Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Total Eclipse

Saturday morning I woke up at around four AM and once again found myself unable to sleep. This seems to be a new trend with me, and I am not at all happy about it. Saturday is supposed to be my day to sleep in - the day that my spouse gets up with the kids and I get to snore and drool on my pillow. Not so much these days though, as far more often than not, I find myself laying there and looking at the ceiling. Anyway, it didn't take me too long to acknowledge the reality, and so I dragged myself out of bed and went downstairs to slurp some coffee. At about 630 AM I started hearing odd noises outside and so I took a peek out the front door. Much to my surprise, I found my neighbors garage wide open, and the garage lit up like a UFO landing site. I stood there at the door for a moment, then looked down at the pajamas that I was still wearing, and thought to myself "what the hell, why not!" Coffee cup still in hand, I strolled across the street in my PJ's.
"Well YOU'RE at it kind of early this morning aren't you?" I quipped as I approached his garage. He had his hands and his head buried in the engine compartment of his hot rod, and clearly he hadn't heard my approach, because he jumped about a foot into the air when I spoke.
"Hey neighbor!" He said with a laugh, reaching out and shaking my hand. "Well, you know there is a car show going in today right? There are gonna be a LOT of real cool cars and neat people there. Just trying to get her ready so I can go show her off!"

He has been working on this car for years, pretty much building it from scratch. He and another friend of his built the frame, and he had been trying to get all of the pieces collected and put together into something resembling a hot rod for a long time. It might not be the prettiest car you will ever see, but if you had known all of the blood, sweat, and tears that he had poured into that thing, you would consider it a thing of beauty. After more than half a decade, he finally had it mobile and he was just dying to get it out and on the road.
"You know you really ought to pull the mustang out and come with me! You would have a ball and there are going to be some great cars there to look at."
"Awe hell, you know that Mustang is nowhere near car show ready, and never will be." I told him with a laugh.
"Hey now, don't be selling yourself short there, you've done a LOT of work on her. I think you should take her."
I sat there sipping at my coffee trying to figure out how to politely tell him that there was no way in hell that I was dragging my poor beat up Mustang into a car show. I guess he saw the thought process in my eyes, because then he pulled out all of the stops.
"You know I've never had this any farther than around the block. I'd sure appreciate having some backup?" He said, looking me straight in the eye. So now we had gone from "you should do this because it will be fun" to "I really wish I had someone to follow me just in case something goes wrong".  And so my pretty pony and I went to the car show . . . 

It turned out to be good that I followed him, because he did indeed have a couple of minor issues that probably would have resulted in his turning around and going back home part way. It turns out that he had made a goof and accidentally trapped the wire going to his temperature sensor between the engine and the transmission. This is what we in electronics like to call a "dead short", and it resulted in his temperature gage constantly reading maximum. In other words, it was telling him that his car was over heating at all times. Fortunately he just happened to have a field service engineer following him in a blue Mustang that had all of the gear to find that short, and also had a temperature probe to prove that the engine was in fact running at exactly the right temperature. In less than ten minutes, we were back on the way to the car show.

I've got to admit that I really enjoyed myself, but I really head to work at not leaving drool on some of the cars that I looked at. So many cars that I would have dearly loved to have, and so many of them with paint jobs that I will never be able to afford. There were a couple of cars there that everyone seemed to agree were just TOO pretty. This was not a crowd that was impressed by how much money you had spent - these guys almost all seemed to prefer cars that people actually worked on and built themselves. Over and over I watched people walk right past the picture perfect and magazine quality hot rods, just to stop and talk shop at the rusted car sitting next to it. I don't know why, but this attitude kind of impressed me. My mustang got a little love, but not much. In the antique car and hot rod crowd, your average Mustang is the equivalent of a cockroach - common as hell and found everywhere. Don't get me wrong, there are some Mustangs that were built for power that these guys would consider to be deserving of respect, but your standard, run-of-the-mill, stock Mustang - no, not so much.  

I found myself desperately trying to recall the names of all of the guys that I was meeting, but I'm afraid I did a poor job. I'd have to admit that I felt a little uncomfortable at times, because most of these guys had grown up together, all ran in the same crowd, and were definitely the macho types. Into the mix comes I, a fairly clueless individual with no biceps and no tattoos. If not for the efforts of my neighbor to include me, I doubt anyone would have spoken twice to me.  I had just decided to find a spot in the shade and sit down for a moment when my phone rang. The day was all downhill after that. . .

