Friday, June 14, 2013

Overheard on the Phone...

Me: "Imagine being... like, a teenager and working behind the counter at a gun store..."

Shootin' Buddy: "I was a teenager working behind the counter at a gun store."

Me: "Okay, you know how condescending the old guys were? How you had to prove to every new person you met that you actually knew what you were talking about; that they should listen to you instead of condescending to you? Now imagine being eighteen for your entire career."


staghounds said...

One's professional outlook should stay an eighteen year old's- curious, adventurous yet careful not to err, and aware that any reputation can be smashed in a moment.

That is to say, work like a woman has to, whether you are one or not.

Anonymous said...

I was eighteen for my entire career, once. Then my boss and I agreed that I was in the wrong career.

I was somewhat older when my gunshop career commenced. Thanks, Dave Adelberg, (of Tamiami guns) for teaching me the ropes!

DanH said...

The sad part is, I've seen gun shop people who treat all their customers like that ><

Yrro said...

Hardest part about solving that... is it can only be done through numbers.

Regardless of anyone's personal opinions on equality, if you've only met five girls working behind gun counters in your life, and four of them had no interest in really knowing their stuff... you're at least going to be surprised or skeptical when you meet the one who does.

I have the same problem working in Computer Science. I have complete respect for women's ability to program - my wife is a programmer as well, and very competent. But when women in the field are in general still rare as hen's teeth, it's *so* hard to turn off the part of your brain that does nothing but pick up patterns all day. Never mind that most men aren't competent, either... you've been seeing dozens of men in the business every day, and therefore you've seen enough competent ones that they don't feel like an exception. And I say that as someone who gets honestly excited every time I meet a girl who knows her stuff.

Getting men to be willing to accept proof when they see it is an important first step, but it doesn't really solve the problem. You get the same crappy reaction the competent 18-year gets - because statistically 18-year-olds who know what they are talking about with guns are the exception.

Robert said...

On a side note, if anybody in CA was thinking about buying a 80% lower, you'd better hurry up. Seems the Santa Monica shooter used a homemade AR so I'm sure that the next law on the blocks in CA will be a ban on these.

Mike_C said...

Yeah. A female colleague (MD, PhD, bright, accomplished and already with an impressive scientific resume despite being only in her early 30's) tells me it's not uncommon for her to examine a patient, explain her findings and treatment plan in detail, only for the patient to pat her hand and say, "That's nice dear. So when is the real doctor coming in?" Oh, this is in northern EUtopia by the way.

gun shop people who treat all their customers like that
Or camera store people, or bicycle shop people. Pretty much any hobby where there's a significant equipment/technical component attracts a certain number of asocial self-important twits. Such fools are annoying or amusing (depending on my mood) but to get that repeatedly on the professional front, ugh.

Tony said...

Twenty years in the family business, working for my father. We've agreed you'd rather be the father than the son...

mikee said...

I worked in a semiconductor fab (factory) for over a decade. Inside the fab, we all wore complete cleanroom attire (bunny suits) consisting of head to toe coverage, with only eyes behind safety glasses showing.

We all looked like bright white teletubbies. There were exactly 2 women in the fab who looked at all good in the cleanroom garb, and I never saw their faces (or anyone elses, pretty much) for the first 5 years I worked there.

Women, men, black, white, yellow, brown, green, blue: it all went away. The only differences were tall/short, fat/skinny, and those were as nothing compared to known competentcy vs. unknown, or worse, known incompetent.

It was like working in heaven, as far as equality of the sexes and ages and races and so on.

Behind our face masks, we were all 18, but all real smart.

perlhaqr said...

Yrro: And hanging out with a number of women from the DefCon crowd, I can tell you, that they find the "Oh my god! You're competent!" reaction annoying too.

Though, probably not as annoying as the "you are a set of tits with legs" reaction from the script-kiddie mouth breathers (of whatever age).

Yrro said...

@perlhaqr: Believe me, I know, although I will confess that it has taken me more training than it really should have to control it.

One of the best programmers I have ever worked with also happened to be black, female, attractive, and super nice. She had to have developed one of the thickest skins ever to have been able to survive all of the patronizing atta-boy's.

RevolverRob said...

Try being in academia.

I do quite well, but then I actively seek out people to work with who don't subscribe to the hierarchical BS that is rampant in my field. Trouble is, I was taught by my parents (neither finished HS and thus have always been "looked down upon") to question the authority and right of anyone to pass judgement. Which makes me a real handful to talk to for some people who insist they are right, because they have seniority.

So yea, I know exactly what you mean. FWIW, in my field gender has virtually nothing to do with competency. Something like 47% of PhDs are granted to women in my field and the number will probably hit 50-51% in the next decade.


pax said...

