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I Hate Confrontations

May 23, 2012

About three weeks ago, I bought a new-to-me bicycle at a local resale shop. It’s a Schwinn 21 Speed Mountain bike. It’s a higher-end model, one with the shocks on both the front and rear axles and gear changers in the handle bars. It’s a sweet bike, and I’m looking forward to riding it.

When I bought it, it had two flat tires, and one of the tires had to be completely replaced because it was in that bad shape. Also, as it is a 21 speed (and the highest speed bike I’d ever owned before was a 10 speed), the hubby and I decided to take it to the nearest bike shop that does repairs and have it checked out. While Conall checked it out when we bought it (checked the gear change mechanism, brakes, the chain to make sure it wasn’t about to break, that type of thing), he hasn’t had a bike since the 1970s, and that was a 10 speed as well.

The bike was so inexpensive we figured that even if we had to invest $400 for it to be in tip top shape, I’d still be getting an awesome deal. And if we overlooked a major problem that would be too expensive to repair, we weren’t out anything.

So, a week after I bought the bike, I called the bike shop to see about taking it in. The bike shop had a two-week wait, and they could schedule me for an appointment for May 17, last Thursday. Of course, I made the appointment.

On Wednesday, Conall and I took the bike to the shop.

As soon as we walked in, we were greeted, which was nice. The young man at the front counter then engaged Conall in a discussion of the bike. Every time I said something, he ignored me. At one point he even talked over me so he could ask Conall a question, the answer of which I was already telling him. It wasn’t until the employee (referred to from now on as DE, for Douchebag Employee) saw that the appointment was in my name that he started to talk to me, and that was at the very end of the encounter.

After we left the building, I asked Conall if I had imagined the employee ignoring me or not. Conall said I had not, and then offered up, “You don’t have the type of body they expect to see in a bike shop.”

“That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t at least give me the courtesy of listening to me!” Conall completely agreed with me that the employee was rude and dismissive.

Honestly, if I’d not already waited two weeks to have my bike fixed, I would have taken the bike out with me. I was so angry.

Everywhere on the internet, fat people see the “advice” to just start moving, start exercising. Just get off your lazy butts and you’d lose all the extra weight and be miraculously healthy (whether or not you’re ill to begin with). Many people like to tell us fatties that we just have to employ some self-discipline, both in not eating the donuts and in exercising daily. Then everything would be awesome for us! We would be healthy! And more important, we would be at a socially acceptable size and they wouldn’t mind looking at us anymore! No, wait, it’s about the health! Really!

The problem comes when the fat person actually, you know, exercises.  Especially when they commit the crime of exercising in public while fat.

Anecdotally, I’ve been more abused when I’ve gone out exercising in public than I have been when doing any other activity (other than eating in public, that is). I’ve heard about people who have had things thrown at them out of cars because they exercised in public while fat.

A couple of years ago, I heard a story about a friend of a friend who, when told by his doctor that he had to lose weight, went out and bought a really good bike and all the accessories to go with it (brand new, not from a resale shop like I just did). On his very first ride, he had some idiots in a car try to run him off the road, all the while yelling at him that he was too disgusting to ride his bike and that he should lose weight before he did anything like ride a bike in public! The man was so humiliated, he sold the bike and all of the gear and never rode again.

I know what I’m opening myself up for.  Since my first ride is still in the future (I don’t have a helmet yet), I have the opportunity to practice my comebacks to idiots who try to stop me from exercising.

But I really was not expecting to be completely dismissed when I brought my bike into the shop to make sure it was in tip top shape.

When I went to pick up the bike a couple days later, I spoke the the store manager and complained about how I’d been treated. DE, who treated me so shabbily, was on the other register and that almost made me lose my nerve. I really don’t like confrontations.

I pushed through my anxiety and complained anyway. I explained how angry I’d been that I’d been treated like this, and that it wasn’t only me who saw it, but my husband as well. I told the manager that the only reason I left the bike there was because I waited two weeks for the appointment.

At first, DE tried to say it had to be another employee because there was another employee who looked like him. I showed DE the repair form and asked him if that was his handwriting. He admitted it was his handwriting. And then, without being asked, DE surprised me and apologized for treating me that way, promising he would never treat me like that again.

I accepted his apology, and thanked him for it.

The manager then took half off my bill for the repairs, which I had not asked for and even tried to argue against. After all, they did the work, they should be paid for it.

The apology and discount was nice. However, I’d much rather have paid full price for the repairs and not have been totally ignored and made to feel as if I didn’t exist, just because I am fat.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2012 10:30 am

    What a crock of crap, and yet, what a great resolution. I hate confrontation too (believe it or not) and would more than likely have called in my complaint to the store manager. But then, I wouldn’t have gotten that face-to-face apology and recognition of my humanity, either. I think this is a potent form of activism, as that employee will be less likely to assume the bike is for the less-fat person, ya know?

