memories about my first job that I thought I might share.

I started working at a car dealership as a greeter on the sales floor when I was 16. I hadn't really wanted to work, but my parents were fairly insistent that I get a part-time job. My sister worked as a receptionist there full-time and had told me about the opening.

It was an easy job with no training required - perfect for a first job. I would stand on the sales floor and if a customer came in and no sales people were around, I would engage them in conversation, point them to the cars they wanted to see, and get a salesperson to help them. I wasn't terribly good at it. I was shy and felt awkward. I didn't like cars and could never remember which was which. And I never felt terribly comfortable around the sales staff.

Eventually, before starting college, I moved up to part-time receptionist and administrative assistant in the back office. This got me off the floor and allowed me to sit and read my trashy novels between phone calls or other easy tasks.

In general, I wouldn't say it was the worst job in the world, but it was the one and only job in which I was sexually harassed by other employees and by one of the managers. Most of the sales people left me alone, but there was one guy who would tell me that he had lascivious dreams about me. One of the managers would ask me about my boyfriends and frequently ask if I was wearing a bra that day.

It freaked me out. These guys were much older than I was and I was still in high school. I knew that it was creepy and gross for them to talk to me like that, but I didn't really know what to do.

My sister has worked in car dealerships her whole life. The stories she's told about being sexually harrassed or witnessing other women being sexually harrassed have turned my stomach. She was even threatened with physical violence by a manager who was harrassing her, and when she tried to report it the big boss at the dealership sided on the manager's side and told her that she should probably quit.

I'm glad that these women stepped forward. I believe that this is still a common occurrance in the car business - one that makes me uncomfortable everytime I have to think about going in to a dealership, even to have my car fixed.


Aravis said...

Ick. I was harassed at a job and finally consulted a lawyer when my complaints were ignored at work. I didn't actually file, but it had the desired effect. The owners of the company made me all sorts of promises if I returned to work and dropped the subject, but I decided I couldn't go back so they gave me a nice severance package. The guy was catching me back in the warehouse when I had to go back there to get fabric or wallcovering samples, not letting me by or making sure I would have to press against him to do so, all the while making comments, etc. He was so bad the other guys in the warehouse complained about his behavior and told me that if I took it to court, they would testify on my behalf.

Hearing stories about people being put in these situations literally makes me sick to my stomach.

P'tit-Loup said...

I am sorry to hear about those experiences. I must have been lucky, I did not have such specific harassment scene with anyone. The main thing I remember was being asked whether I wore a lot of make-up when I called to inquired about a job at a coffee shop, and that the customers liked girls who wore a lot of make-up. I clearly did not fit that scene! I guess since I always choose odd types of job, I was somewhat protected from that sort of stuff.