Driving By The Seat of Your (Wet) Pants

by admin on June 7, 2016

The Let Him Eat Pie story made me think of a story involving my husband – since readers disagreed on the response of the man in the story who bought all the pies, I wondered what they would think of this response.

Background: a mining operation in rural Florida. It’s hard, dirty work, with long hours of fighting rock, ever-present grit, weather and swarms of biting insects, as well as dealing with the occasional snakes, alligators, and even bears. The men at the mine where my husband had worked his way up from laborer to manager had developed a sort of “band of brothers” attitude, a group of men who could take terrible conditions that many could not and still work well. Even though my husband was their manager, it was not a normal, boss-employee relationship – the men knew their jobs and had a lot of autonomy. Most of them had worked with my husband for years. My husband, whom I’ll call “Jim”, didn’t sit in an ivory tower all day. He was out there doing whatever was needed to keep the crushing plant moving; welding, repairing, running a loader and digging out clogged conveyors with a hand shovel, in addition to his office duties.

Florida is the lightning strike capital, and thunderstorms can appear literally out of a blue sky, suddenly, with almost no warning. One day, the guys realized a big one was about to blow in on them, and they all started trotting to the main shed for cover. My husband, who was covering vulnerable machines, realized the two men on the far side of the site were never going to make it to cover in time, and called to one of the workers already in the shed, “Larry,” to take his (Jim’s) truck, which was closest to the shed, and go pick up those two guys. (Everyone left their trucks unlocked with the keys in them in that remote spot in the swampy woods. They also always rolled up their windows, because of the sudden rains, even though it made the trucks miserably hot when getting in them to go home.) They all knew the danger of lightning in that open area, as well as the misery of working in wet clothes. Larry hopped in Jim’s truck and gunned it over to the two grateful men. He hurried back, and they got to the shed just ahead of the rain. It was a couple of minutes later, as they all stood watching the downpour, that Jim realized Larry had rolled down the driver’s window in Jim’s truck then left it down. He complained to Larry that he’d left the truck window down, to which Larry said he’d forgotten to roll it back up, but no way was he going out in that downpour, and besides, it wasn’t that big of a deal anyway. So what if it got wet? (I should point out that the trucks all had cloth seats.) Jim said fine, he would roll it up himself, then. He dashed out into the downpour and rolled his truck’s windows up. The guys all chuckled when Jim came back in, soaked to the skin. All he said, though, was, “You’re right, Larry, it isn’t such a big deal for the seats to get wet.” It was after the rain ended that Larry found out what Jim meant. While Jim was out in the rain rolling up his own window, he took a minute extra to roll down all of Larry’s truck windows.   0606-16

If we lived in a perfect world and all had the attributes of a deity, it would be easy to say that Jim should have overlooked Larry’s treatment of his truck and just sucked it up.   But we don’t live in heaven yet and none of us, as far as I know, are little gods.   Larry was careless in not rolling up the window of Jim’s truck and then took a cavalier attitude about the potential damage to the truck seats from the rain and the inconvenience this would cause Jim.    What Jim did was “man justice”, something I would expect a group of guys who knew each other well to do, and reinforces the understanding among them of how men are supposed to behave.    Predictably, the men found it amusing that Jim was soaked to the skin and I’m betting they found Jim’s solution to Larry’s nonchalant dismissal of the open truck window in a downpour to be equally humorous.   And Larry, if he’s one of the guys, would have laughed, too.   Jim’s moral of the story:   My man bros can use my truck as needed but if you hurt it, paybacks are hell.

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

mark June 7, 2016 at 9:46 am

I laughed.

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Dawn June 8, 2016 at 10:41 am

Me, too. I literally lol’d, throwing my head back as I did it!

-Dawn

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Kat June 7, 2016 at 10:02 am

I don’t understand. Was Jim’s response okay because he’s a man?

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CW June 7, 2016 at 11:13 am

I think Jim’s response was based on the relationship they all have. He probably wouldn’t have had the same reaction had that group not been as close.

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Amara June 7, 2016 at 12:15 pm

I think it’s more of a group of people who know and respect each other very well. What might be rude in another setting is nothing more than good-natured ribbing in this one.

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Jessica June 7, 2016 at 12:19 pm

No because they are in such a close relationship with one and other ‘band of brothers’ doesnt always mean men. I am a firefighter and there were a few females in my brigade, we and the men all had a ‘band of brothers’ attitude. It would have been the same for women its just in this case they were men so the word man was used.

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clairedelune June 7, 2016 at 12:44 pm

Apparently so.

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girl_with_all_the_yarn June 7, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Apparently yes.

