One of the most interesting (or amusing or awkward, depending on my mood) things about being the director of a womens center is making small talk with strangers. Take, for example, the following exchange I had this morning in a Chicago elevator (I should note that this particular occupational hazard can be avoided by living a large Northeastern city. In New York, Philly, or Boston, there are no elevator conversations. People stare at the floor, avoiding eye contact, the way the goddess intended. I, however, live in the Midwest, and am thus forced to indulge in elevator talk with random strangers, even though it goes against my nature):
Random man staying at hotel: What’s Google Fiber? (I was returning from my morning walk and wearing my Google Fiber t-shirt. I added a link in case yall dont know either).
Me: “Super fast internet that Google is building in Kansas City.”
Random Man: “I think I heard about that. Do you work for them?”
Me: “No. A friend of mine does — she got me an invite to one of the launch events and they gave out these t-shirts.”
Random man: “What are you doing here if you live in Kansas City?”
Me: “I’m here for a conference.”
Random man: “What conference?”
(This is when it starts to get, um, interesting).
Me: “The National Sexual Assault Conference. I work in a women’s center.”
Random man (looking nervous, and then grateful for the opening doors indicating we have reached his floor): “Oh, um, good for you” (runs out of elevator, relieved to be away from me).
Fun times. Nothing shuts down idle chitchat faster than saying rape, sexual assault, or sometimes just womens center. Nothing, I tell you. Although I did once have a man tell me, in response to my telling him what I do for a living, that he is “good to his wife.” Okay, then. Glad we got that out of the way.
One other favorite response is, of course, the question about whether my campus has a men’s center. But the guy who took the cake was the “Old Ag” in Virginia who, upon learning that I worked at the Texas A&M women’s center, explained to me how A&M had been ruined (RUINED, I tell you!) by having let women in back in the 1970s. No one’s topped him yet.
[Photo Credit: Flickr User tracktwentynine, Creative Commons license]