Friday, March 27, 2020

Traveling in The Twilight Zone

So yeah, when the entire United States decided to shut down for the Apocalypse, my happy ass was on the way to a customer in Indiana. I've done quite a lot in my life and seen quite a few unique things. I served 12 years active duty Army. I've spent the last 25 years traveling for a living, and between my civilian and military careers, I have seen much of the world and thought I'd seen just about everything. I was wrong. This last week was the most bizarre experience I think I've ever had

Normally the shuttle buses for the parking areas all cue up in a designated area to drop you off at the airport, but there was no need for this because the airport was absolutely empty.
No long line of cars disgorging or picking up travelers.
No endless series of taxis and buses.
No pedestrians trying to cross the busy road.
The Austin International Airport was all but EMPTY.
I waked directly up to the Delta counter - not one person in line.
I walked directly up to the TSA inspector at the checkpoint - not one other person going through security.
I walked clear to the end of the concourse and passed maybe three or four people. Bemused, I looked back and took a couple of photos.

When it eventually came near time to board my first aircraft, I struck up a conversation with one of the Delta representatives that I've known for years and asked her if she thought they would close the airports at some point. She assured me that there was no way the airports were going to close, but that I could definitely count on a whole lot of flights being canceled. She told me that they had had one flight arrive that morning with ONE passenger on it! We managed to do a little better than that on our flight, and packed that puppy with a whole nine passengers . . .   My connecting flight to Indianapolis? Fourteen passengers. When my flights landed I had a voice mail from one of our engineers that lives in Indiana telling me that the governor had signed something decreeing that all non-essential companies were to close their doors, and that everyone was required by law to stay home unless they were considered "vital" or "essential" and so the first thing I did was to call my customer to make sure they were going to be open for business in the morning. He assured that they were indeed considered vital, and had just that day been asked to start producing face masks. Thus assured that I was doing the right thing both morally and legally, I went ahead and headed out for the hour drive south to where my customer was located. Along the way, I thought maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to stop at a grocery store and stock up on some sandwiches just in case I wouldn't be able to get food anywhere once the governors decree went into effect. I stopped at a super Walmart, grabbed six huge sandwiches, a 12 pack of Pepsi, and just for shits and grins looked for toilet paper. I've already failed to find any in New Mexico and Texas, so maybe Indiana would treat me better? Nope. No toilet paper in Indiana either!
It turns out that my customers company may not have been quite as vital as my contact had thought, because as I was packing up my tools and spares at the end of the service call, he came back into the room shaking his head and looking shocked.
"You see all of those technicians out there?" he asked, pointing out the large window into the huge bay.
"Yeah?" I answered.
"Every one of them just got laid off . . . "

Do you know that I spent a week at the Holiday Inn and never saw a single other guest there in that time. Not one. Including my car, there were three cars in the parking lot and I think two of them belonged to employees. Obliviously no breakfast was served and no housekeeping was provided or offered during my stay. At the end of each day, I made my way through almost empty streets, to my empty hotel where even the people working there hid in a room behind the counter. I think I spent to two entire nights watching "Abandoned Engineering" on the Science Channel while eating sandwiches and slurping Pepsi. For the record, I'm pretty damn sick of store bought subway sandwiches at this point. Just sayin . . .

Not a big surprise, don't get me wrong, but my flights home were canceled. I booked alternate flights. An hour later they were canceled. I again booked alternate flights. They were canceled.  I got it right with my last attempt though and headed for home this morning. My first stop upon entering the concourse was at the Starbucks for some badly needed caffeine. I cued up behind three other people, all of us minding the 6 foot or so gap between each other, and so the line was moving pretty slowly and I was surfing Facebook on my phone . . . when I heard someone behind the counter . . . cough . . twice. Right then and there I decided that I didn't want coffee quite as bad a I had thought I did and exited the line.

I had to laugh on my flight from Atlanta to Austin though, when it became obvious why this flight had not been canceled - most of the people on it were Delta flight attendants. By luck, I'd managed to select a flight that Delta was apparently using to transport about a dozen flight attendant on their way to other locations.
So yeah, I'm home now, and I will not be getting back onto another airplane until the dust settles on this virus.
Oh, and if anyone notices that several rolls of toilet paper went missing from my hotel and the airport stalls I visited, I had nothing to do with it . . .

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Day 5 of Quarantine

The photo sort of says it all, doesn't it?

I received a email message from Delta airlines about my upcoming flight. They tell me to avoid placing my cell phone and wallet in the TSA bins. I just can't wait to tell the TSA inspector "Nope, I aint putting my stuff in your stupid bin!"

They follow that wonderful tidbit with the advice to allow a few extra feet between you and the next schmuck during the boarding process because "A little distance goes a long way". So they want us to keep our distance during the boarding process where we are then going to be placed into seats so tightly packed that you have to keep telling the guy next to you to get outta your lap!

Oh! The fruitless search for toilet paper continues . . .

