I was new to the whole "work for a paycheck" thing when I worked at a grocery store and I was stocking Instant Noodles on a big sale display.
All I had was a cheap small step 2 step stool; you know the one with the bar that runs across the top step? It was a piece of shit, and not tall enough to really do the job.
Every time I climbed that thing, there was a high chance my standing on it would collapse it. It was wobbly as shit too. OSHA would have blown a gasket, but I was an ignorant newbie and intimidated by my boss.
This guy apparently heard that women should be treated as equal to men, and had re-interpreted it in his mind to mean that all women should be all stoic, hoorah, climb-that-shelf with one arm, with a bowie knife AND a lit cigar between your teeth, G.I. Jane poster girls. (Yes, he was built like a fridge, and yes, he had two failed marriages in his past. Wonder why?)
Like, okay, if a woman has the body type and mentality for that, they can join the Service. We're in a grocery store and nobody, but NOBODY, was going to climb grocery store shelves for a goddamn box of cup-o-noodles. And yes, if the thing you're climbing is wobbly as fuck, yeah it's normal human behavior to wave your arms in an attempt to stabilize yourself.
He watched me struggle for like, 30 seconds, made some disgusted grunting noise at me, then walked away to do something elsewhere for a few minutes.
One of the young male coworkers saw me doing this wobbly high wire act and sprinted over to catch me around the waist and stabilize me. I ended up having to use his shoulder as a handrail to get the last of the stuff onto the display. (And to salvage some of my faith in men, this coworker didn't put his hands anywhere inappropriate or take advantage in any way.)
Me, sheepishly: "I'm sorry, I'm sure you have better things to do."
Male coworker, cheerfully brushing it off: "Shush your apologies and just do what you have to. Besides, I'm a wuss when it comes to seeing women bleed."
He then blushed and mumbled, "I mean when they're hurt, not... Shutting up now..."
I managed to suppress my laughter down to a smile, "I got what you meant. It's okay."
His little faux pas did help me finish what I was doing though, since I was too amused to get the shakes on the step stool.
My boss soon came back along and saw me being supported by a big, strong guy and using his shoulder as a handrail. He sneered at me and made a not-so-quiet comment about me being a 'princess,' and how 'delicate' I was acting.
I was facing the opposite direction, but I THINK the coworker who was holding me up, flipped my boss the bird. He briefly took a hand off my waist and aimed it in the direction of my boss before taking hold of me again and helping me down to the ground. I can't confirm, but I do have the strong feeling that that's exactly what he did.
[Editor's note: I think so too. Here's an honorary Retail Balls Award for your coworker!]
My boss just kind of grunted at this (maybe his mentality also assumed that elevated middle fingers were standard methods of communication in the business world?) and took off with the step stool to use.
Not even five minutes later there's a massive crash and the sounds of an avalanche.
My boss, who isn't a lightweight 'delicate princess' like me, apparently exceeded the stepstool's tolerance. While stocking some 2-Liter Coke bottles on a sales display, either leaned too far or weighed too much, and the stool decided to fall apart.
And I don't mean it simply fell over, or folded up like it was designed to. I mean it actually fell apart... into individual pieces. Closer inspection showed where age and metal fatigue basically disintegrated the places where the parts of the stool came together.
My boss had broken his arm and took down half the display.
We got several brand new, sturdy, OSHA approved step stools a few days later, and a boss who hid from everyone while he was in his cast.