I love watching a student come into a class with folded arms and a skeptical look. That's a student I can do something with – after I first demonstrate that I do in fact know what I'm talking about, and can shoot.

The guys probably deal with that too, but I have been in their classes and I have seen the dynamic. They do not deal with student skepticism to the extent a female instructor does.

Having said that? I really consider it a strength that we must deal with that level of skepticism on a regular basis. Sure, it is a pain in the backside, but it also forces us to do our homework and learn the skills. Personally, I would rather be competent than to risk becoming lazy or sloppy -- which can happen when you're able to safely count on everyone assuming your competence rather than expecting you to demonstrate it every day you work.

Tam said...

There is no way I would have exercised my spleen and bile ducts until they became the perfect physical specimens they now are without the years of resistance training I have received. ;)

Sherm said...

It's been over twelve hours since I heard my wife rant about this. Worse, in her mind, then being condescended to is being overlooked entirely. Any man will be served at the gun counter before she is no matter how long she's been there. If she is standing near a man the clerk will look to him to see if her decision is okay since she is assumed not to be there alone. Luckily, she gets at least bit of pleasure from proving them very wrong.

Anonymous said...

This does not mirror my experience. Whenever I pretend to be a girl on the internet, I find I have far more authority than I do as a guy. Whatever I'm talking about.

Lergnom said...

I do not get surprised by competent women, since I work at a college and hang out with folks who run national mentoring/research programs and get to go into the back areas of the Smithsonian, and Chernobyl when it was still hot.
Where my provincialism shows, unfortunately, is in meeting someone of obviously non-european background who speaks English without an accent. It's still startling to me, and it shouldn't be.

Stay safe

Anonymous said...

Well, glad to know there's some karmic equality for the order of service every time a man and woman step to a bar to order a drink.

og said...

Then there are the gunshop employees that gather round and ooh and aah over the "pretty new double barreled shotgun" while I'm filling out my 73. In that case the girl who came up and said "Did you idiots bother to look down the barrels and see that they are rifled?" was the one who got my vote.

Plus she has a nice keister.

Tam said...

The express sights weren't enough of a giveaway for Cletus and Jasper? ;)

og said...

Nope. Nor the extra set of barrels.

Davidwhitewolf said...

Well, now there's a reason to come to California. In my 25 years here, in dozens of gun stores, if there is a woman behind the counter, she has invariably turned out to be The Knowledgeable Authority, and staff make sure customers know it too on the rare occasions Cletus shows up.

Scott J said...

At the risk of seeming selfish I'm just hoping nothing I've said in comments here prompted this mild rant from our esteemed hostess.

Windy Wilson said...

"Anonymous 12:54"

But that's the Internet, where the men are men, the women are men, and the children are FBI agents.

My SIL now does interior design rather than architecture, which she is licensed for, because she said she got tired of being questioned on her interpretation of building codes, which she claimed men were not so questioned. With interior design she had the authority by saying that this color or pattern or whatever "worked." Knowing her as I do, I wonder whether the questioning she got re building codes wasn't in fact because she made claims about interpretations that did not comport with the experience of the others, causing them to question her.

Aesop said...

My problem with gunstores in general is finding counter help who know anything at all about the product, especially if it was made before they put down the video game controllers and looked for a job.

After getting over that hurdle, their gender is usually an afterthought.

As a rule of thumb, anyone who treats the Apollo moon landings (or lately, the fall of the Berlin Wall) as if they happened somewhere around dinosaurs and the Trojan War is absolutely suspect until proven competent.

Then again, competence is all I'm looking for. One is no likelier to score social points with female counter help than with female card dealers or female pole dancers. But at least if they know what they're talking about at the gun store, the conversation is a pleasant interaction while filling out the paperwork and such.

For the record, the biggest jacktards behind most gun counters have been 100% guys. Having some condescending genius explain to me that I couldn't use the breech-inserted cleaning gear I was holding on an M-1A, a weapons type I trained on before he was born, because I'd also asked a question about an M-1A accessory, was a special treat to a paying customer.

I must have missed the part about "Make the customer feel stupid, while demonstrating your superiority at arms" in my customer service training. After the dinosaurs, during the Trojan War.

Maybe they do it differently now.

Tam said...


"My problem with gunstores in general..."

You should write a blog post about "Aesop's problems with gun store counter help!"

One of your complaints could be "They hate it when I hijack their comment sections to invalidate their complaints and air my own!" :D

Critter said...


Test scenario for all your loyal readers:

You're behind the counter. In walks a man and a woman. He say, "Hey, baby! Here's what you need!"