Friday, March 20, 2020

Day 4 of quarantine

Emptied the 5 year old water out of our 50 gallon barrel in the back yard, washed the barrel out and filled it with clean water from the hose. It then rained all night long, so mother nature would have filled that barrel for free but who am I to quibble? My 10 year old son was curious as to why I was filling a barrel with water and so I explained all of the ways that having no water at all available would affect his life. You should have seen the look on his face when I explained that every single flush of a toilet used 3 to 5 gallons of water and then asked him how nasty he thought it would get if there was no way to flush a toilet? No, I haven’t gone paranoid, and I don’t expect the electric or the water to fail, but it never hurts to be prepared. 

Running out of new records to listen to. Given that most of them are 50 and 60 years old, I guess it’s not surprising that we are running out of new ones. 

The wife stocked up on an assortment of liquors and wines yesterday, so I’m pretty sure we are gonna come out the other end of this as alcoholics, but what the hell, how often do you get the chance to toast the apocalypse?

I’m scheduled to be on an airplane Monday to visit a customer and then to train one of our service engineers in the same area on a new database. Yeah, he just told my manager that he has a sore throat so . . .

Day 3 of Quarantine . . .

Day Three of Quarantine with the kids home from school, and my wife and I both working from home. Just had the "use the toilet paper, fold it in half to cover the used part, and then use it again!" class with the kids. Oh my God you should have seen the look of disgust on their faces. Lord help them if they ever have to use an actual outhouse. . .
The wife and I aren't glaring at each other over the laptops any more, but we ARE both eye balling our dwindling supply of toilet paper and I'd swear I hear the "Good, Bad, and the Ugly" theme song in the back of my head. Pretty sure she is hoarding a roll somewhere, but I'm on to her shenanigans . . .

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Day 2 of quarantine . . .

Day two of quarantine with my wife and I both working from home. Starting to question the wisdom of having bought AMMO for both handguns yesterday as we are glaring at each other over our respective laptops . . .

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Not in my happy place . . .

As many of you have noticed, I’ve all but stopped writing my blog these days. I guess I really ought to get around to formally saying “I’m done with it”, but it keeps calling me back from time to time. In some ways it’s kind of cathartic I guess, and is something like a diary for me. Sometimes it makes me feel better to write it, and sometimes it condenses and distills my feelings and makes me feel worse. You just never know until you start writing. One thing for certain though, I’ve always tried to be honest and up front here, so I’m not gonna pull any punches with this one either.

Honestly, there are just so many ways that you can keep telling essentially the same story:
I went to the airport.
I got on a plane.
I got off the plane and went to a hotel.
I may or may not have met someone along the way.
Something interesting or amusing may or may not have occurred along the way.

It got to the point where I could pretty much create a template and just fill it in with details:
“Today I went to “ <INSERT CITY HERE> “ where I met up with “ <INSERT NAME HERE> 
So yeah, I’ve kind of backed away from the blog and all of the time and effort required to write them.

As seems to be the case for most of us, I play with depression quite a bit. It’s an old and constant companion with a presence that ebbs and flows but never quite goes away. These days I dwell quite a lot on my wife of almost 33 years and what being married to me has done to her. I wasn’t going to talk about this here, but its haunting me to obsession the last few months. I’ve shared all of the happy and fun stories with you, perhaps encouraging some to take the chance and step out into the world in the hope for, and in search of, happiness or acceptance. The full truth though, is that I, and those around me, have paid a price for who and what I am.

I’ve talked to a lot of women through the years and have seen so many of their eyes light up with admiration when I tell them that I am transgender.  
“You are SO brave!” they tell me, eyes glittering with sincerity, “And look at you – you’re beautiful!”  Women find this brave, and admirable, and perhaps inspiring. . . unless it’s their husband that we are talking about. That brings it a bit closer to home. A bit more real. A bit more significant. Now it’s no longer about someone being brave for having the courage to be themselves, it’s about “Oh my God, what will my friends think if they find out? What if the neighbors see my husband leaving in the morning? What if my father finds out what my husband is? What about my church?!”  It’s a whole different story when it’s your husband.
Often, it helps when you have others to talk to, to share your worries with, and to help you carry the load, and so several times in the last 30 years my wife has told friends of hers about me. All of them, every single one of them, no longer talks to her. Oh, they will still say hello when she crosses their path, but they no longer call her, or come over, or invite her over. In many ways, I’ve taken what used to be a vibrant and outgoing young lady and turned her into an isolated woman. Her best friends have all bailed on her, and the knight in shining armor that all little girls dream of, and that she had thought she had married, thinks he’s the fricking princess. I feel guilty for what I’ve done to her. I feel over whelming guilt. So the bright eyed little girl that I married is afraid to have friends, afraid that her family will find out that she married a freak, and is spending most of her days and nights alone while I’m on the road. To make matters just that much worse, with all of my health and heart problems, we haven’t been . . .well . . .you know . . . intimate . . . in years. So now I’ve given her a lonely and passionless life and marriage. Yay me. Way to go.  When I started having all of the heart problems, do you know what one of my first thoughts was? It wasn’t “Oh gee, I hope I don’t die.” Nope, one of my first thoughts was “Gee, maybe it’s not too late for my wife to meet someone else and have a normal life if I die.”
So yeah, I guess I’m in a bit of a dark place right now.

Sigh . . .