I just called a small, local business that installs gutter guards. The owner of the company sounded like a sweetheart, but he explained that his estimating is handled by someone else. Okay, no problem, I said, have the guy give me a call.

An hour later my phone rang and it was the estimator. We'll call him Fred. After we exchanged hellos, Fred got right down to business.

"Are you married?" he asked.

Can I hear a big gasp from all the little ladies out there?

What does that have to do with my gutters? The thought ran through my head, but I didn't say it.

My teeth clenched. I heard myself utter "yes."

Then Fred said, "When will your husband be around?"

I recall a series of "whoa's" coming out of my mouth. Fred fumbled for words. I don't remember much about what followed, but we managed to set a time for the estimate.

This is the absolute, unvarnished re-telling of my experience with this small, local business.

And, boy, was I steamed.

I put on my jogging gear and ran the fastest three miles I may have ever run. I was even more steamed when I got home. I called the owner to cancel the appointment. He asked if I wanted to reschedule. I said no. He didn't comment. So I asked him if he wanted to know why I was no longer interested in his services. I'm pretty sure he was not interested. I told him anyway. He was unmoved. He explained to me in teeny tiny little words why they use that approach. When a potential new customer calls for an estimate ... er, make that when a woman calls for an estimate ... they need to "weed out" the people who aren't serious about hiring them. He added that it was

nothing personal.

I told him it was most certainly personal. I am amazed that a business would offend potential customers in order to "weed out" triflers, who apparently are all women. I'm quite sure they don't ask male callers if they're married and if the better-half will be present for the estimate.

I could go off on the rant ... how the little gal has nothing better to do after clipping coupons so she randomly calls businesses to fill up the hours before she needs to get dinner on the table ... but I won't. I will, however, say that Fred really rocked my world.

There was a time when a woman needed a husband to function in the world, and it wasn't that long ago. I remember trying to buy my first house as a single woman in 1979. One banker after another dismissed me. It was an uphill battle, but ultimately I succeeded in getting a mortgage. Several years later, still a single woman, I tried to secure a new construction mortgage from banks that, despite a hefty down payment, a respectable income, and impeccable credit history, turned me away. I was able to build my first home only because my builder, also one of my clients, offered to finance the project.

Until I ran into Fred, I can honestly say that no one has ever conducted a business transaction with me by asking if I am married and then[ requesting my husband's involvement.

The sad thing here is that the men with whom I do business are extremely respectful and treat me very well, just as they would any other individual. To those men - whom I believe are the majority - I give a great big thank you.

To Fred and the small business I recently ran into - I also say thank you. You reminded me that I have been complacent in thinking that this is 2010 and things have changed.

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