    I would say you should keep giving them your business as long as the change in attitude remains. I think the most important thing we can do as activists is to allow people to acknowledge their mistakes and to change. If we simply blast people away for being bigots without giving them space for growth, then it’s a lost opportunity.

    I think your confrontation was a valuable opportunity and you took full advantage of it. Way to go!


    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      May 23, 2012 10:53 am

      I am planning on going back when my bike needs servicing. They seem to have done a great job on it, and the full price for all they did (a full tune up, changed the breaks in the front and back and adjusted them, as well as a few other things) was reasonable to begin with.

      I completely agree with you. I think of it in this way: If I have to complain, and they have taken immediate steps to correct the problem (like they did here), I *have* to go back and give them the opportunity to continue to perform well. If I don’t, I’m shortchanging them AND myself. Them, because I’ve not given them the opportunity to reinforce the lesson, and me, because I’m losing a great place to go! 🙂

  2. May 23, 2012 10:36 am

    I’m hoping that the discount came out of DE’s paycheck, which it well may have if he’s a commissioned employee. I agree with Shannon in that their response should win some loyalty. It was a rotten situation, but you made a difference both by just being who you are and by standing up for yourself. BRAVA, BRONWEN!!!

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      May 23, 2012 11:16 am

      Thanks, Helena!

      I will be going back there, whenever the bike needs servicing or I need things for the bike. For a specialty shop, their prices for products are mostly reasonable, and for repairs are very reasonable.

      And yeah, they handled my complaint much better than I expected, which gives them “loyalty points” in my book. 🙂

  3. May 23, 2012 12:23 pm

    Dude! I’m working out daily in our newly re-cleaned garage/gym and wanted to get some bike shorts because my bike is now get-out-able. Bike shorts can be very expensive (what with their fancy crotch-cozies) and I noticed that some $90 bike shorts went up to 5X!

    This was very surprising to me, as I figured companies wouldn’t bother making bike shorts in that size because of the idea that fatties don’t exercise and certainly don’t ride bikes, at least not often enough to warrant $90 bike shorts… But there they were. I showed my mom and said “How funny, that they make top-shelf bike shorts in large sizes… but not regular clothes!”

    So after that kind of off-topic tale, I want to say GO YOU for standing up for yourself. Let us know how your riding goes!

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      May 23, 2012 5:34 pm

      About three months ago, at that same resale store, I found a pair of bike shorts for $8! At the time, I didn’t have the bike, and wasn’t looking for one. Even so, I tried them on and they fit perfectly.

      Now I wish I’d bought them, yanno? :\

      Ah well, I’ll get the fancy riding clothes at some point! 🙂

  4. Rija permalink
    May 23, 2012 12:55 pm

    Even though I don’t personally know you, I’m proud of you, and thankful too. By bringing this to their attention you not only got justice for yourself, there is a good possibility that you have helped future fat folks just out there trying to be active and have fun in this world. So thanks.

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      May 23, 2012 5:39 pm

      Thank you!

      I learned from my grandmother (who was very much an activist, though she’d never have called herself that) that it has to be all the time, or it’s not activism. That, while the flashy public forms of activism (demonstrating as in the OWS or SlutWalk) has a very important part, so does the day to day, “hey, wait, this isn’t right” stuff.

      When I made the decision to “go public” with my non-protected blog, I knew I was going to have to engage in this kind of stuff. Sometimes, I just don’t want to.

      But then I realize, if *I* don’t do it, then what about the person who follows me, who can’t push through the anxiety enough to confront people on their bigotry? Or worse, who believes that they are worthless because they don’t have the “right” size or shape?

      Both the very visible and the only visible to the few people involved activism is needed to help change the world.

  5. Erin S. permalink
    May 23, 2012 1:04 pm

    Our first bike ride of the year was punctuated by someone throwing a pop bottle out their car window at me. They missed, but I almost fell over and managed to sprain my ankle which made getting around the house for the next couple of days… interesting to say the least. And also when I went to throw out some trash I’d picked up around the pond where we stopped to watch ducks (and then untangle a couple hundred feet of fishing line from my husband’s gears), got to listen to some young men making rude comments about my weight.

    After my ankle healed up, went for a hike – since it was still a bit tender, and I’m one of those super pale types that burns horribly even with sunblock, especially in the early spring after a mostly indoors winter (and we’re at highish altitude to boot) we elected to just do an easy little 2 mile loop. As is our habit, we carried a grocery bag and filled it up with litter and trash as we went (I’d say that people are pigs, but that is an insult to pigs). When we got to more populated parts of the trail, some young men felt the need to make comments about how the fat chick probably thinks there is still food in the wrappers and that’s why I was going after them.