So tell me - why is it that when it comes to work, the shit never hits the fan on a Monday morning? Why does it always have to be late Friday afternoon, or Saturday when things go to hell, and people are screaming that they need help? One of our larger customers has one of our more complex machines, and it no worky. Since it no worky, part of the customers factory no worky. When THAT happens, people start loosing lots of money every hour and they tend to get a bit excitable about it. I guess this problem had actually started Friday night, but since the customer was not in my region, I had known nothing about it. My region or not, I was the one that everyone started calling Saturday afternoon when the customer started screaming. It is Sunday morning as I type this, and guess who is on an airplane to Utah?

I used to actually dislike traveling on US Airways because their people just weren't anywhere close to being as personable as the folks at Delta Airlines, but I am happy to share that this has changed. Most of the people that I have interacted with on the last few flights have actually been quite friendly with me. As I walked up to the airline counter, the lady behind it looked up and gave me a great big smile.
"Well good morning and welcome back! Two bags to check?" She asked, eyeing the two large bags that I was pulling and no doubt having dealt with me so me many times.
"Sure - two big and HEAVY bags for ya'!" I replied with a laugh as I set my bags up onto her scale. "Y'all must just LOVE me for making you heft so much weight all of the time."
"Oh come on now, they aren't THAT bad!" She said, reading the weight off of the display. There was a moment of quiet as she punched a lot of keys trying to bring up my reservation.
"I had to book this flight at the last second just last night; what's the odds of my getting an upgrade now?" I asked her.
"Hold on and I'll look for you." She answered with a cheerful tone, and then started typing again. "Today is your lucky day we have seats available."
"Yay!" I said with a grin.
"But it won't let me give one to you." She said with a frown, still typing at.
"Not yay," I moaned.
"Well it told me that there were seats available and asked if I wanted to give one to you. I told it 'yes' but it didn't change your seat." She told me with a puzzled tone of voice.
"So it just wanted to know if I WANTED the seat, it wasn't necessarily offering to GIVE it to me huh?"
"That seems to be the case," she laughed. "Hold on - got it!"
So, it might be Sunday, and I might be headed to a major customer without a single component to try and resolve their issue, but I'm ah goin there first class!

When it came time to board the aircraft, the gate agent came over the PA and gave a slightly modified version of their usual spiel:
"When you approach the podium, we would appreciate it if you would have your tickets out and ready. Please don't have them wadded up, wrinkled up, or soaking wet." Fortunately the crowd in the gate area saw the humor in her request and laughed about it, but I decided to have fun with her as I was handing in my ticket.
"So your pretty fussy and demanding when it comes to these things huh?” I asked her with a wink.
"Ugh!" She let out an exasperated sigh, dropping her hand with my ticket still in it for emphasis. "You wouldn't belief the way some people hand them to us - all torn up and wadded in a little ball!"
"And let me guess," I said as she handed me back my ticket. "Some people are holding them in their mouths because they are carrying so many bags they have no other way to hold them."
"YES. EXACTLY!" She replied with a laugh. 

Oh, that failed system? Yeah, I got it running again.

On the cool side of things, the weather in SLC was perfect and flawless for viewing the total eclipse of the moon! If I had been at home in Austin, I would have missed seeing it!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Screwed the pooch!

Well, I screwed the pooch! (Messed up)

For those of you that don't know, Flickr is a website where you can upload your photos onto the internet. Once there, you can use these photos in blogs or posts on forums. All of the photos that you see in my blog are posted in that way - the photo exists on the Flickr website, and in my blog post, I tell the blog where to find that photo so that it can be displayed here.

Well, for personal reasons I recently changed my flickr account to make all of my photos private for a while. When I decided that this was no longer necessary, I changed them all back to "public" and thought that that would be that! I was wrong.
You see, Flickr pulled a fast one on me - it changed the LOCATION of each and every photo on my account. Now if you think about that for a second, you will realize that this is a pretty big problem for me. . .

For years I've been writing blogs and making posts on forums. As an example, in any one of those posts, I've told the blog software to find the photo that I want displayed in that particular post at "flickr/StupidKimberly/folder A/pic 1" and now flickr has changed that location to "flickr/StupidKimberly/Folder C/pic 1". As a result, every post and blog that I have ever made over the last decade and a half now links to photo locations that no longer exist - that is why all of the photos do not display correctly now. 
I will slowly make my way through all of the old blogs that I have posted and fix them. As long as I am going through the effort anyway, I will probably go ahead and move/copy the photos I used in this blog to's photo hosting site so that this doesn't happen again. Closing the barn door AFTER the horse has escaped . . . 

