Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Buffalo New York / University of Waterloo

Current mood:rejuvenated

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This week I was off to Buffalo NY and the University of Waterloo in Ontario Canada.
My flights left fairly late so I started the day off by getting my daughter ready and dropping her off at school, then I returned home to get myself ready for the day.
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Almost a year ago I bought a long, beautiful, brown leather skirt, but it’s been far too hot to wear it so it’s been sitting in my closet teasing me. Well, today I decided it was cool enough to risk wearing it, and out of the closet it came.
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Having been pleased with the outdoor pictures I got last week in Kentucky, I started my drive to the airport by heading down a reasonably secluded farm road not far from my home. There was a thick fog that morning and so I was driving pretty slow. I was driving and thinking that the fog might help make the pics look pretty cool, when through the fog I could see a couple of cars almost blocking the road. As I got a little closer I can see that one is a police car and the officer is standing beside his car. I came to a stop and as he approached my truck, all I could think was the fact that my father-in-law goes for motorcycle rides with one of the local cops, and if this is him, my life is about to get real interesting.
“I’m sorry ma’am, but the road is closed” he tells me as he gets to my window.
“Not a problem, I can go around. No worries!” I told him with a wave and a smile, immensely relieved that he is not my father-in-law’s friend. Phew . . .   Still, it had scared me so I drove halfway to the airport before looking for someplace nice to stop again!
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As I was checking in with US Airways for my flight, the lady behind the counter went out of her way to stop and chat with me after getting my bags all checked in. She was a cute young lady (aren’t they all?) and put one foot up on the baggage scale as she started to talk.
“Your shoes are awesome!” she said with a sincere smile on her face.
“Thank you! I have sort of  a thing for cute shoes.” I told her, and gave a wink to top it off..
“I don’t have any choice, I have to wear this!” she said with a look of distaste and while tugging on her uniform.  “I envy you. You get to wear what ever you want. If it were up to me, I’d wear jeans and flip flops.”  I stood there for a moment, wondering if she had any idea how much irony there was in her envying me because I get to choose my clothing.
“Well, I guess I could wear flip flops, but I think I’ll stick with something a bit prettier.” I told her. We chatted about nothing for a moment or two more and then off I went to go through security.
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I had chosen a isle seat in the emergency exit row and was just sitting down when a woman about my own age taps me on the shoulder and tells me that she is in the window seat. Shortly after we both get sat back down she suddenly gets this surprised look on her face.
“Oh no, this is an exit row! I can’t sit here. They need some big strong guy that can lift the door.” She said with a small laugh. I looked at her, wondering if this was really why she wanted to move, or maybe it was a convenient excuse to get another seat, maybe one a little farther from away from me. She seemed sincere though, so I offered to swap seats with her, assuring her that properly motivated, I wouldn’t have the least bit of trouble getting that door out of the way. She didn’t respond to my offer but instead started chatting with me.
“So where are you headed?” she asked.
“I’m going to Buffalo and then on to Waterloo in Canada.”
“Cool. What takes you there?”
“My job.” I told her, keeping it a little vague.
“No kidding! What do you do?” she continued the interview / interrogation. I’m not in the least bit ashamed of what I am, but I’m not so sure that my company would be as proud of me as I am of it, and so I don’t care to tell everyone I encounter who I work for, so again my response was a little vague.
“I’m a field service engineer. When my company sells something, I go install it and train the customer, and when it breaks, I go fix it.” I told her, just positive that her next question is going to be “WHO do you work for.” But it wasn’t.
“What kind of equipment do you work on?” she continued, as people continued to filter past us looking for their own seats.
“I work mostly on our Infrared Mass Spectrometers.” I said, sort of liking the way that it sounds so much more impressive than it really is. Both of her eye brows rose in surprise.
“Wow! You must be a very smart lady!” she said, and I started laughing.
“Not really, but I’ve got my company fooled, and since I love my job, I try to keep it that way!” I told her. Well it turns out that she was sitting in the wrong seat anyway, and soon a tall gentleman approached with a flight attendant in tow to claim his rightful seat. This one was quiet and didn’t want to chat, and that suited me just fine. After we got all settled again, I realized that I had forgotten to put my bracelets back on after going through security, and so I pulled them out of my purse and started fiddling with them. One is fairly hard to get clasped and so I had made multiple failed attempts, when the gentleman next to me speaks up.
“Would you like a hand with that?” he asked me, with a friendly look if not an actual smile. That actually set me back a step with all that it implied. Either he knew what I was and was comfortable enough to still help with the bracelet or he didn’t realize what I was and was offering to help a woman. Either way it was a win-win for me!  Fortunately I got the bracelet clasped on my very next attempt and so required no help. The rest of the day was pretty much a typical day in airports and airplanes, and by the time I got to my hotel in Buffalo at around 730, I was tired and called it a night.
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The following morning I set off for the two hour drive to the University of Waterloo. The repair turned out to be a bit harder than I’d anticipated, but still I was on my way back to Buffalo by around 330PM. I’d been driving for maybe 20 minutes when the car started to make an odd humming noise. This continued for about five minutes and then suddenly there was a super loud grinding / whining sound. My heart leapt in to my throat and I started looking for a place to pull over when the loud noise settled back down to just a scary noise. I was starting to relax a little when suddenly it again made the super loud grinding sound. I no longer trusted this car toget me the hour and a half to Buffalo and so I used my GPS to find an AVIS dealer in the city of Hamilton. After an hour of stop and go traffic I arrive at the spot where the GPS says Avis is supposed to be . . . and there is nothing there! Having no choice, I head back to the freeway in my whining and grinding rental car.  Much to my relief, the car did indeed get me all of the way back, making the loud hum the entire way, but never again making the super loud grinding sound. As with the last time I tried to return to the States from Canada, the US border patrol grilled me, made me pull the car over, and went through it.
“What? Do I have a guilty face or something?” I asked the guard, with what I hoped was a friendly laugh.
“No, we are just doing our job, and have to inspect a few here and there.” He replied. A short while later I was on my way.
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I once again decided to make the flight home “dressed”. This is a mixed blessings thing, because I like to fly pretty as it makes the day a bit more interesting, but I can’t arrive at home dressed because of my daughter. This means that I have to clean up and change in the Austin airport, and this is a bit uncomfortable to do. What the hell though, I’ll take twenty minutes of pain for a day of fun.

