I suffer from sexism in some of my behavior I admit. Take for example my visits to government or business offices. Be it an ISP, or the telephone company, the first thing I do when I walk in is to look for the women working there. If none exist, which has yet to happen, I’d rather walk out and come back another day than subject myself to the work ethics of the Iranian male employee. It’s a generalization, but I’ll stand by it any day.
That’s what happened when I got to my bank one afternoon at about 1:00 PM. I saw four working windows, out of ten, three of them attended by women and busy serving other people. The man had no clients and was doodling, but I went to one of the women.
By the time it was my turn, there were no other customers left in the bank, and a playful conversation started between the clerks.
“So where is Mr. Karimi? Wasn’t he supposed to be back by now?” one of the women asked aloud.
“He tends to disappear a lot,” another one said.
The man raised his head and said with a smirk that Mr. Karimi was on his lunch and prayer break.
“Yes, Mr. Karimi apparently prays very deeply,” the woman at my window said while she was taking care of my paperwork.
“Yes, but when Mr. Karimi is here his output surpasses the three of you combined,” the man replied.
“Really? Is that so?”
“Yes…really. Men are much better at work than women you know.”
“Ah…so that’s why you and Mr. Karimi take a lot more breaks than us. You work harder and better during the few moments you spend at your desks.”
“Yes, we know our jobs perfectly and so most of the burden is on us. We have to carry your weight too. It takes you women years just to start to get the hang of things.”
“That’s really funny, because by the time you are done taking care of one client, I am done with ten,” one of the women replied.
“Remember, speed is not everything, and besides, that’s what you claim. I propose we time ourselves and you’ll see this is a figment of your imagination.”
“YES!…LET’S!” the three women screamed.
“Ask your client,” the man said and turned to me: “Isn’t that so?”
What was happening there, in the best case, was what we call “eshvheh kharaki” or “elephantine flirting”. There are plenty of rude little dudes who engage in this behavior, and this one, outnumbered in his man vs. woman argument, was asking me to back him up. Boy, was I going to have fun.
There was a moment of silence. The woman at the other end giggled.
The man asked me what I meant, and I clarified that I disagreed with him. There was more giggling to my left. He stared at me as if I had killed his brother.
“You don’t think we work better than women?”
“When I walked in, you had no one standing at your window while these three ladies were serving customers. Did you notice I still chose to go to one of them?”
“Treason, treason!” he said jokingly, but he was irritated. “Maybe you like to make yourself wait.”
“I do. Because when the wait is over, I am greeted with a hello and a smile, my counterpart listens to what I say, my questions are answered and my transaction goes smoothly and speedily.”
“You’re just saying this to please the women, otherwise you don’t really mean it.”
“Maybe, but let me say this too: It’s taken them thirty years of vying for position in this society, and they’ve been climbing a steep slope. From the Hejab issue, to university enrollment, to careers and professional life, they are gaining ground little by little. Soon enough you’ll realize that Mr. Karimi is not coming back and you’ll be alone among nine women. Be careful you don’t fall off your chair.”
“There you go,” said the lady with a grin and handed me a slip.
“Done?” I asked her.
“Yes…Unless my colleague has another question for you…”
I chuckled all the way back. They didn’t need my help. They’d have shredded the guy I’m sure, but the surprise element was irresistible. He shouldn’t have given me the opportunity.