Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lexington Kentucky

This has been a hell of a week. Friday the thirteenth of November, I decided to get sick during training that I was giving to NASA on one of our Mass Spectrometers. Yeah I know it’s an exaggerated reputation, but thank goodness that those guys at NASA really are that smart. I normally spend two days to train people on that thing and these guys were confidently operating it in only four hours. Considering that I was loosing my voice during the training, it’s a good thing!
Well, what ever it was I came down with, it knocked me on my behind and kept me there for an entire week. I had customers lining up but I just wasn’t in any shape to get on an airplane until Thursday rolled around.

Thursday, I headed out for the University of Kentucky in Lexington for a service call. Still feeling pretty rough, I flew the good old fashioned way - boy mode. I figured that it didn’t matter how good I may or may not look, if I let loose with a deep and thoroughly male coughing fit, the illusion of femininity was definitely going to be destroyed. It turned out that it was a good thing I did though. The FAA had some sort of computer outage that more or less shut down or delayed all flights in the US for something like four hours. After they got their computer back up and running, things were in a shambles. My flights were all delayed, rebooked, and then they lost my baggage, not getting it to me until just short of midnight.
I had a good laugh getting on the plane though, as I and another passenger found our seats all the way at the back of the plane. The other guy points to the wall of the flight attendant station that blocked his view of the inside of the plane, and then he pointed to the solid wall of the jet engine just outside his window, and laughed.
“It sure is a good thing I’m not claustrophobic!” he said with a laugh.
“Well, look at the bright side,” I told him “If the plane goes down, you wont see it coming.” He gave a short laugh then stopped.
“Hey, hold it. That’s not funny!” he said, giving me a mock dirty look. A couple of moments later he gets my attention again, and points at the emergency exit in the tail.
“At least we don’t have far to run screaming.” He said. A short moment later, he continued . “Then again, that plane that went down in the Hudson a while back. Didn’t it fill with water from the rear?”
I just looked at him for a second.
“Say, your just full of bright and cheerful thoughts aren’t you?” Then it was my turn to pause for effect. “Say, that’s not funny!”
As I said, when I arrived I found that my baggage hadn’t, and that played out the way that it always does. A bit of paper work and then off to my hotel where I waited until just short of midnight for my bags to arrive. While I waited for them, I went down to Bogart’s, the hotels Pub, where I had a free drink and an expensive fish sandwich. While I sat there chatting with a couple of guys at the bar, a band came in and started setting up instruments and doing their sound check. They sounded awesome and I started to get excited until the bartender told us they were just setting up but wouldn’t actually be playing until Friday night. Since I’d been sick early in the week, I had set this trip up to do the repair on Friday night and travel on Saturday, so I made up my mind that I would come back tomorrow night to hear them. The hotel was called the Campbell House and was part of the “Crowne Plaza” franchise - a much nicer hotel than most that I stay at, and so it wasn’t exactly going to be an imposition for me to spent the evening there.
The following day, I felt a bit better, but I was still a long way from the top of my form. The drive to my customers location was almost like going back in time, with huge houses, immense lawns, and wooden fences with horse runs and corrals every where you look.
The two people that I worked with at the University were both from China and very friendly and pleasant people to deal with. They had inherited our Mass Spec from someone that had moved on from the University, and were given no training what so ever on it’s upkeep and operation and so I spent a good deal of time teaching them about it. While the repair itself took me only about three hours, I spent so much time training them that I didn’t get out of there until about 2PM and so was back at the hotel at about 3.
I sat there in my hotel staring at the wall and trying to decide if I felt well enough for it to be worth the time and effort of getting “dressed”, and ultimately decided I would give it a go. Worse case scenario, I could head right back to my room and go to bed!

I pulled out a long white skirt I had bought recently but not yet worn. I smiled as I considered how many people were going to at least think to themselves “White after labor day??!!” but I figure what the hell. I’m already breaking the cardinal fashion rule: “Men shall not wear women’s clothes!” so why worry about the white after labor day thing?!

It was still fairly early when I was ready and so I decided I’d go see a movie. I headed to the theater, intent on seeing “2012”, but I had failed to consider that this was a Friday night in a major city – EVERYONE was going to the movies. I circled the parking lot in a line of other cars all looking for parking, until 20 minutes after the movie started. Still not having found a parking space, I decided that the movie was a bust and went shopping instead. I went through the mall there in Lexington, hitting my favorites – Macy’s and Dillards, but I found nothing I liked and could afford.
I am growing to really hate the kiosks that all of the malls now have filling the walkways. I swear, in male mode they don’t ever talk to or bother me. In female mode every damn one of them wants to stop me and try and sell me something. In every kiosk, at every mall around the country, it’s always the same line too:
“Excuse me Miss, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
Grrrr.  . . .

