My truck school buddy S recently told me he was a little upset when he originally learned I'd be in his group. "I didn't want a girl in the truck with me," he said. "Nothing against you specifically, I just didn't want to have to mind my P's and Q's all the time." This was before he learned that I was virtually unoffendable. He's gotten over it by now, obviously, since he can tell me this and we can laugh about it, but it makes me wonder about the impact of such an attitude.
I've been lucky so far, and haven't run into the "girls can't drive trucks" attitude. Then again, I'm in northern California, at a school staffed largely by women, and it's the 21st freaking century when some national companies have hair salons in their terminals. My classmate's comments are making me realize that the lack of obvious opposition to women being in this industry does not necessarily mean acceptance. They may not question the legitimacy of my presence in the driver's seat, but they will curb their behavior when I'm around.
The upside is that I'll hear fewer farts and stupid jokes. But the downside strikes me as a dangerous sort of social inequality. Many male drivers, I realize now, will put on their best face when talking to me, and will therefore fail to be frank. In a way, this subtle double standard is harder to handle than a "girls can't drive trucks" attitude: I can't just put on my best scowl and flex my arm in Rosie the Riveter fashion and let them choke on my exhaust as I drive away, I need to instead spend a few weeks side by side with them to prove I am an equal, like what it took with S.
I don't much care what anyone thinks of me, but my concern here is the authenticity of experience - I am doing this for the sake of writing about it, after all. And just knowing that there may be an undercurrent of manner-minding behind any given conversation is pretty aggravating to me.