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  • Writer's pictureKathie Scalf

Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

I interrupt my usual reviews of all things food, beverage and fun to discuss a breaking and widespread plague that is affecting men in the US which seems to have no end to its depravity. Somewhere over the last few years we have lost all our gentlemen - whether it’s to age, technology or hormones in their milk I’m unclear; but they are all being weeded out and we need to label them an endangered species who are on the brink of extinction. In the words of Paula Cole, where HAVE all the cowboys gone?

Last week when I was heading out on the road to work East Tennessee, I was faced with a work car that wouldn’t start. It’s not my first day on planet Earth, so when the car merely clicked instead of firing up after hitting the ignition, I assumed it was the battery, and would simply need a jump start. Over the course of the next two days, I had to teach myself how to jump start a vehicle, because on the 3 separate occasions my vehicle died, I was left to deal with it on my own without so much as an offer of help by the multiple men who breezed right past.

The first time was when I’d finally bought battery cables but didn’t know how to use them. A neighbor – a man in his 40s – was walking back with his mail. I was there with both hoods raised, covered in engine dust in the hot sun and literally had to chase this man down to ask for guidance just to make sure I was doing it right. He responded he would “have to Google it,” to which I said, thanks but no thanks, that’s exactly what I was doing anyway and would figure it out on my own.

The next day when the car refused to start yet again, I was in the same position, hoods raised, cables everywhere, while my two able-bodied maintenance men enjoyed Jersey Mike’s subs in their golf cart two spaces away without so much as a glance in my direction to offer a hand. Immediately following that, I went to my storage unit and of course the car died. Luckily my sales rep was there at the same time, and as she stood beside me I showed my 22 year old employee how to jump start a car…while FOUR carloads of heating and air guys looked on from their unit about 50 yards away. Not only didn’t a single one of them check on us, but they actually packed their stuff and bounced, leaving two women stranded at a storage facility.

I was also shocked by the lack of customer service I received just buying cables at the O’Reilly near my house. It took several long moments for the clerk to put away his cell phone and even acknowledge my existence, but when he finally grunted at me I explained my situation and asked where to locate the jumper cables. Captain Caveman wordlessly pointed to a vague direction along the back wall of the store and returned his attention back to whatever he was doing on his phone.

“I’m sorry, I really don’t know much about cars,” I said, “are there different brands or sizes or… could you maybe just help me pick some out?”

He sighed, slipped his phone in his pocket and headed toward the back of the store without another word. He grabbed the most expensive set off the shelf and proceeded back to the register to check me out. I still don’t know if there was a difference between the $49.99 pair I got sold or the $10.99 pair 2 shelves down, but I didn’t feel like arguing about it.

Call me old fashioned, but this kind of behavior is appalling to me. I was raised that men should be gentlemen; they hold doors, they help carry heavy objects, and they CERTAINLY assist women in distress. Or at least offer and don’t ditch them alone at a creepy storage facility at sunset! I also find it unsettling that grown men in their 40s wouldn’t know a basic skill like jumping off a car without the assistance of Google. I thought that was a rite of passage to manhood, along with learning how to change a flat and getting a Swiss Army Knife.

As a culture I feel we’re becoming increasingly apathetic and anti-social. Our reliance on technology has rendered our own brains useless, creating people who are too lazy and self-absorbed to lend a hand or even smile at a stranger who might be in need. It’s a scary thought that the men we’re raising in particular – who are only 2-3 generations away from men who tilled their own soil, worked on their own cars, served their country and grew their own food - don’t have the capability to properly greet a customer or know how to jump off a dead battery.

I guess ultimately I’m grateful for their neglect. Thanks to the shortcomings of yet another bozo, I’ve become even more independent and gained a useful life skill that will come in handy in the future. I don’t mean to imply that women are incapable of performing these more laborious skills on their own; I know we are more than capable. I just find it appalling that a man could sit idly by and observe, without feeling compelled to offer assistance. At the end of the day though, helping others and practicing good manners knows no gender and should be employed by us all.

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