I've had a lot of emails and messages asking if I am all right, and so I thought I should make a post to let everyone know that nothing is wrong with me and I have not died or gone into hiding. I've just unintentionally screwed things up and there is no way to fix it in a hurry.
I also want y'all you to know how much I appreciate the concern that so many of you showed - y'all are awesome!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Catching up with Kim

Fair warning – some of you may have developed a picture of me in your head as a happy-go-lucky and upbeat person, always up for the challenge, and always heading out into the real world no matter what people may think of me. If you want to keep that picture in your head, you might wanna just go ahead and hit the “back” button on your browser now. I’ve always been upfront and honest in my blog, and am not about to change that now just because it is not a happy story.

As I am sure that you have noticed, my blogs are coming few and far between these days, and that is for an assortment of reasons. I have been very busy for my job, and am doing quite a lot of travel, but not much of it is as Kim. Nope, these days I am doing most of my travel the old fashioned way – as a tired and old man.  

On the few trips that I have recently made “as Kim” (as if I am ever not Kim at some level) nothing worthy of writing a blog has occurred. I don’t know if people are changing and becoming acclimated to folks like us, or if my own perceptions have changed, but it seems that only rarely does anything terribly amusing or interesting happen these days when I travel.  So, with nothing interesting occurring, there is no point to try writing a blog about it.
“Today I took a trip – nothing happened.”
The other considerations are darker I am afraid. I can’t recall the last time when I traveled pretty and actually felt like it was worth the time and effort. Worse yet, I’ve actually begun to feel like a bit of a freak myself.  I can handle knowing that other people may consider me a freak, but when I start to feel that way about myself, we have a bit of a problem I think.

 When I first started out on this little adventure, that is exactly what it was – an exciting adventure! It was also more than a little personally fulfilling for me. After a lifetime of hiding, of wishing, and of wondering what it would be like, I was at last out and about in the world as a woman, and it was a wonderful thing!  I felt great and at peace with myself and at peace with my own personal demons.
These days? Not so much. I feel like nothing more than a chubby old man in a dress. . .
 I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with being a chubby old man in a dress, but that is not what I am after, what I want, nor how I wish to be perceived.  Screw what others think, that is not how I wish to be perceived by myself.
What I have felt for the last six months or more is not at all flattering, and I am talking about far more than just my vanity. True, I am getting older and showing the wear and tear of those years on my face these days, but that is not the driving force here. This is far more about the way I feel about myself and how I perceive myself. We can debate all day long about the rationality, or lack thereof, of my seeing myself as a woman when I traveled pretty, but rational or not, that is how I felt.  
I felt like “I am Kim – I have a right to be here, I’m pleased to be here, and I am honored to be here. It feels right that I should be here.”
I just don’t know how to state it any clearer, but I don’t feel like a woman when I travel pretty these days.
I feel like a guy who is strutting around in skirts and making an ass out of himself.
I feel like a husband that has put his wife through pure hell.
I feel like a father that has let his children down and done wrong by them.
I feel tired . . .

Despite all of this, I still make the effort here and there, sort of hoping that maybe this is a temporary thing with me that will work itself out; hoping that maybe the wonder will return to it for me. We shall see. . .

SO! What else has been happening with me these days?
To start with, I had a second floor bathroom rot out from under me. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Yeah, the previous owners of our home did a half assed job when they remodeled the bathroom off of the master bedroom. They didn’t use the appropriate drywall to back the shower stall; they just put the tile directly onto regular drywall that is not designed for high moisture or getting wet. Of course our first clue of this was when a tile literally just fell off of the shower wall, exposing the rotted and water damaged wall behind it. Even at that, we had not realized just how bad the damage was behind the tile, and we just stopped using that shower. Well, I finally got up the courage, or got desperate enough, depending upon how you look at it, to tear the shower stall down in preparation for putting up a new one. What I found shocked and devastated us – far more than just the drywall needed to be replaced. Every bit of structural wood behind and under the wall that tile had fallen off of was horribly rotted. Much of the wood was flat out gone – long since turned to dust and fallen away. Some of the wood remaining was about the consistency of Styrofoam – so weak and brittle that you could put your finger through it easily. What had started out as a one or two weekend job to replace a shower stall had morphed into two months or so of rebuilding an entire bathroom, to include the structure of the floor and the exterior wall. You just haven’t lived until to see your home with a gaping hole through the exterior wall up on the second floor. We have the scary part done now – the structure of the floor, sub floor, and wall is once again sound, strong, and complete. Now all we have to do is come up with a lot of money to buy the things required to do the “finish” work and install a proper floor and interior wall surface. We are going to use a “wood-like substance” for the floor (something that looks like wood but is designed to tolerate water) and we are going to put wood up on the walls. Once that is out of the way, we will install a claw foot “slipper” tub IF we can get the damned thing up the steps. At four hundred pounds, getting it up there is going to be a significant challenge.

