Me: "Hello, Wendy speaking."
Them: *strangled noise, followed by silence*
Me: "Hello? Hello?"
Me: "Hello? Wendy speaking. Please talk, otherwise I'm hanging up."
Female voice: "Oh. Uh."
Me: "Hi, Wendy speaking. Can I help you?"
Her: "Um.. your number was dialled from this phone three times last night."
Me: "Uh.. okay. Right."
Her: "I didn't know who it was."
Me: "Um. OK. Who's calling?"
Her: "It's Mrs Blahblahblah. My husband called this number three times last night.."
Me: *thinks* WTF? *says* "OK. Do you have any sheep?"
Her: "OOOhhhhh! YES! THAT'S it! He must have called about the sheep."
Me: "It's likely. I had five calls about shearing last night, I think one of them was from a guy called Blahblahblah."
*continued irrelevant conversation*
On face value, it seems like a relatively innocuous conversation. But the relief in the woman's voice when she realised who I was and that her husband was calling me about the sheep, was palpable. I got the distinct impression that when I answered the phone in my female voice, she (who was calling numbers on her husband's phone to see who they were) immediately assumed all sorts of untoward things about why her husband had called me.
I hate that shit. Now, when I go to shear their sheep, I'm already aware of stuff that I just shouldn't either be aware of, or have to think about. Now, when I go to shear their sheep, I'll be making sure I wear a shirt that covers up anything that looks like bare skin. I'll be hot and uncomfortable for an hour, for her sake. And from the sounds of things, it will probably make no difference to the overall situation anyway. Yuck.
So why would I go to the trouble? For my own sake. I've been down this track before, dealing with the small mindedness of people who assume that any woman who's not a hideous bush pig is after their man. Yeah, Dargaville was fun like that.
Little story. I had a dog that needed a home. She was a good dog, but needed more work than I could give her. So I approached the head shepherd on one of the larger local sheep stations and offered her to him. He came around once, watched her work, and said, "Ok, but I don't have a free kennel. I'll call you in a week or two." This he duly did, and I went and dropped the dog off, thinking that was the end of it.
Seemingly unrelated, this guy and his wife split up two months later. Apparently he'd been straying. Anyway, long story short, somehow it got around the district that I'd been the cause of the marriage breakup, and people started avoiding eye contact. I think the best part was where I got labelled "The most used piece of rugby equipment at the local club." WTF? I'm not even into rugby! Suffice to say my work dried up. Fun.
So yeah, nowadays I'm very careful to avoid any of that kind of small mindedness being made possible by my actions when at work. I could get all "Well it isn't my problem" but it can easily become my problem unless I conduct myself in a way that puts me above reproach. This means dressing to cover myself up, being distant, and NEVER allowing myself to be alone with this woman's husband.
Is it worth it?
Some days it's hard to avoid being cynical.