I couldn’t help but giggle as I walked past one store while looking in to see if there was anything interesting. Two pretty SAs were behind the counter and one of them practically yelled all the way out the door to me.
“Hi ma’am, come on in!” she said. I looked up at them to find both are looking at me with curious smiles and so I smiled and waved at them. Both of them broke in to the biggest grins you have ever seen. Good news / bad news kind of thing. They were both clearly curious and cool but they had also clearly decided what I was all the way from the door. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think you yell out the door at just anyone that is walking by. Still, I’ll take the curiosity and honest smiles any day.
I returned to my hotel where I went directly to Bogarts, the pub, and ordered some food and staked out a table where I could watch the band that was to start in about an hour. It struck me while I was sitting there that I really am a nerd. There I sat in my long white skirt, black mary janes, in a pub, watching Babylon 5 on my IPOD. Yup, a nerd. . .
I got a few curious looks from folks as the place started to fill up. Nothing rude or anything of the sort, just curious. That might be as much from the fact that I appeared to be about the only person actually alone there too though.

I was delighted with the band just as soon as they started. I’ve heard some that may be technically better, but these guys had “it”. "It" being that hard to define quality that makes them interesting to watch and hear. The lead singer sounded a like a cross between Gary Puckett and Tom Jones and was just full of confidence and attitude. Wow what I’d give to have that kind of confidence and power behind my own vocals!  They played a lot of music that I knew and liked and soon the dance floor was full. I noticed that most of the crowd was in their late 50’s and older, with one woman easily in her 70’s. Still, I had to hand it to her – she was well dressed and wearing a skirt suit that I wouldn’t mind having my damn self, and unlike me, SHE was out on the dance floor.

I was just starting to consider this when someone tapped me on the arm and startled me so bad I almost went to the roof. I glance over to see Kenny Rogers standing at my side. OK, it was not Kenny, but they could have been brothers.
“Excuse me, do you ever dance with short guys?” he asked me with a huge grin.
“Oh no, I don’t dance with ANY guys!” I told him with a nervous laugh. “Dancing scares the hell out of me!”
“Well that’s too bad, because you look like your bored to death just sitting there.” He said with a classic boo-boo lip.
“I am so flattered and thank you for the invitation, but no thank you.” I told him. Still, as he left I felt a bit disappointed. I like the concept of dancing, the concept of maybe belonging and being a part of the crowd, but I literally have a phobia of dancing. I’ve tried dancing maybe three times in my life, and it makes me so scared and nervous that I could darn near faint.
About twenty minutes later, another gentleman came up to my table.
“Come on, lets go shake our things!” he said just loud enough to be heard over the seventies hit the band was playing, and I repeated the same conversation again but with him this time. I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable with the attention, and still wasn’t feeling well, so when the band took a break, I headed for my room. As I was leaving, I crossed paths with a guy just coming in, and he let out a small whistle as he looked me up and down.
“Well Heelllooooo Darlin’!” he said while winking at me. “And how are YOU tonight?!”
Hmmm . . . . interesting night!

Saturday morning I woke up with a start. I’d swear I heard someone yell my name, but I was of course alone in my room. Didn’t matter that it must have been a dream, because my heart was racing and I was wide awake. Checking my itinerary, I discovered that the young lady that makes my travel arrangements had set up my flights to leave at 1PM. I don’t know if she thought this was a kindness to me and was letting me sleep in, or if it was the cheapest flight on a Saturday, but I had a lot of time on my hands. I was starting to pack my things away when it struck me. If I could fit a change of clothes in to my back pack, I had plenty of time to get ready and fly home pretty, and I could then just change in the airport before driving home. My heart started to pound a little harder just thinking about it. Not only would that be flying from a airport other than the one I had become comfortable with, but this was Lexington Kentucky, a place at least as well known as Texas for it’s conservative and religious values. I wonder if there is any chance I’d run in to trouble flying from there? Still, it had been a long time since the thought of doing anything cross dressed had made my heart race, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I had to dump everything from my laptop back pack in to my suitcase to make room, but I did just barely get a pair of shoes and change of clothes in to it, and off I went for the airport!

As I handed in my auto rental agreement, the lady behind the counter was a gem. One of those people with an honestly cheerful attitude and terrific smile, and she was a real pleasure to chat with as she totaled up everything. I was relieved to find that there was no problem at all getting through the security and soon I was on my way to my connection in Detroit. As I sat at the gate in Detroit, I had noticed that it still didn’t indicate that the flight to Austin would be leaving from the gate. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, as I could hear a lady talking to the woman behind the counter about it, and shortly she made an announcement.
“Flight XXX to Austin Texas WILL be leaving out of this gate. If your going to Austin, you're in the right place.” She announced. The woman that had been asking her about it walked by me and I smiled up at her.
“That’s nice to know isn’t it?” I asked her.
“I know! I finally had to go ask them about it!” she replied as she was walking by. Then she stopped walking, hesitates a second, and walked over to me. She reached out and picked up my left hand, and looked at the female wedding ring I was wearing.
“That’s gorgeous!” she practically gushed, causing me to blush.
“Well thank you. You know I bought that at an airport about a week ago for $40.” I said with a laugh and a wink. We chit chatted for a moment or two and then she headed off.

As I write this, I still have to do the Superman thing, and change clothes and clean up in the airport when the flight lands. What the hell, if superman can do it in a phone booth, I can do it in a bathroom. Anything boys can do, I can do better . . .

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