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Lerah99 June 7, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Kat, it falls under “Bro Code” which has it’s own set of rules and unwritten norms.

Think of it as an extension of the socialized gender norms you find in how people treat each other.

For example:
A woman steps onto an elevator and tells another woman “I love your shirt! It’s gorgeous!”
This is seen as completely normal. The other woman will take it as the complement it was meant.

On the other hand, if a guy steps onto and elevator and says to another man “Your shirt is awesome.” It would make the guy wearing the shirt uncomfortable. Is it a trap? Is his shirt actually being insulted? It’s likely that one of these two guys is going to end up being called “Shirt-boy” for the rest of the day.

It’s not so much that this is OK because the person who did it is male rather it is EXPECTED and part of the hyper masculine culture in which he works.

Had Jim let the other guy just blow him off about the window with no retaliation, Jim would have lost some status in the eyes of the rest of the guys. Which over the long run could have caused issues.

As gender norms change, so will the need for this sort of “alpha male” behavior in groups of guys.

But since no one was crying, no one complaining to HR, etc… As a society we tend to let things being done by the bro code slide. “Boys will be boys” and all that.

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Cat June 7, 2016 at 8:21 pm

It reminded me of Jeff Foxworthy’s routine about the kinds of things that men do in a group and find amusing.
Jeff says his friends can entertain themselves for hours with a bottle of deer urine used in hunting. They love taking turns sniffing gym bags that hold exercise clothing that has not been washed in a year and old, smelly sneakers are even more fun, “Hey! Smell this!”. They find passing gas in a car with closed windows great fun if the other guys have to roll down the windows to escape from the fumes.
I cannot imagine a group of women finding any of that entertaining.

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Miss-E June 8, 2016 at 8:49 am

I’m with you on this, seems like a bit of a double standard. Usually on this site the rules of etiquette trump all but with this story there’s a feel of “boys will be boys”…I feel like, were this a story about a bunch of women, it would be condemned as petty and childish.

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Yet Another Laura June 8, 2016 at 7:57 pm

True, that. How many times have women been condemned for retaliatory rudeness and passive aggression for doing similar things? And if you’re a bride, nothing you do is right, whether it’s under your control or not. Boys will be boys but women must be perfect little ladies at all times.

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Jess June 8, 2016 at 6:52 pm

As a female working in a male dominated coal hauling industry I think the term “band of brothers” is just the term that’s cropped up because of it being male dominated. This culture of comradeship , working together but with good natured baiting is reminiscent of any sibling relationship and I find it one of the best parts of being a blue collar worker. Where others might say “professional” we see it as stuffy.

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Cat June 7, 2016 at 10:31 am

This is so typical of the things guys do to each other that it doesn’t seem to come under etiquette for me. They love this sort of stuff and everyone thinks it’s hilarious. No feelings are hurt and no grudges are held.
I saw a video of a lineman on a professional football team who was told that, for a charity event, he had to come dressed as a ballerina in full tutu. He must have weighed 350 lbs. It was a joke his teammates had played on him. He thought it was great!

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NostalgicGal June 7, 2016 at 11:14 am

I started college in a ‘men’s major’ and I worked many places as the only woman in the entire place. I’m very used to how guys do things… and this sounds so TRUE TO FORM for what would happen on a heavy work site like a mine. You treat other people’s stuff like it was yours-in that you wouldn’t purposely damage it. You can use my tools but they better be clean and back where they belong after sort of stuff. The window bit in vehicles… the guy that left it rolled down should have gone and done the deed to fix it, btw. So getting his rolled down was fair game.

@Cat, I’ve seen video of that one, where the guy went into a business and tried to call his friends and found out he’d been led astray and ‘stood up’ to boot.

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Becca June 7, 2016 at 11:58 am

Working in a male dominated industry, this is the kind of thing that happens all the time when you pull a boneheaded move like Larry did.

It’s only a problem when it’s not in a direct retaliation. I’ve seen “jokes” played on guys that are just being bullied by other men on the job site. Those ones are jerks and get written up for it.

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ColoradoCouldy June 7, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Good for Jim.

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Phoebe161 June 7, 2016 at 1:01 pm

This sounds so typical “guy” behavior! Perfect behavior, no. Sexist-sounding, yes. However, this is how tight-knitted guys act, and how they enforce certain behavioral problems. And yes, I chuckled!

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Coraline June 7, 2016 at 1:17 pm

I laughed. I laughed at the pie story as well (which I am sure is apocryphal even if I wish it were true).

But… even though I am trying, I am not really a “rise above it” sort of person. I am more of a “turnabout is fair play”, “now the shoe is on the other foot”, “if you dish it out you better be able to take it back” sort of person. So I enjoy these True Tales of Karma.

