Maybe he forgot about Rosie?

Today I went to Harbor Freight to get a grinding wheel, with nephew-in-law coming along for the ride. At 17, he’d never been in such a tool-intensive environment and flitted from one new object to another. He was amazed by the size of a pipe wrench, and thought he’d never be able to lift it. I picked it up and handed it to him, and said; “It’s aluminum alloy, so it doesn’t weight as much as you’d think.” He took the wrench, surprised by its light weight, and that’s when it happened…

WWII color image of black woman setting rivets in aircraft section
Photo Library of Congress

“Always get lighter tools!” said an older man, medium height, stocky build, gray hair, “So the women can lift them!”

“Right,” I said, puzzled “So they can fix the plumbing while you watch the game?” I set the wrench back on the shelf.

“Lemme tell ya!” he continued, “It’s equal rights! They want equality, don’t they? They want equal rights, don’t they? Twenty, twenty-five years ago we had a woman working at Caterpillar, and she was on the floor but she wouldn’t lift anything and she’d always say ‘you lift it’ and I said ‘Why?’ and she said ‘Because you’re a man’ and I said, listen, I told her, listen, I make $9.50 an hour and you’re makin’ $10.50 anĀ  hour and you should be lifting…”

It went on like that for a while as we edged away. He covered how much he could lift, and how little women would lift, and how he didn’t mind lifting things because it kept him spry and strong but he thought it wasn’t fair, and if they want equality they should…

An employee asked; “Are you finding everything sir?” and I gratefully turned my attention to her. “Yes, thank you” and we slipped away to the next aisle. The old guy was still talking.

I wondered what it could have all been about. “He’s still mad about something that happened 25 years ago.”

“I wasn’t listening,” said nephew-in-law.

Ya didn’t miss much, kid.

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