Crowded Waiting Rooms and Desperate Women

How many teenage guys does it take to change the oil in an SUV?

Three, apparently. One to drive it to the quick-lube shop, and two to keep him company.

I recently took my car in for an oil change. The place had a waiting room that might generously be described as “compact.” It contained two easy chairs, a couch, a kiddie table with two toddler-sized chairs, an end table strewn with magazines, a decorative shelf holding a plastic plant, a service counter, and the inevitable television set. The space would have been comfortable for two people, cozy for three, and claustrophobic for four. My arrival put the occupancy count at eight, no doubt violating several sets of safety codes.

One man stood at the counter clutching a magazine. Two middle-aged women sat on the couch. A small boy bounced back and forth between the two of them and the kiddie table. The two chairs and the third seat on the couch were taken up by three young guys. That’s seven people, six of whom were presumably qualified drivers. There were three vehicles in the service bays.

Okay, it was unfair of me to be annoyed by this. There is no law against taking a friend along when you go to get your oil changed. It wasn’t unreasonable of me, however, to be annoyed because it didn’t occur to any of the teenagers to offer me a seat.

I’m neither decrepit nor elderly. I’m perfectly healthy and quite capable of standing, purse and all, for 15 or 20 minutes. Still, manners are manners. If you are a teenager, sitting in a crowded room that has no empty seats, and a woman old enough to be your mother comes in, isn’t it basic courtesy to get up to let her have your chair? I thought about asking for a seat, but my inner wimp talked me out of it.

The three guys were leafing through magazines. One had a Redbook, and the other announced that he was reading "Good Housewives"—apparently comparing them to their desperate TV sisters. After a while the Redbook reader said, “Hey, there’s some pretty good stuff in here.” He brought the open magazine over to his friend’s chair.

The friend looked at the page, said, “Wow!” and settled in to read. Since I was standing behind him as a result of his not offering me a seat, I had no compunction about looking over his shoulder. The article was something along the lines of “What women really want in bed.”

Poor kid—he may never know. Before he had a chance to read more than the first paragraph, the technician came in and announced that the SUV was done. The three young guys jostled their way out the door, leaving the magazine behind.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I sat down in the chair. After a minute I casually picked up the Redbook. What page was that article on?

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