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InTheEther June 7, 2016 at 1:43 pm

I never got around to writing my opinion about the pie deal, but personally, I do see this as much more palatable.

The thing with the last story is that in that case it was a grown man sticking it to a five year old. By all means, don’t help a parent completely ruin a child. Kick brats who can’t behave out of groups and withhold treats if you’re in a position to do so (say you work at a camp or something). But in the first story I got the sense that the man was smug about getting one over on a kid. Which is kinda pathetic and it’s not like the child’s learning anything other than that particular adult was petty and spiteful.

In this case? It’s two adults for one. The guy was a jerk about not going to close the window he’d left open. In this case he knows exactly what the comeuppance was about and, best of all, it was equal to his “crime”. It’s perfect. If having the windows open in the storm is no big deal he’s got no right to complain. If it is then he’s admitting he was wrong and therefore deserved the punishment.

I guess I’d sum up as, in the last story the person was getting revenge against a kid who, while badly behaved and annoying, hadn’t even done anything to him directly and was unbearably smug about it. In this one? Larry was given a lesson by a peer and it WAS actually a direct reflection of his actions.

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AppleEye June 7, 2016 at 2:40 pm

This exactly! Well said!

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Dee June 7, 2016 at 2:07 pm

My sons have been pressured by others so often to “take it like a man” that it has become the non-funny joke around our house. It’s what bullies say to others to excuse their bullying. Jim was passive aggressive towards Larry. Maybe Larry should have gone back out into the rain to close the window; maybe he made a judgment call that it wasn’t worth it, and he could have been right. He followed Jim’s directive immediately when it came to getting the two stranded coworkers – but then balked at the idea of putting the truck’s upholstery before his own safety and well-being. His original mistake was unintentional, but instead of dealing with Larry on that issue Jim retaliated in a way that was unnecessary. It’s really difficult to teach boys to be honest and to communicate well when they work and go to school with people like this. I don’t have patience for childish behaviour from adults.

Jim showed Larry, and the others, that at any time someone can do something out-of-the-blue in retaliation for any real or imagined slight and that it will not only be tolerated by management but encouraged. I know if I worked there I would feel the strain of that everyday. I think most men appreciate open and honest work atmospheres, rather than one with hidden rules and stupid chest beating.

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Devin June 8, 2016 at 2:45 pm

If Larry wanted to communicate, instead of being so nonchalant about his error he could have expressed remorse or offered up a sincere apology. If it was truly so unsafe to make a quick dash out in the rain, he could have offered to help dry out the truck after the storm blew over.
The story would have ended differently if this was not typical behavior for this group with Jim asking for Larry to be written up for destruction of company property or Larry having Jim written up for abusing managerial power.

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Dee June 9, 2016 at 11:45 am

Devin – So, if Larry doesn’t communicate well the answer is for his manager to teach him the fine points of passive aggression, so then they can both carry on this level of immaturity endlessly? As a parent I wouldn’t deliberately destroy my kids’ possessions just because they were careless of mine; if I did, I would be a very poor parent. A manager has the responsibility (and pay) to oversee her/his employees’ safety and workplace efficiency, similar to a parent. Jim sounds more like a juvenile than an adult.

Of the high-testosterone workplaces I’ve seen, a worker wouldn’t dare complain about their manager. That would only result in more stupid retaliation. Nowhere does the LW state that all the workers agreed to these hidden workplace rules. If those rules were stated clearly before hiring I doubt they would pass any employment laws, for good reason. The argument that the workers shouldn’t take a job if they can’t handle the hidden rules is the same one that endorses abuse of women in employment, and society no longer accepts that as an excuse. Unfortunately, that consideration hasn’t yet extended to the men’s world. It makes me wonder how a guy like Jim was promoted to be a manager of people; was there no one better to choose from? Because he certainly didn’t manage this situation well at all. He now has two trucks with soaked seats and likely escalated retaliation from Larry (if not others). What a wonderful workplace environment. Yuck.

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Startruck June 7, 2016 at 2:31 pm

I don’t like any scenario where people take it upon themselves to teach others a lesson. thats For God to do. With that being said , I laughed at this.

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LizaJane June 10, 2016 at 10:41 am

Well, and parents,teachers, police officers, judges, juries…..I guess we could just put up with everyone’s crap and wait for eternal justice.

