Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Special Place in Hell

Of all that Dr. Madeleine Albright has accomplished in her career, I sometimes worry that she just might be remembered best for this line:  

I have one message that I always insist on sharing with women, and that is to . . . remember that there is a special place in Hell reserved for women who refuse to help one another.

You know what she means, right?  It is the responsibility of women, especially those in highly competitive professional fields (like the CIA, where she closed a recent speech with her now famous admonition) to realize that no one gets to the top alone, it is much easier to get there together and stepping over (and sometimes crushing) another woman to make your way up the ladder is just plain wrong.  The snippy/snipey shit women say and do to each other is counterproductive.  (And, I have to wonder if Dr. Albright hasn't been the recipient of some of that behavior she is so adamant to expose and halt -- she says this so often, I have to believe some woman, somewhere really pissed her off.)

So let me tell you a story.

A few weeks ago, I had meetings and an overnight stay in a lovely hotel in downtown Indianapolis.  I was told that I could either valet park my car for $30, or park in the below-ground deck next door for $22.  Since I am naturally pretty frugal, and since this weekend was on someone else's tab, I chose the deck.

Now, I'm not crazy about parking decks in the first place, but have learned to navigate them -- if you want to hang out in the big city, you know parking decks are a necessary nuisance.

Below-ground decks?  Those are extra vile.

And the below-ground deck under the Pan-Am plaza in Indianapolis at 10:00 PM?

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here:

This is picture of the Pan-Am deck, from the Indianapolis Star.  It's under some sort of renovation -- caution tape, scaffoldings, drippy ceilings everywhere.  Eek.

Down, down, down I drove, into the bowels of the garage, past all the "Reserved" spaces, and finally found a spot right next to an exit.  Lots of cars, but no sign of another human.  I was a little anxious.  I locked my car, hightailed it to the elevator and punched the up button.


Punch, punch, punch.  Nothing, nothing, nothing.

I was getting a little more anxious.

I decided to take the stairs.  I was a little loaded down with my computer bag, purse, tote and some miscellaneous bags, but I didn't think there could be too many flights up.

So, I hightailed it up the first flight only to be met with DARKNESS.  EVERYWHERE.

Double eek.  I was "pee-my-pants" anxious now. I couldn't see where the next flight of stairs began, and I wasn't about to go looking for it.

So I hightailed it back down to my car and was stowing all my stuff back in when I heard voices and high heels clicking on the stairs.  Ahh.  Heavy sigh.  I might have heard angels singing.

I started babbling as soon as the four women were close enough to hear me.

"Oh, I am so glad to see you!  I was getting so scared down here!  Did you come from the hotel?"
"What hotel?" one of them asked, as she walked toward me.
"The Crown Plaza," I replied.
"No, we came from meetings at the Convention Center," another one said as she kept walking.
"Oh, is that where this stairway comes out?"
"I don't know," she said as she kept walking.
"Is the stairway safe?  Is there any light?"
"Well, we just came from there," one of them said, as she looked at me as she passed, still walking.  "The stairway is completely dark."
"What do you think I should do?  I'm all alone," I asked them as they all headed to their car.
"I don't know,"  one said.

And all four women, dressed in nice black suits wearing hose and classy black heels and carrying pink rose-emblazoned brief cases and shopping bags walked another 100 feet down the aisle and got into their white SUV.

Can you guess what company they work for?  It rhymes with Scary Day.

I was completely shocked.  Shocked that four women would leave another woman all by herself in a dark parking deck in a big scary city.  Shocked that they work in an industry that claims to be all about women, for women, by women.

So a yelled at them.

"You can bet I'll never buy Mary Kay again!"

That'll show them.

A friend of mine said I should have added " . . . bitches!" , but I just can't do that.

Because as women, that's just not how we are supposed to treat each other.

The world is a scary place, much like a parking deck.  The best way to maneuver through it is together.  Holding hands if necessary.  And it often is.

I'm pretty sure Madeleine Albright wasn't talking about Mary Kay ladies in a dark parking garage who refused to help me.  She was talking about corporate America, political America, academia America -- the American circles I don't travel in much.  But it still hurt to be refused help by a sister(s).

In my little Queendom this wouldn't happen.  Helping each other is one of the rules -- man, woman or corgi.  And we wouldn't banish women to their personal circles of hell, no matter what, because that is an awful, permanent condemnation and breaks the kindness rule.

Believe me.  In that parking deck, abandoned by fellow women, I felt like I had been condemned to my own circle of hell.

I knew that day that I didn't belong there -- helping has sort of become my middle name.

But if I've ever failed to help another woman out, any time, anywhere, I think I've served my sentence in the Pan Am Plaza deck.  May I never fail another woman again.


PS  Happy ending.  I got in my car, headed for the exit, sniffled a little to the gentleman in the pay booth who told me to park near his booth in one of the close reserved spaces, since it was the weekend.  I'll be valet parking (on my own dime) when I go back this summer!


  1. Oh boy I wondered about that garage and now I am going to make sure I have a friend with. Shame on those women. You know I know if tables were turned you bet you would have helped one of them. Hugs and I am so glad you are safe! Carie

  2. I can totally relate to this post. I am always helpful, I try to be happy and nice. I had had a really crappy day at work one day and I got to the train platform to head home and a guy was smoking. It just was the last thing I needed and I told him (kinda loudly) "you can't smoke here." He was very apologetic, put it out immediately, told me it was his first day working downtown and taking the train and he just got a new job. I just looked at him (probably like those women did to you) and got on my train. He got on the same car and as I sat there and thought about what I did, I was horrified. As we neared my stop, I found him, held out my hand (which amazingly he took) told him I had a crappy day at work and I was so very sorry I took it out on him, congratulated him on his new job and that I hoped to see him again on the train.

    You would have thought I pulled a gun, everyone was watching me with open mouths like, what is she doing? It's ok to be mean, but not to apologize for being mean! What has society become when we don't help others, especially women helping women, and wondering why someone would apologize?

    I would have put you in my car, driven you to the hotel and wished you well. Well, I would be willing to get in my car!!!

  3. PPS. The lovely ladies in the hotel lobby were happy to be able to hug you after your scared event

    1. Oh so true! I should add that it was a lovely weekend once I stopped shaking. Our tour of Riley was something I will always remember!

  4. so scarey. Kudos to you for keeping it together and remembering to keep yourself safe.