Today I drove to the auto shop with the oil light on my Mum's van blinking furiously at me. Mum's one of women who follow the creed espoused by whoever wrote When I grow old I shall wear purple. Consequently she was comfortable buying a bright purple, hand-painted Mitsubishi van from some backpackers who were leaving the country the next day. I've been driving her car around because my own four wheel drive's radiator, along with the clutch, shat itself recently.
So I walked into the shop, looking for oil, with no idea of how to lift the passenger seat to put oil into said motor and was met by a perky nineteen (or something) year old girl.
"I'm looking for motor oil for a petrol Mitsubishi."
She immediately headed for her computer. "What year is it?" she asked.
By the time she'd negotiated various algorithms of brand, car make and oil required, I'd cruised the aisles and found what I was looking for.
She rang up my purchase and I asked the man next to her: "Do you know how to open up the motor? I know I have to lift the seat. I just can't find the latches. It's not my car and I can't contact the owner."
"Sorry," she said, "this may seem silly, but have you looked at the user's manual? Maybe it's in the glovebox or something."
The two men in the shop were reticent to come out to the carpark to look at my car. She followed me out the door and together, we fiddled with the car seats until we'd worked out how to access the motor.
"How are you liking this work?" I asked her.
"I love it. But I don't know anything. I have to look everything up on the computer."
"You'll learn it. You'll be fine."
We propped up the seat against an oil bottle.
"Have you thought about going into mechanics?" I asked.
She laughed. "Oh yes I have. I'd love to be a mechanic, but an apprentice's wages won't pay my way. And women, girls, they just cop it. They have a hard time."
"My sister is a mechanic. She did her apprenticeship in the late 80's (as I said that I realised she wasn't even born then - how much has changed?) She got a really hard time. She had to be better than everyone else, all the time, or else she got even worse than the usual hard time."
I was warming to my subject now. I was in full feminist flight about women's entry into male dominated workplaces. "You can do whatever you want to do," I said.
"You know what? I just want to have babies but my boyfriend is not coming to the party. That's what I want to do."