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Just4Kicks June 7, 2016 at 3:48 pm

Although we have three teenage son’s, and its SO the type of thing they would do to each other, my first thought was ” na na boo boo you’re wet too!”
My two oldest boys are only 17 months apart and they are either the best of friends or decking each other, there is no middle ground.
My oldest was packing to leave for a road trip with his college baseball team, and found out his brother left for the weekend with his favorite shirt, shorts, and jeans.
Oh, my Lord!!! He threw such a HISSY fit about it, his dad and I were speechless.
…And, no, the other one shouldn’t have done that.

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Anonymouse June 7, 2016 at 5:45 pm

I agree. What makes this response appropriate and the Pie Guy’s response inappropriate is the relationship involved. Guys in the workplace (with some exceptions), are close enough and mellow enough that this kind of “payback” is not only acceptable, but expected. The guys will treat it as a joke, and everyone will have a laugh and move on… Meanwhile, Pie Guy was sticking his nose in where it didn’t belong, and was actively trying to ruin someone’s day.

As a side note on the etiquette involved, this is the most basic of workplace etiquette (especially in the trades and pseudo-trades). Don’t mess with other people’s stuff; if you must mess with their stuff, put it back EXACTLY how you found it when you’re done.

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Stephbwfern June 7, 2016 at 9:33 pm

So most people seem cool with this story because it was in keeping with the culture of scene – yes?
I’m cool with that, but let’s all make a point of remembering that the next tim, say, the question of handwritten vs verbal thank yous or hosting one’s own birthday party or some such other controversial topic is being discussed, hey?

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Devin June 8, 2016 at 10:31 am

This comment for the win!!!
Ettique is an agreed upon set of cultural norms. Some sub-groups have their own standards of Ettique they have agreed to, or by joining that group you implicitly agree to.

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Anon for now June 12, 2016 at 6:53 pm

Agreed

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PJ June 8, 2016 at 9:40 am

I’m surprised at the number of responses that come from a “this is more of that awful male behavior” point of view. I didn’t honestly see it as particularly male behavior even though this story is in a traditionally male setting. It is exactly the kind of behavior that my grandmother would do routinely (and my mom, to a lesser extent), just in a less dangerous/hard-labor/stereotypical-man setting.

I think characterizing these men as a bunch of Neanderthals “because that’s how men behave” is unnecessary and unkind.

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Maggie June 8, 2016 at 10:10 am

Not cool. Jim was worried about damage from Larry leaving one window open – so he leaves ALL FOUR of Larry’s windows open – causing even more water damage? It’s one thing to get back at Larry by causing inconvenience – but not property damage.

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Jo June 8, 2016 at 6:33 pm

With cloth seats it’s highly unlikely there was property damage. (I leave my windows down far more often than I like to admit!) Put some towels on the seat to soak it up, leave the windows down in the sun and it dries no problem. Larry screwed up. Not only did he screw up with his BOSS, but he brushed it off when his boss called him on it.

Jim’s response was a mild punishment for not caring about his property and it renewed his ‘standing’ in the eyes of the other men. I highly doubt Larry will do anything like that again. Jim could have been a typical boss and reprimanded him, but that would have embarrassed and angered Larry and been out of character. What he did enabled Larry to take it in good humour, but told the message in no uncertain terms. If Jim had gone out for no reason and wound his windows down, that would be completely different.

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Anon for now June 12, 2016 at 6:56 pm

This is in Florida. I’ve lived there.

It does not dry, no problem, in the sun. The humidity level is too high. By the time cloth seats dry, in Florida, they are covered in mildew.

Drying it out takes hard work with a hair-dryer, I’m afraid.

It took a week for my car to dry, when my window got stuck down during a Florida storm. And then it was really gross, and required bleach, and nothing ever matched again.

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Outdoor Girl June 8, 2016 at 10:46 am

I think it depends completely on group dynamics, though.

I work in an office where some things are said and done that wouldn’t strictly meet our workplace harassment and discrimination policy. But everybody here just rolls with it, for the most part. And if someone isn’t willing to roll with it, they take the ‘offender’ aside and speak to them and it’s over and done.

Other same function offices in different locations of the same organization? No one rolls with anything. The least infraction and someone is complaining to the supervisor who’s response is to call in the instructor for the workplace harassment and discrimination for a refresher course for everyone.

In my office? This joke would have totally been OK. In the other offices? Probably not.

Sounds like Jim knew how his staff would react. And I think it was a good lesson for everyone: As much as Jim pitches in and helps out where needed? He’s still the boss. And deserves the respect that goes along with it.