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As I dropped the car off, I warned the Avis people about the problems and they appeared supremely unimpressed. Oh well, don’t say I didn’t warn you! Going through TSA security in Buffalo NY was a little fun. The guy takes my ticket and ID with the female picture on it and starts to scribble on the ticket. Then he gets to the name and so help me God, he looks up into my eyes with a look of obvious and complete shock. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such obvious  surprise in someone’s face before and it was all I could do to keep from laughing outright. Clearly he hadn’t had the foggiest clue that I was male until he saw my name. He did recover though, completed the documentation, and told me to have a nice day. I’m still grinning about that as I write this.
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So I wrote this blog on my flight from Buffalo to Charlotte NC thinking that anything interesting that was going to happen had already occurred – I was wrong! On the flight I was fortunate enough to get a free upgrade to first class, something most airlines try and do for their frequent flyers. The man I sat next to was friendly and kept chatting with me, and the flight attendant was a very friendly and outgoing sort. Between the friendly and helpful flight attendant, and a seat mate that was doing the same, I had more than one of those drinks with the itty bitty bottles of alcohol in it. At one point the FA came up to me.
“You know, I’m also a bartender and I know how to make this real neat drink with orange juice in it. Wanna try one?” I looked at the empty cup that had held the screw driver I’d just finished, and at the full cup that held the screw driver I’d just got, and started to laugh.
“Sure, why not?!” I told him, and my seat mate who was also putting down his fair share of drinks laughed. The drink was really quite good, but in the end it meant that I’d had three drinks in a little over an hour, so when I got off the plane, I had to visit the ladies room, and bad. First I tried the “Special Needs” bathroom and found it locked, so out of sheer desperation I went on to the ladies room. As I left the bathroom I stood in the walkway for a moment trying to decide if I should go to my gate or go get something to eat, when someone walked up to me.
“Kimberly?” says this gentleman that I’ve never seen before. It doesn’t happen often, but I have had people walk up to me and call me by name in public before, so I wasn’t exactly shocked. I don’t recall my exact words, but I assured him he had the right person, and so we started chatting. Turns out that he had been looking at my Youtube page just last night, and so he was pretty surprised to discover me in the airport today. Laura and I got something cold to drink and then sat and chatted for about an hour. Talk about a smart person. Laura put herself through college, now owns her own business, and does a good deal of international travel supporting her company. As if that weren’t enough, she also speaks several languages, which comes in handy when you travel international. It was a most pleasant conversation and I was very grateful for her company in passing the time. 
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On the flight home, I sat next to a very young marine that had a pass to go home for the Holiday. He was still in training and so we spoke a great deal about the military and the life he has ahead of him. I was very impressed with him for starting the conversation as one might be inclined to think that a US Marine might not be too eager to chat with a cross dresser. As the flight was landing, one of the flight attendants got on the PA to thank everyone for flying US Airways. After the standard comments she added that she thought Austin was a great place and that her son had just moved here a few months ago. She went on to add over the PA that her son loved the open minded nature of Austin and that she was so happy he had found someplace where he felt accepted and comfortable, and that he loved the “keep Austin Weird” spirit. I couldn’t help myself, when she finished her address with the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan, I looked at the marine next to me and smiled at him.
“Well, I’m doing MY part!” I told him, and heard at least three or four people around us bust up laughing.

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