As I think I mentioned on my last blog, my oldest son is going through a divorce. I don’t know any details and wouldn’t share them here if I did, but let’s suffice it to say that it is a hard time for him. My little boy, my first child, is in the US Navy, far away from home, hurting, and there is absolutely nothing that I can do to help make it better for him. What little I hear from him makes it clear that he is not doing real well and is clearly depressed. I just hope that he handles depression better than I did when I was his age, but I’m kind of doubting it. I turned to alcohol and pretty much drank like a fish, and I suspect that he might be doing much the same. I call and text him often and let him know that even if he is far away, he is never alone – we are always with him and will always have his back. I make sure that he knows that if he needs me, I can and will be there in no more than a day or two – no longer than it takes to either get flights or drive there.  It sucks but it’s all I’ve got to offer him.

Do you remember those huge and painful bruises that I used to get on my legs for no obvious reason at all? We thought that we had that licked as I had gone almost two years without them, but they have once again graced me with their presence. Even as I type this, my lower left calf is a pretty shade of red and swollen to half again its normal width. It feels and pretty much looks exactly as if someone had taken a blow torch and burnt the entire lower calf with it. It hurts and it hurts bad, but in over 15 years, the dozen doctors that I have seen for it still can’t figure out what is causing it, nor come up with a treatment to make it go away. I just try to grin and bear it, except that I can’t grin and I can hardly bear it. Gotta feed the wife and babies though, so I keep going even though I can hardly walk first thing in the morning until it swells up so bad that it can no longer transmit pain. There are people out there with MUCH more serious problems so I will try and keep mine in perspective.

And at work?  The only other field service engineer in my company that understood one of our more prolific instruments as well as I do is about to be fired. It seems that he has been fabricating receipts for things and expensing them to the company. Eventually, he got over confident and got so blatant that he caught the attention of our accounting department. They started going through his expense reports with a fine tooth comb, and then started reviewing his old ones, and have clear and unambiguous proof that he has been committing fraud and stealing from our company. There is no question that he is going to be fired. Now the question is, will they prosecute him? All questions of integrity and honor aside, I find it hard to imagine being stupid enough to risk a job that pays well and offers a lot of freedom, just to steal a hundred dollars here and there. It just doesn’t make sense to me. This guy lived in New Jersey, with-in driving distance of a LOT of our customers, and so now someone is going to have to pick up the slack when he is gone, and I expect that it will be me.
It’s ironic aint it? Now that I am no longer delighted to travel, it is almost a certainty that I will be traveling a lot in the near future. Sigh . . .

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Almost didn't make it!

What can I write here that anyone would be in the least bit interested in reading? A few personal problems and a little self-introspection – not exactly riveting reading.
Our Christmas and New Year’s went well enough, with nothing horrible happening, but also nothing terribly exciting.

If you have been reading my blog, you might recall that I have recently done some more work on my classic Mustang, and have replaced both the distributor and the carburetor.  After resolving a few problems resulting from my own stupidity, I now have the old girl running the best that she has ever ran while I’ve owned her.  For the first time since I have owned the car, she has the power that I think she should have, and I can pretty much burn the tires out any time that I feel the urge. To be honest, I get that urge a lot more often than someone my age ought to.

Being delighted that the car was performing so well, I informed my favorite co-pilot (my ten year old daughter) that I intended to take the car for a nice long drive to give it a little exercise. She squealed “Yay!” at the top of her lungs and then ran to get her shoes, and off we headed.
My daughter loves going for rides in the old Mustang, and often rolls down her window and hangs her head out of it as we putter down the road. If you are ever driving down the road and see a light blue classic Mustang with long blond hair streaming out of the passenger window, odds are fair that you just drove by us. 