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Goldie June 8, 2016 at 12:43 pm

I’ll join the majority in that I got a chuckle out of this story. Larry acted like a tool; sending Jim the message that “no good deed goes unpunished”. Not only that, but with Jim being the boss, I sensed a bit of unsubordination going on. Like, because Jim had always gone the extra mile to support his team, Larry assumed that Jim was too soft or not assertive enough, to the point where it was perfectly fine to tell him things like “he’d forgotten to roll it back up, but no way was he going out in that downpour, and besides, it wasn’t that big of a deal anyway. So what if it got wet?” Well that was the day when Larry learned that he’d been wrong about Jim. Good for Larry.

I agree with those commenters who pointed out that what Jim did wouldn’t fly in a female group; because, in these situations, we’re conditioned to be nice to each other’s face and passive-aggressive/backstabbing behind each other’s back. I think it’s sad, and honestly wish it wasn’t so.

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OP June 8, 2016 at 2:55 pm

OP here. This work place was typically all-male, but they had a female work there as a summer intern — she was attending a mining and engineering school — and she quickly became part of the “band” whenever she was there. It was the job and the work ethic, not the gender nor race, that counted. For those who think this was just awful for Jim to have done, I could have told you the story of the time one of the men had another one convinced a huge buck was near the plant by carefully making “tracks” around the wooded edges of the site, and the guy hunted on his off hours for weeks, until the first guy finally confessed it was him leaving the prints. Another time, two guys set their watches each morning to mess with a third who declared he had to be relieved exactly at noon for his lunch. They had him believing it was noon anywhere from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — he didn’t wear a watch so he’d check theirs — by gradually changing the times on him and making sure their watches agreed in case he wanted to see if the first guy’s watch was really correct by checking the other’s. They called each other — and my husband — nicknames like “Wormy”, “Poochy” and “Fat Boy” and no one cared. When they had to get into the water-filled pit where they knew for a fact that an alligator lived, in order to do some work, they cheered each other on by speculating on what their “death and dismemberment” policy would pay for losing half of their a$$ to an alligator (using their words, here). They loved each other. There were no fights, ever. They still greet each other affectionately when they meet now that most have retired. No, they did not see this as mean, over-the-top, passive aggressive or any of those. They thought the whole window thing was hilarious, and “Larry” had to laugh, too.

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Anon for now June 12, 2016 at 6:58 pm

Culture makes a huge difference, doesn’t it?

And individual work sites have their own, individual culture.

I’m glad that they all took it in good stride.

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Just4Kicks June 10, 2016 at 4:36 am

I’m currently binging on “Sons of Anarchy”, and my favorite moments so far have been the teasing and pranks the brothers play on each other.
Your husband’s work place stories sound just like them….minus the gun running and murders….I hope! 🙂

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Lola June 10, 2016 at 1:50 pm

I found this to be incredibly petty. Water will damage the seats and cause mold and make it smell bad. Larry made a mistake and was annoying about it, but Jim was petty and revengeful. Not my kind of person.

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Anon for now June 12, 2016 at 6:46 pm

In my mind, the biggest “sin” on Larry’s part was not leaving the window up, or even saying, “I don’t want to get soaked, and go out there and roll it up again.” It was saying that it was “no big deal.”

No one gets to decide that property damage to someone ELSE’s stuff is no big deal. No one gets to decide that emotional/physical/mental damage or abuse to someone else is no big deal.

We each have our own level of “deal-ness” and determine for ourselves what is a big deal, and what is not.

Had Larry said, “Oh, sorry!” instead, Jim would have forgiven him, even if he didn’t want to go out and roll up the window. Even better would be for Larry to offer to dry out Jim’s truck afterward. But that “no big deal” is just a slap in the face.

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Calli Arcale June 13, 2016 at 1:25 pm

The answer to the question probably depends on whether we’re talking etiquette or what you can get away with in a close-knit group that enjoys pranking on one another.

Most of the time this would be a petty act of revenge. I would never advise doing this, partly because even if you do subscribe to “lex talionis”, this is asymmetric (four windows down for the duration of the storm in retaliation for one down for a little while), but mostly because whenever one is in doubt, the moral high road is the path to take. Teach the right behavior by not stooping to the low behavior. In etiquette terms, it’s definitely not correct to take the low road intentionally.

But etiquette isn’t the only way in which to answer this. There are settings in which pranks like this are considered affectionate. This really doesn’t have anything to do with how good of a manager he is; it’s more about the bonds between the members of the group. And *please* don’t call this “man justice”. Female groups and mixed-sex groups are all capable of this sort of camaraderie as well. It has nothing to do with demonstrating masculinity. It’s about knowing one another well enough to be certain that a joke like this will be taken in good spirit as the friendly correction that it was intended to be. It’s not proper etiquette, but that’s the thing — if you’re close enough to someone and know them well enough, you no longer depend on etiquette as a guide.

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