    Which really are just two more examples of the whole “if you just exercise… but don’t do it where we have to look at you” BS. Doesn’t matter what you do.

    Although I expect somewhat less in the way of unwanted comments at least from other pedestrians for a while… I’m babysitting my sister’s dog and I doubt too many people are really going to want to make comments to someone walking a 100lb rottie mix. They don’t know that he’s such a complete wuss that he has actually run in terror away from a baby rabbit and twice been chased by squirrels lol.

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      May 23, 2012 5:41 pm

      Oh Erin! That sucks! I’m so sorry to hear that happened to you.

      Is your ankle better now?

      And I thought my Piffany (a Yorkie) had issues with being a baby. LOL At least she has the “I’m smaller than everybody around me” excuse!

      • Erin S. permalink
        May 23, 2012 6:04 pm

        Yeah this was a couple months back, and to be fair I’ve been known to sprain/pull something in that foot in my sleep. So it doesn’t take much to give me a good limp for a few days , but it heals pretty quick. Faster than the scratches my insane boneless floppy cat gives me during her every other night “buzz up every hair on my body until my tail is as big around as my head and tear around the house like a bat out of hell with no regard to where my 18 razor sharp toe knives are going” episodes lol.

  6. The Smokin' Deist permalink
    May 23, 2012 5:16 pm

    I am glad that you did get the apology out of DE, but I agree that it would have been better if he didn’t have to be such a giant douche. Its very hypocritical for people to treat people like crap who are trying to do what they can to be healthy. I wonder what would they do if people lobbed trash at their skinny behinds because they are to thin for exercise?

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      May 23, 2012 5:46 pm

      Maybe I’m just looking for the best in people all the time, but I don’t think they realize how hypocritical they are being. The few people who’ve I’ve confronted on their hypocrisy in this never saw it until I said something.

      And of course, if people lobbed trash at them, they’d be all hurt and angry that somebody abused them so. And still not get the connection to what some of them do to others.

  7. JeninCanada permalink
    May 23, 2012 8:22 pm

    In light of today’s post and comments about how difficult it is/can be to excersise while fat in publice, this olderish article by Dr. Sharma is a gem:

    I especially like: Thus, to me at least, these data pretty much blow to pieces the widely held bias that overweight and obesity can be largely explained by lack of activity or that overweight and obese individuals are less physically active (read “lazy”) than “normal” weight individuals.

    and “Continuing to link the necessary discussion about inactivity to the problem of obesity is not only scientifically unfounded but, by dangerously and unfairly reinforcing stereotypes (not reflected in the actual data), may well do more harm than good when it comes to tackling both the epidemic of obesity and the epidemic of sedentariness.”

  8. Linda Ramos permalink
    May 23, 2012 8:51 pm

    I’ve been fat all my life and I was so poor I couldn’t afford bus fare, so my transportation was my feet or my 10 speed. I’ve had drinks thrown on me from moving cars, all manner of insults yelled after me (“you’ll have to do MORE of that!”), been told as a 40 something year old woman that I need to hydrate when I walk (cause it must be my first time ever)…. and so on and so on. I don’t run from conflict anymore (I used to). I stand my ground, acknowledge I’m fat and tell people off. It’s part of NOT internalizing what other people say or think, but because really… they don’t know shit.

  9. ginastarke permalink
    May 23, 2012 11:44 pm

    This is something I still don’t understand. Sorry in advance for being rambly.

    I seemed to slip under the “abuse radar” once I got below 230-ish. I’ll never be sure if it’s because of my weight, or that people are more used to seeing bikes on the roads. It seems every spring, more and more join me and my bike on the road, so it gives me more faith in humanity to think the latter.

    There were a lot of times that the only thing that kept me from giving the middle finger salute or sewing “KISS THIS!” into the seat of my pants was the fear that I’d aggro one of those drivers on the edge of homicidal road rage, and a moment of smugness, no matter how much fun it was to imagine it, just wasn’t worth it.

    In the end, the abusive real life trolls don’t want people to lose weight. That would take away their whipping boy/ girl , and then they’d have to deal with themselves :-/

  10. Marilyn permalink
    May 24, 2012 2:59 am

    There isn’t a minimum weight range for abuse. I had it when I was technically not even overweight, normal weight. I dressed dumpy and saw myself as fat. That was enough to have people yell ‘fat, ugly chick’ from their cars. It still happens, but it hasn’t been as often since I finished college. Then, college towns are probably the worst.

    I’ve never had things thrown at me. The insults I get which are very rare since I left that college town are usually geared to my dress, not my weight. I get one of these crazy insults far less than once a year, now. People think they’re so clever yelling something at someone either on a bike or on foot while they’re in a moving vehicle. They know they will be long gone before we can yell something back.

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