Our new game is that I will get us a few miles from home, and then let her choose at random what streets we go down, and what way we turn, and you would be shocked at how big a kick a ten year old can get out of this. She gets to explore and be in charge of where the car goes – something most ten year olds don’t get to do.  When I would stop at an intersection, she would pull her head back inside of the window, and with her hair an enormous and frazzled wind-blown mess, make a big production out of deciding which direction to go. We had been making these random choices for almost an hour when we found ourselves on some side road in Bartlett Texas and approaching a highly unusual barrier across the road. It was made up of barrels stacked top to bottom, and with a walk way above that extended across the street. Clearly it was intended as a way to block the street if desired, and allowed for guards to patrol it from the top – sort of modern red-neck castle-like affair.
I had this overwhelming feeling that I had seen this before and that it was significant in some way. The feeling that I should recognize the thing was so strong, and nagged at me so much, that I pulled the car over to look at it for a moment. At last it struck me! This was either the set of “The Walking Dead” or of “Revolution”, but I wasn’t sure which! I recalled seeing a similar structure in “Walking Dead”, where the people had blockaded off a small town. This might be from that show, but I also recalled seeing something like this on “Revolution”.  I thoroughly enjoy both of these TV series, and “Revolution” is currently my favorite TV show, and so this kind of tickled the hell outta me. We sat there for a moment excitedly talking about it when we noticed that the set appeared to be wide open to the public. There were no people, no gates, no tape, and no signs, so I figured “what the hell” and drove on into the set. Among other things, we took photos of a car being used for a chicken coop, a makeshift blacksmith shop complete with hand operated bellows, and also of a burnt out brick building.

Later on, when we got home, a brief search on the internet confirmed that we had indeed just visited the set of “Revolution”!

A photo from behind the scenes of "Revolution". See the burnt out building in the back ground? That's the same one in my photo above.(Photo courtesy of this web site:

I can’t decide if we were lucky to find it empty and unattended, or if it would have been neater if they had been filming. I’ve been on Film sets before, and know that it is a rare privilege to get anywhere near the actors or anyplace where filming might be taking place. So yeah, we might have seen or met some of the actors from my favorite show, but I seriously doubt it. At least this way, we got an up close and personal look at the set.

A few months back, I had been on a bit of an Astronomy kick and was taking out the telescope quite often to get a look at any of the planets we might be able to see. At the time, Saturn was visible at night in our hemisphere, but not much else that I could actually identify and find. Well, recently Jupiter has decided to grace the night skies in Texas, and so last week I grabbed the Telescope and pulled it out to the sidewalk. It was just my luck that my neighbor’s trees were right in the way! I was just considering my options when he just happened to come outside, and so I told him what I was up to and asked him if he would mind my setting the scope up on the sidewalk in front his house. He seemed pretty tickled at the idea and told me to go right ahead and help myself.  Once I found Jupiter in the scope (which is a little harder than you might imagine), I went and grabbed my wife and children and dragged them outside. There we all were, freezing cold, standing in front of my neighbor’s house, oohing and awing at Jupiter and her moons through the telescope. We knocked on their door and invited my neighbor and his son out to take a look too, and I was most gratified to see that they were both clearly fascinated and interested.

Jupiter and four of her moons. Photo courtesy of

The last few months have been a bit of a perfect storm for me weight wise. The blood clot that I had in my leg, combined with the exhaustion, jitters, and vertigo  resulting from the medication that they have me on for it, means I’ve stopped doing any kind of exercise. Combine that with the large meals and assorted sweets served through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and a slow down at work resulting in my having a lot of idle time, and you have a recipe for my gaining a good deal of unwanted weight.  Needless to say, when I started trying to pick out an outfit for a service call to Denver, I wasn’t exactly shocked when I discovered that many things didn’t fit me anymore. I had just bought two or three dresses a few months ago, and had wanted to wear one of them, but the damn things don’t fit now. I could get ‘em on all right, but they don’t “fit”. Feeling more than a little disgusted at myself, I put the dresses back into the closet and started looking for fat girl skirts and tops. I swear I’m not making this up, but in a closet absurdly stuffed to the bursting point with clothing, I actually caught myself thinking “Damn it! I have nothing to wear!”  Well, eventually I found an outfit that didn’t exactly thrill me, but at least it would fit me.

