For the past 30 years, a seemingly insignificant incident has been stuck in my memory bank, and it makes me mad every time it pops up. Last night, it popped up again:

In college, I worked in a jewelry store. I’m not a salesperson at heart, so it was something that pushed me outside my comfort zone and taught me new skills. Even though I’m an introvert, I quickly learned to get comfortable using persuasive language with potential customers, teaching people what I knew about diamonds, and occasionally cutting rings off of swollen fingers.

One afternoon, a gentleman walked into the store, holding a watch. I greeted him with the scripted line we were required to say to everyone who came into the store: “Welcome to Zales. How may I help you?” He looked me straight in the eyes, gave me a solemn nod, and briskly walked past me towards Jane, the 85-year-old sales associate standing at the back of the store. 

He asked Jane to replace his dead watch battery. He probably assumed the elderly woman was the store manager or had more experience changing watch batteries than the 21-year-old girl, whom he rudely ignored when she asked, “How may I help you?”

As he handed her his watch Jane said, “Oh, I don’t know how to do that, but Crystal can help you.” Holding the watch in her hand, she slowly walked to the front of the store, with the presumptuous man following behind her. She handed his watch to me. I opened the watch repair drawer that I had been standing next to when this guy walked into the store, and quickly and efficiently changed the battery. When I handed it back to him, I gave him a nod and said, “No charge.”

Sweet little Jane had only been doing this job for a month, so she was still learning. Honestly, I don’t think she ever learned how to change a watch battery, and that’s OK. I, on the other hand, had changed at least 50 watch batteries over the course of a couple years.

I do not appreciate it when people ignore or underestimate me. It pisses me off, plain and simple. Last night, I watched a talented, knowledgable young woman be ignored and underestimated, and I had flashbacks of working at Zales. This sums up why I choose to hold onto that memory: to remind myself of what it feels like to be underestimated, so that I do my best not to do it to anyone else. It’s ignorant to assume someone else’s abilities, knowledge, and experience based on your preconceived notions or prejudices.

The capability of a young woman should never be underestimated, especially if that young woman is you.


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