By Stu Salkeld The Stettler Independent
About 25 years ago I put myself through college. If you’ve ever had to balance 40 hours of class, plus one or two part-time jobs and a personal life of some kind, you know how much work it can be.
If you add into that equation unwanted personal advances from co-workers, it makes life that much more complicated. The “Me Too” campaign underway across North American right now thus struck a chord with me because while I was in college I was the target of unwanted personal advances, some bordering on harassment, from three co-workers.
The first one occurred at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s bar and lounge called “Sparty’s.” As I was living in the dorm at the time, working at the on-campus bar was a convenient way to make a little extra money. Once class was over I could head straight to work instead of taking a bus or train to find employment.
I worked as a security guard at the bar, and while it didn’t pay very well, it wasn’t very hard work either. The most difficult thing for a country boy like me to get used to was a time card machine.
It was working here that first semester that I was sexually harassed by a waitress who also worked there. I and all of the other guards noticed she spent a lot of time talking to me and hanging around with me, and after a few weeks she got even friendlier. She started leaning on me, hugging me and giving me “massages.” She told me I was too tense and needed a massage. All the while this went on in front of other staff and the bar patrons.
I spoke to my manager and told him this behavior made me very uncomfortable and I would like it to stop. The manager spoke to the waitress, and it never happened again. In fact, she never spoke to me again.
Next, I was working as a waiter at a restaurant about a year later when a waitress I worked with began confiding in me about her marriage problems. Apparently her husband had been cheating on her. Over the next few weeks she began to get much more personal with me, even though I was just there to do my job. Eventually, in front of several other staff members and customers, she told me she was ready to have an affair on her husband and guess who the lucky guy was? I felt a little bad for her as she must have been in bad shape to speak so publically about her personal problems, but I also resented the fact that she thought so little of my moral character that she’d make an assumption like that in front of strangers. Very embarrassing for me, and I immediately told her “Look, I just work with you. I am not interested and never said that I was.”
Lastly, some months later at the very same restaurant another waitress who was also married but a little less diplomatic decided she was going to harass me right in front of other staff and customers, using nasty language and comments plus grabbing me in rather personal ways despite the fact I showed absolutely no interest in her. Again, I had to go to the boss and ask that she do something to stop the harassment. This particular boss gave me the impression that this wasn’t a big deal and that I should just ignore it.
I’m not going to ignore things like sexual harassment plus the judgments being made about my morals…that, for example, married women are fair game.
Not in my world they’re not.
Stu Salkeld is the editor of The Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the newspaper.