What do you do?

Tam said...


Not enough information.

My job would be to 1) Sell guns, 2) Be helpful, 3) Keep the counters Windexed.

I'd need to see more of the dynamic.

Anonymous said...

"My job would be to 1) Sell guns, 2) Be helpful, 3) Keep the counters Windexed."

Yup. Emphasis on 1).

I don't ask a car salesman "which car is best and why?", a restaurant server "what's good?", or a counter drone "what gun for ____?"

Why? See 1) above; our purposes do not intersect. I mostly know what I want when I go in and just need an efficient and pleasant handling of the transaction.

Matt said...

Had a pleasant conversation with the owner of a local gun store that I frequented. His complaint was I only came in an looked at guns. I then repeated the list of 5 guns I had paid cash for the previous 6 months. His complaint then was that I only buy the cheap ones...

cj said...

Guess I'm fortunate that my local shop is owned by a woman, and that she's not so egotistical (as men tend to be) to call me over and ask about an item she's selling.

I also have to point out that my last class I took, I ended up hanging out on the line with a couple of women who turned out to be instructors and were just brushing up on some skills and teaching was like having a private class at my end of the range.

Ed said...

My last purchase involved a transfer handled by my local shop that is owned by a female. She is smart enough to know that she does not know everything and is both willing to admit it and to ask others to determine the best answer. She employs people who know more than her in some areas. Her ability to delegate is one of her sources of power.

What answer do you prefer - "I don't know but I will find out", or BS?

Tam said...


"What answer do you prefer - "I don't know but I will find out", or BS?"

I'm assuming that was a rhetorical question?

Made-up BS should be a firing offense at a gun store. "I don't know the answer to your question; let me find out" is always an appropriate response.

Anonymous said...


But it's still me with the same attitude, education, intelligence (or lack there of), and opinions. All I changed was my alleged gender. It's the purest form of that sort of social experiment.

Will said...


the day I had to go to one of the local Intel fabs to play "Pro from Dover" for our field service dept, most (all?) the women were wearing bikinis under the translucent bunny suits.

Will said...

the local gun store/range had a woman working the counter part time, some years back, that was half of a gunsmithing business. Don't recall why she was there, but she was a joy to deal with. Knew where EVERYTHING was in the store, knew more than I did about guns, and was very sharp.

She's my benchmark for gunstore employees.

wv: twelve froopTog. What gun counter help is paid, unfortunately.

Bubblehead Les. said...

The Best Gun Store in my neighborhood is RUN by a Woman, and the Men work UNDER her.

As for being Eighteen, I can't relate, since I spent my Eighteenth Birthday in Boot Camp, and EVERYONE told me to Shut Up and Pay Attention.

Or Drop and Give them Fifty.

Don't think you had to do that while dealing with the Cletii, Tam.

Mike_C said...

Plus she has a nice keister.

Hmmm, my double-D colleague (that would be MD, PhD, what were you thinking?) is 175cm and 60kg of fresh-faced, athletic Scandinavian blonde with a wicked sense of humor* who likes to drive fast and tinker with cars. Nice enough if you like that sort of thing, I guess. Not that I've noticed.

I've been around highly competent (not to mention strong willed) women my entire life, including several key professional mentors in technical fields. And each of them got crap in excess of standard on the way up.

*Anyone who is amused by rectal foreign body stories (so this guy comes into the ED with a chief complaint of lightbulb up ...) is okay by me. You can't help but collect them if you work down there.

Aesop said...

My apologies, Tam.

Anonymous said...

Problem with everybody falling all over themselves to prove that they are free of sexism (due largely I'm sure to this particular venue) is that it doesn't address all the other isms, and in any case it's all irrelevant as Tam notes with her 1),2), and 3) above.

Whether you work the counter at a gun store, or any other type of sales, just take care of 2) and 3) and 1) will take care of itself with eager help from the guys and gals on the other side...if they are a real customer and not just a blowhard or other type of asshole, they don't care if you are eighty or eighteen, male or female or in between, black white brown or green...they just need courteous competent service. Give it to them and you will live long and prosper. And if they are said blowhard or asshole, well the world's full of them; give them a listen and a smile and move on to a real customer.

Simple innit? Well not really, but it should be.

Lewis said...

On the other hand, any excuse to listen to some old No Doubt!

Kristophr said...

"I don't know" should always be an acceptable answer.

If it isn't, work elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Pick any area men think are all Manly, and you get the same reaction.

I spent 18 years in computer tech. It was 17 years too long.

Sailing? Women don't know about sailing.

Ham radio? The reaction was so bad I put the radio back on the shelf for about 8 years.