That night, after I got my stuff all packed up and ready for the mornings trip, I sat at the dining room table trimming my nails and putting on a coat of clear nail polish when it suddenly struck me – I really didn’t feel any particular desire to fly pretty. I was running on auto-pilot, doing things the way that I always do them, but there was no real excitement or interest behind the actions.
“Then why the hell are you doing this?” I thought to myself.
I had stopped mid stroke with the nail polish, and must have had a dumbfounded look on my face, because my wife gave me an odd look.
“Are you OK?” She asked, clearly concerned.
It’s been like this ever since I got the blood clot. Every time I look confused she gets a worried look on her face, or if I drop something when she is not in the room, I hear her calling out “Are you all right?”  I think that she is worried that I’m gonna get a blood clot in the brain and go toes up on her.  Maybe, but not today! I don’t like it that she is so clearly worried about me, but on some level it is kind of nice to know. Does that make any sense?
“Oh, I’m fine, just a little confused.” I replied to her.
“How so?”
“Well it just occurred to me that I don’t have any real enthusiasm for doing the drag thing, so I’m sort of wondering why I am going through the effort. Has it just become a habit or something?”  I mused out loud. She paused for a moment, and then put her hand on my shoulder.
“Only you can answer that one.” She told me with something kind of like a smile on her face.
“I dunno .“ I told her, and then finished my nails. I’d gone through too much effort at this point to not fly pretty.

The next morning I got up at oh-dark-thirty to get ready for my trip. I found myself first concerned and then angry when I started to apply my eye liner, because my hands were so shaky that it was hit or miss. I hate the way that the drugs they have me on for the blood clot makes me feel. Frequent vertigo, unstable, shaky, and just not quite with it. I did manage to get it done eventually though, and at last, with my “face on”, I was about to leave the bathroom and get dressed when I heard someone coming down the stairs. By the sound of the footsteps, I was pretty sure that it was my wife, but I poked my head around the door to take a peek just to be sure. Sure enough, my wife came stumbling down the stairs, with bed head hair flared out like that of a lioness. She has always laughed when I tell her so, but I really do think this is when she at her cutest.
“Good morning!” I told her, trying to sound cheerful even though I kind of hate it when she sees me with makeup on. I know she doesn’t like it and so I try not to let her see it, but I hadn’t anticipated her deciding to get up at 5AM when she could be sleeping in.
“ ‘Morning” she mumbled back at me, still making her way down the stairs.
“You’re up kind of early don’t cha think?” 
“Don’t panic – just go on and get ready!” She replied with a quick smile, and then made her way past me to get to the coffee pot where I had already brewed a pot for her. I hadn’t realized that she knew that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with her seeing me these days. . .
In a bit, I had myself together and with my baggage in my hand, when she met me at the door.
“You wanna kiss a drag queen goodbye or would you rather not?” I asked her, trying a little self-depreciating humor to lighten things up.
“No, I don’t want to kiss a drag queen, but I will kiss my husband.” She told me, and then reached up on her toes to kiss me goodbye.  Honestly, I thought that was kind of a sweet answer.

When I arrived at the Austin airport, I was stunned to see how long all of the lines were, even though I suppose I should have anticipated this on account of it being the second of January. I’m sure that there are a lot of people that travel to be with family on the holidays, and then have to make their way home after New Years. Even the “Premium” passenger lines were so long that they were extending down the concourse. I couldn’t help but laugh when I noticed that the normal line was moving much faster than the premium line was, and that I would have been much better off had I gotten into that line instead. Still, it is what it is, and so I waited my turn to talk to the TSA inspector.
“Please state your first and last name?” She asked me as she took my ID and tickets to inspect them.
“Matthew Huddle” I told her, kind of hating this question as always, for all of the obvious reasons. It was a little fun this time though, because you could almost hear the whipping sound as her head jerked back up to look me. Slowly a grin formed on her face, and then she returned her eyes to my documents and started to mark on my tickets.
“Yeah, I know, not exactly what you were expecting to hear huh?” I asked her with a laugh.
“Oh no, we get quite a few like you here, but most are nowhere near as convincing! You have a wonderful flight!” she replied with huge smile on her face and while handing me back my documents. Considering my serious lack of confidence these days, I was really gratified by her obvious surprise and offhand compliment and this did much to boost my confidence.

