Dealing with Repairmen


I wondered if my interactions with strangers would change when I went from male to female. In my consulting experience, I have met and worked with many female consultants, and I have been impressed with their knowledge, professionalism and skill.

There can be some problems, especially if the client is a guy with a larger-than-normal ego. Consulting can sometimes have the opposite effect on the client than you might expect. If we have a project and save clients millions of dollars, you’d think they would like this. Sometimes, however, they appreciate the savings, but their egos get bruised because some outsider found improvements that they may not have seen or could not do themselves. This can be aggravated if the person who made the improvements is female and the client is male.

Even though I feel and consider myself female, I lived many years, and have many experiences, as a male. My experience and my memories haven’t changed since my gender change. How I view and interpret them might change, but the things I have learned have not changed.

I have worked as an engineer, even though that is not my training; I was in charge of tool-making and maintenance. I was never very inclined or good at making repairs, running machinery and doing home improvement work, but I got by.

Part of my job as husband and father was to fix stuff, so I did the best I could. I didn’t really like to do it, (and like it even less now!) but I did my share of home improvement and repair projects. That comes with owning a house.

Since my transition, I’ve had a few interesting experiences related to repairs. One hot day, one of the tenants in our building told Joey (my son and Office Manager) that the air conditioning was out and it was sweltering in his office. Joey was leaving early to run an errand, so he asked me if I could stay until the repair guy came and fixed the air conditioning. I told him yes. He called the repair company and asked that someone come out as soon as possible. I told him that I’d stay until it was finished.

A repair technician quickly showed up, and I saw that he went back and forth between the tenant’s office and the A/C unit outside the door in the rear of our building. After a little while, I went to see how things were going. I don’t think the repairman knew that I owned the building or that we were paying for the repair.

I asked him how the repair was going.

He said that he was wrapping things up and he had fixed the problem.

I asked him what was wrong with the air conditioning.

He ignored me, started to walk away from me and walked into the tenant’s (a man) office. He told our tenant that the A/C was fixed and that it would take about an hour for it to cool down again.

I asked him again, “What was wrong with it?”

He looked at me in a condescending way and said, “It was broken.”

I thought this stuff happened, but it was still weird when it happened to me. I decided to keep going and see how things played out. Also, even if he didn’t know it yet, I owned the building and wanted to know what went wrong. I don’t want people in our building to be too hot in the summer.

I said, “I know it was broken because it got hot in here. What did you have to fix in order to get it to work again?”

He looked at me with disdain, and said, “The thermostat wire was broken.”

That was an answer, but not really the amount of detail that I wanted. I wanted to know what happened to cause the A/C to stop working. I looked at him and asked, “Inside or outside?”

He looked surprised and said, “What?”

I repeated, “Inside or outside?  The thermostat is inside and there is a wire connecting it to the outside unit. Which of those two were broken?”

He looked at me with a shocked look on his face, like he wondered how a girl would know such ineffable things as how the air conditioner works. He stammered, “The wire on the outside unit was broken.”

I thanked him and walked back to my office. What a struggle!

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