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My Turn: Discrimination’s stain on construction conversation

When you go into a restaurant, does the maitre d’ usher you to a window table overlooking the water, or does he escort you to a table next to the kitchen or near the restrooms?

When you go to a dealership to buy a car, does the salesperson highlight the colors that the auto comes in and the snappy leather interior, or does he pop the hood and point out the size of the engine and how fast that new gas guzzler will go?

Have you ever gone to an emergency room with chest pains and pressure only to be handed a clipboard and asked to “sit over there, and fill out the form”?

These are some examples of discrimination that I’ve experienced. I could list countless cases of inequity that women cope with daily, but a recent one was the last straw.

I am a well-educated woman who has a strong employment history in various fields. I am well-traveled and have degrees that allowed me to obtain positions that I would otherwise not have had access to. I have bought and sold two homes without a Realtor. I’m not stupid, so please don’t treat me as if I am.

Recently, I had work done on my Hicksville house — I hate doing that, because I do not like being told what I should like or what I should do. It never fails. When I renovated my kitchen and baths, it took some time to find a contractor who was willing to do what I wanted, NOT what HE thought I should have. Who’s paying the bill, by the way?

Finally, after much procrastination and research, I hired a company to build a new stoop and retaining wall for my home. I was not able to be home for the completion of the job on the final day. When I got home, the stoop was done and looked fine. But upon closer inspection, I realized that there were some issues that needed to be fixed.

Yesterday, “Vinny” came back to see what “my” problem was. He was all smiles. I explained there was an actual cut (made by a saw) into one of the bricks directly in front of the door — you couldn’t miss it. His response was, “What do you want me to do, put cement into it?” His entire demeanor changed. His voice went up three octaves. I told him I wanted him to replace the brick.

“Why are you being so dramatic,” he screamed.

“I’m not being dramatic,” I said. “You’re the one raising your voice.”

I criticized the poor cleanup and he got even crazier. “I never said we’d do that!” he declared.

I wondered how this conversation might have gone if my name was Mike. Would we be having this dialogue? I said, “Vinny, I’m not that difficult to please, I just want the job done to the specifications that we agreed on.” I added, “I’m not someone who complains.”

He answered, “I guess you are!”

That was enough. “OK, Vinny, we’re done,” I said. And he screamed, “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE BEING SO DRAMATIC, THIS IS NOTHING.” I told him again that I wasn’t being dramatic, that he was the one raising his voice, and it wasn’t ‘nothing.’ ” The job cost thousands of dollars, I said, and “It’s not unreasonable for me to expect a good job.”

Vinny’s response? “Nothing’s perfect.”

In a calm voice, I told him to just fix it, and Vinny left in a huff. I will not recommend his company, which is very well-known, and I will call his son to express my disappointment.

If you don’t believe that this story is yet another example of discrimination, then you’ve never experienced it.

Lucky you!

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