I think I see a similarity.i don't think i ever had to deal with such an overtly commercial confrontation myself. my experience has been more one of men trying to impose some more emotional form of transaction on me, which tends to be far less direct. but i have dealt with a whole lot of that, and i really relate to/agree with this statement from you.
i was thinking about this whole discussion today because i spent most of the afternoon futzing around with my car. it's parked on a public street and you have to disengage the entire front bumper to get at the back of the headlight assembly to switch out the bulbs. so, i mean, kind of obvious that i wasn't just dusting or vaccuming it.
your story came to my mind because this is exactly the sort of thing that - in my 20's and 30's - would have had random men veering out of their flight paths to offer me 'help'. in fact, i left my son's dad at age 27 and spent two or three years blowing off 'i'll teach you to drive' from the most random men - men who should have had no reason or business at all to stick their noses into the question of whether i got a license or not.
less extreme, less traumatizing, less dangerous and less insulting than what you went through. but i think it's the same kind of thing. there's a transaction embedded in there that i wanted no part in. the bargaining and arguments and all the rest were irrelevant. the guys i'm thinking of had a specific dynamic in mind; their offers were products of that dynamic, and i was not going to participate. it's fundamental.
[in the end it took me about a year to get my license, once i decided that i wanted to. and i basically learned how to drive by failing the road test repeatedly until the day when i didn't fail it. and i got both my headlights working today].
see, to me . . . this kidn of thing isn't exactly about an attempt on their part to do anything. the 'thing' has already been done; it's the attitude itself. the offer/transaction itself tells you everything that you need to know about their definition of you - if that makes sense. and the offer/transaction comes from the definition; it isn't the other way round. so i'm with you. the repudiation of that definition and the refusal to participate in it is visceral. being made to sit around negotiating about whether or not he gets to keep that attitude is new insult on top of the original one. damn straight he owed you for the time.
I felt angry that my value or worth wasn't being acknowledged--my abilities were being reduced to "sexual object" I guess.
And in your examples, though it wasn't really about a monetary transaction (being paid for labor), it was about men's perception of you.
Like they looked at you and assumed you couldn't drive or couldn't do the thing with the car. And then perhaps if you had accepted their help it might have felt like you were somehow agreeing with their warped perspective of you.
Similar to how if I agreed to receive money to sit there with my clothes on (for sexual gratification) that I would have somehow confirmed, at least in his mind, that I was a prostitute.
And then there's the reality that sometimes there are transactions that are hidden--like with the yacht guy I did agree to consider cleaning the barnacles off his boat but I didn't know he secretly had actually wanted to solicit for prostitution. It also happens that some men have these "unspoken" rules they believe are clear--like if they buy you dinner they get X in return. Or if they help you with your license then they get your friendship and trust (and perhaps more access to you than other men would). So there's always, especially in the past more, been this shadow over male/female communications and interactions, where a woman has to worry that she's agreeing to something she doesn't actually agree to by doing something (even wearing certain clothes etc.)
But I wonder if it was about affirming the view of the man--like the yacht man's view of me was a sexual object and a prostitute, I assume. Something I didn't identify with. The other men's view of you may be like you are a dumb little lady who can't drive or helpless with mechanics, which perhaps you felt like you'd somehow "confirm" in their minds if you were to accept help, because then they could write you off as that and walk away thinking themselves right about you.
I don't know if yacht man remembered me (he's probably dead now--he was already kind of old when I was a teen), but if I had agreed he might have walked away thinking "I just paid a prostitute for her time," whereas without agreeing he may have had to think of some other category to fit me into (failed prostitute? idk). But just that small victory of not "confirming" the other person's assumptions and views about who you are and who you must be. With yacht guy, some part of him might have even filled in other blanks like "oh she must secretly be attracted to me that she let me pull out my weiner" etc. So just nipping it in the bud and being like "no" can feel very powerful and avoid that slippery slope into other people deciding they know you better than you know yourself and they can categorize and identify you better.
Even though it wasn't my responsibility or yours, there is a slippery slope where once a man "confirms" his weird views of you, maybe he will continue to have confidence in them and not care to listen otherwise. So it can go from "oh I was right, she let me teach her to drive" to "I bet I'm right that she must be interested in me and she is probably looking for a husband like me." Or something--or just "oh I was right, women can't drive on their own without a man."