What’s a man to do? Last week my husband was put in an uncomfortable position. He had to choose between either betraying his standards for acting as a gentleman or potentially harming a long time business relationship. What happened? A lot of our work entails flying. On many fronts, flying has gotten less pleasant over the past few years, yet arriving at a destination fresh and ready to start work is imperative. One of the ways we meet this challenge is by using a car service to get to the airport rather than driving ourselves. Not only do we get extra time to collect our thoughts, but the driver stays on top of the latest traffic news and picks the best route. The biggest bonus is the driver’s handling of the luggage, which can be both bulky and weighty when we need multiple changes of clothing for TV tapings as well as books and papers for speech preparation. Over the years we have come to trust one particular company, providing reliable income for them and the above-mentioned benefits for us. Everyone was happy.
Until last week, that is. Instead of one of the drivers we have come to know over the years arriving at our house, this time a slight woman drove up. Having been trained as a gentleman by his mother and having instilled the same values in our son, my husband was uneasy standing aside while this young woman wrestled with the luggage. Despite her cheerful assertion that, “I’ll handle that,” my husband loaded the car. Had she been built like a stevedore the dilemma would still exist. Neither her ability to lift the bags nor her desire to do so would make my husband feel less like a cad if he stood idly by.
Fortunately, on our return trip one of our regular, husky male drivers picked us up. We are cautiously optimistic that these men will continue to appear at our doorstep. But what if a woman driver does come again? Play out some of the scenarios with me. While I certainly support a woman’s right to earn a living as a driver if she so desires, I also support my right as a customer to patronize a business only when I am receiving value. I don’t like seeing my husband handling the suitcases and I like the fact that he is a gentleman. As such, the company’s benefit to me is heavily reduced when they send a female driver. Let’s say we request that only male drivers be sent to us. If we are the only ones who do so, there is no problem. Other customers, perhaps ones needing a small child to be driven, may prefer a woman driver and make the opposite demand from ours. But what if most of the customers are men with lots of luggage who feel as my husband and I do? In today’s society will the law require the company to keep someone on payroll with whom its customers aren’t comfortable in order to avoid litigation?
It is all well and good for the law to call for gender equality in employment. But unless we become a socialist or tyrannical state, individuals still have the choice whether to patronize a business or not. I know women who specifically seek the services of a female obstetrician. Should those women be chastised for depressing employment opportunities for male doctors? One of our daughters turned down a nanny position when she discovered that the toddler’s father had fluctuating work hours and would be in the house much of the day. Had the mother worked from home she would have had no problem. We applauded her decision. Is our case of the female driver the same as or different from those examples? If on our next trip a woman driver appears, what do we do? If we complain we put the company in a difficult situation. If we stay silent, we will inevitably begin to opt more frequently for driving ourselves, which obviously threatens the company’s viablility as well. What would you do?