The job in Denver wasn’t terribly difficult and so I found myself back in my hotel the following evening at a reasonable time. There was a time when I would have broken my neck to get a shower, trowel on some makeup, and then get out of the hotel to go find something to do, but these days I’m just too damned tired all of the time. I had an invitation to join a couple of people for the evening, and seriously considered it before regretfully declining the invitation. I was tired as always, had to be up at 4 AM to catch my flight home, and I had received a message from my wife that my oldest son William and his wife were separating. I wonder if it is something in the air, or something contagious, because there is a lot of that going on in our family these days. My sister in law just got her divorce, my brother in law and his wife just separated, and now my son and his wife. It took me a few tries to get him to answer his phone, but I finally reached him and we spoke to him for a while.
As you might expect, he is hurting.
I also checked on my daughter in law, his wife, to see how she was doing, and she is also hurting.
I have no idea what to say to either of them. There is nothing that I can think of that makes something like that “better” for the people going through it. I have no idea if they will go through with a divorce, or if they will work it out, I just hope that in the end they will both be happier and perhaps even remain friends. Sigh . . .

The following morning, 4AM came WAY too early and so I wasn’t at all delighted when the alarm went off and I had to drag my sorry ass outta bed. It took a minute or two, but I managed to get it done. As I exited the hotel lobby, I was greeted by a world covered in cold and white stuff to a depth of about two to three inches. It was dark, cold, and bleak – pretty much the perfect mirror for my own feelings at the moment. I knocked the snow off of the key points on my rental car, and of course I somehow managed to dump a load of snow directly into the drivers seat, so I had to spend an additional few minutes trying to get it cleared before I could get into the car that was just starting to provide warm air from the heater vents. 

Fortunately I’ve lived many years in places that spend the winter covered in snow, and so the short drive to the Avis lot at the airport posed no real challenge for me.  When I pulled into the Avis rental car return area, I parked and waited for someone to come and check the car in. I waited, and waited, and waited. . .    Eventually it became clear that no one was coming and so I grabbed my things and headed to the shuttle bus, and was met half way there by the driver.
“We don’t have anyone checking in cars yet, but if you are Avis preferred you will get a receipt in your email.” He told me apologetically as he grabbed one of my bags and helped me get them onto the bus.
“Ok, no worries then!”  I told him, and then thanked him for his help.
“Do you have all of your things out of the car, and did you leave our keys in it?” he asked from the driver seat as he was fastening his seat belt and preparing to pull out. This is a question that they always ask before leaving the lot, and to be honest, it kind of annoys me. What do they think – that I knowingly left my things behind? If I knew I had left something in the car, I would have brought it with me. Still, I laughed and assured him that I had my things, and he pulled out of the lot.
We were the only two in the bus, and so I went ahead and struck up a conversation with him.
“Beautiful day y’all are having here!” I told him.
“Oh yeah!” he said with a laugh. “Still, it’s not that bad. At least it’s not cold! I hear that in Detroit it is something like minus twenty right now so we should count our blessings!”  I almost choked when he said this.
“Oh great! I’m going to Detroit Tuesday!” I told him, and we both laughed at my misfortune.
“So where are you from?” He asked.
“Austin Texas. We don’t allow snow there.” I told him, rubbing it in a little.
“That’s not entirely true!” he replied to me with a laugh. “I’ve got a good friend who moved to Houston and he called me not long after. He told me that there was one inch of snow on the ground and the entire city was in a panic and shut down for it!”
“Yeah, we don’t have the equipment to handle snow there. No plows and no salt trucks, so on the rare occasion that we get snow, it is a disaster.”
“Well, my buddy complained that he didn’t have a snow shovel and couldn’t shovel his driveway. Being the smart ass that I am, I bought him a snow shovel and mailed it to him. He sent me a photo of it hanging in his garage with a ‘for rent’ sign on it!”
“That’s awesome!” I told him when we stopped laughing.

