Women are endowed with innate weaponry. Weapons we can choose to conceal or reveal, but that we don’t need a license to carry. Weapons that must be used responsibly and judiciously, and that must be wielded with care. Because, like guns, women are always loaded.
Every once in a great while, I bring out this natural arsenal. Like the time I volunteered to build new bridle and saddle racks for the tack room at the barn. I had an impressive collection of tools and an equally impressive ability to use them. But there’s one thing I didn’t have: a vehicle big enough to carry uncut lumber. None of the hardware stores cut lumber for the customers anymore; it didn’t matter how much you begged or pleaded. At the time I didn’t have an available friend with a pickup truck.
But I had something better.
Cue the ZZ Top song She’s got Legs.
I arrived at Orchard Supply Hardware wearing my little short skirt and spike heels, calling upon years of theatrical training to convey complete helplessness. This was the kind of place where people (mostly men) shopped in jeans, sneakers and overalls. The moment I stepped through the door, I looked like a fish out of water.
I tippy-toed about the store in my stilettos. They clicked on the concrete floor, echoing across the aisles. The ears of every male within a 200-foot radius immediately perked the way my horse’s ears did when he heard the sound of a snapping carrot.
Click click click click. Pause at a tool display and stare at it like it’s an alien life form.
Click click click click. Pause in front of paint display and look at all the pretty colors.
Click click click click. Pause in front of lumber display and adopt expression that is both vacuous and pensive (try this, it’s not easy, I had to practice in front of the mirror). Reach out and gently stroke lumber.
Five young men sporting OSH uniforms appear out of nowhere and surround me like they are Pit Bulls and I am a pork chop.
All five say in unison: “May I help you?” while vying for the coveted me, me, pick me! position.
Me: Big sigh followed by big, more vacuous, doe-eyed stare. “Well…..I need four pieces of lumber, but I know you don’t cut lumber here…” (employing my best I just lost my puppy tone) “…and it’ll never fit in my little car.”
They run into and over each other grabbing lumber for me. Boards fall over domino-style. Two of them grab the same piece and I fear a fistfight will break out over who gets to carry it for me. It looks like a Three Stooges movie.
“We’re not supposed to cut it,” one of them winks, “But we can do it.”
“I’ll get the hacksaw,” another one says, lighting up like a Christmas tree.
“I’ll get it,” the third one says.
“No, I’ll get it,” the fourth one says.
The fifth one was ahead of them all and had already split to claim the sole hack saw they kept hidden in the back room.
Click click click click. I followed the lumber, which was being borne with all the pomp and circumstance of an emperor in a rickshaw, to the workbench area, where I stood and watched in vacuous fascination as they meticulously measured and drew lines and cut. The hacksaw was a tiny, old thing and took a lot of manpower to chew through the two by fours. There were four boards and five employees; one of them didn’t get to cut anything. He seemed wholly disappointed. He did, however, get to carry the lumber to the register and to my car for me.
Click click click click. The other four stood vying for position at the door with goofy smiles on their faces as I left. It didn’t matter that I was old enough to be some of their mothers. Their eyes never ventured any further north than the hem of my skirt. Not a one of ‘em could have told you what color eyes I had.
I drove off, waving at them.
The second I got home I doffed the stilettos and skirt and put on jeans, a tee shirt and my work boots. Then I hauled out my own tools and started building. Before you could say Dude Looks Like A Lady, I’d built and painted three bridle racks and two saddle racks.
The skirt and the stilettos are still in my closet, patiently waiting, like magical talismans, for their next assignment. Someday, I’ll need to build something again. And I know that if I need to build it (and if I wear the skirt and shoes), they will come.