After he dropped me off at the curb, I grabbed my tool box and baggage and made my way to the Delta kiosk where I was once again stunned at the length of the lines. I didn’t count them, but I’d guess that there were at least a fifty people in the normal line, and at least 20 people in the First Class / Premium line, and neither line was moving! I stood there in line for a solid 10 minutes and it didn’t move once, and so I began to grow concerned that my getting to the airport two hours early might not have been early enough!  There was a Delta representative walking along the lines, making sure that everyone had checked in and had a boarding pass before getting into the luggage line, and at least half a dozen times she was stopped and yelled at by people angry that they were going to miss their flights. I still had an hour and a half, and I was a nervous wreck, but I could hear people yelling at her that they only had twenty minutes left to make it to their gate. At first she remained polite and calm, but one guy got fairly loud and belligerent until her replies grew hard and cold.
“It is not our fault that you didn’t come to the airport early enough. You should be here at least an hour before your flight, and if you’re going international, you should be here at least two hours early.”
“What the hell do you want us to do? Sleep the F’ing airport? Get here at God damned 1AM? You guys are a JOKE!” he yelled at her. I guess that maybe it is the US Army still running in my blood, but I found myself thinking ‘Yeah, if that’s what it takes, then that’s what you do asshole!’  This ‘conversation’ was clearly degrading and so the Delta representative wisely removed herself from it by moving in my general direction.  It had now been about 20 minutes and my line still hadn’t moved, so  I was starting to get seriously concerned that I was gonna miss my flight despite having arrive at the airport so early. It was right about then that an idea struck me and so I called out to her.
“Ma’am?” I called until I got her attention and she made her way over to me. “Do you know if there is a curb side check in?”
“Sure! It is right on the other side of that window.” She said, pointing at the exterior window/wall that showed heavy snow falling outside.
“Do you have any idea what kind of line they have?”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t”
“No worries and thank you.” I told her, trying to treat her like a decent human unlike the assholes that she had been dealing with.  I stood there in the line that still hadn’t moved, debating if I should give up my place in line to go check the curbside, but the man in front of me volunteered.
“I’ll tell you what, if you will watch my stuff and hold my place in line, I’ll go look?!” he offered.
“You have a deal!” I accepted his proposal with a laugh.
As soon as he walked off, the line made its first advance and I had to shove his bags forward, and then move my own. In maybe two minutes he walked back up in a hurry.
“There’s only two people in line out there!” he almost whispered, afraid that everyone would hear him and bolt for the door before he could get his bags. Since he had done the leg work, I let him grab his stuff and go first, and then I chased him out of the door. Sure enough, there was virtually no line at all outside in the snow storm, and I was grinning like an idiot as I put my bags up on the scale and handed the lady behind the counter my documents. In less than five minutes, I had my baggage checked and was ready to go, and o I reached for my backpack – and it wasn’t there . . .   Oh shit. . . . 
Let’s see, it’s got my company laptop, my Ipad, my Camera, my GPS, the documents needed to bill customers for my last three service calls, and it’s all gone. I all but ran back into the airport, hoping against hope that I might have set it down as I had stood in the never ending, never moving line, but that was not to be. The more I thought on it, I couldn’t remember having it on the rental car shuttle bus with me, and as heavy as that darn thing is, I would have recalled dealing with it. I quickly reached the conclusion that I must have left it in the darn car back at the Avis lot. I wanted to kick myself for the arrogant way that I had been irritated when the bus driver had asked if I had all of my things. I guess karma really is a bitch.
I didn’t have a phone number for Avis, and so I ran into the airport looking to see if they had a desk inside. Avis did have a kiosk there, but at this time of the morning it was not yet occupied. I was just starting to feel despair when I notice a red phone on the counter, and so I picked it up and listened to the ringing on the other end while my heart pounded in my chest. After about a dozen rings someone answered it, took my information, and then he agreed to go look and call me back on my cell phone. A few minutes later, I received his call, and he let me know that he had found it and would try and get it on a bus to me. I only had 45 minutes before my flight, and if the lines through security were even half as long as the lines at the airline counters, this was gonna be a show stopper.

 After about fifteen minutes had gone by, an Avis bus did finally come by, but he did not have my bag and had absolutely no idea what I was talking about when I asked him about it. I found myself trying to decide if I should miss my flight to get my bag, or leave the bag behind and hope that Avis would get it to me. In the end, I figured that I would be better off missing the flight if it came to it. There was over two thousand dollars in electronics in that bag, and some of it was owned by my company. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to imagine that my company might be less than happy with me for simply forgetting their very expensive laptop, not to mention that it had the potential to compromise our network.
 “Yep, gonna have to miss that flight and suck it up and pay whatever it costs to get another one!” I thought to myself. 
“Hmmm . . .” I thought , “ ‘Pay whatever it takes!’ Now there is an idea!”
I took out my phone and called the guy at the Avis lot.
“Listen, if he gets it to me in less than 10 minutes, I’ll give $50 cash, on the spot, to the guy that brings me my backpack!” I all but shouted at him, adrenalin and anxiety getting the better of me. Compared to what it would cost me to get new flights, or to replace anything in that bag, $50 was a hell of a deal.
Well, I guess the “bribe” was a pretty good idea, because in just a hair over five minutes, a completely empty Avis bus arrived at the curb carrying only the driver and my backpack.

I did make my flight and so it was probably the best $50 I ever spent I guess . . .