Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Erie Pennsylvania 2010 02

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This time I was off to someplace I’ve never been before – Erie Pennsylvania.
The more I think about it, the more I am thinking that I may have to stop flying pretty from home unless my flights leave very early in the morning. It’s just too much stress and risk.
Stress in that my wife has started a new hobby of taking pot shots at me as I’m leaving that make me feel terrible about myself as I head for the airport.
Risk in that there is a big difference between getting in my car at 5AM when it’s dark and no one is going to work yet, and trying to do the same thing at 10AM in broad daylight and with people coming and going.
This morning was sort of a happy medium as I had to leave at about 520AM. It was still dark and before most people are leaving for work, and I was out of the house before my wife got up, so I avoided the guilt trip. Still, I was a bit concerned about the chance that one of my neighbors might be leaving for work, so I was a bit apprehensive as I made my way out to the truck.
As I was standing in line at the Delta check in counter, waiting my turn for the self check-in kiosk, one of the male Delta customer service folks walks up to me.
"Ma’am, since your elite, you can go right up to the counter if you like?" he said
"That’s OK, I’m perfectly comfortable with the kiosk" I replied to him. He nodded and said "It’s entirely up to you," with a smile. It struck me that even though I hadn’t recognized him, he must have recognized me, or else he wouldn’t have known that I am gold elite on Delta.
Late morning and afternoon in the Austin airports, you will find very little in the way of long lines going through security. Let’s face it, the airport is not as big as a major hub or anything like that, but in the early morning, you can find some fairly long lines. I suppose it’s all the folks commuting to Dallas or Houston or what ever for their jobs. Fortunately, in the last few months the airport has come to recognize that the lines are long in the morning and have put in special lanes for "premium passengers" – those flying first class or who are frequent flier elite with the airlines. And so it was that yours truly went waltzing past a hundred people all waiting in line and walked directly up to the TSA inspector. As I did, I could hear an assortment of grumblings from the long line.
"I wonder what you have to do to be considered a ‘premium’ passenger?" I hear one anonymous voice quipping with a sarcastic emphasis on the word ‘premium’. For just a moment I fantasized about answering him with "Why cross dress of course!" It was a cute thought, but there was never really any danger of my saying it. Still, the thought put a smile on my face as I handed my ID and ticket over to the TSA agent. In a moment I’m sitting at the gate and realize that as a result of my policy of getting to the airport two hours before my flight, I am literally the only person at the gate. ‘What the heck’ I thought, ‘I can get a picture of me someplace besides a parking lot or my stairwell,’ and so I quickly setup the camera and snapped off a pic or two.

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Not five minutes later, four TSA agents come walking down the empty concourse and stop to chat in front of my empty gate. Every one of them is sneaking glances my way every few seconds, and after a moment they turn around and walk back the way they came, still turning and looking back at me off and on as they walk off. Considering that this is almost exactly what happened last week when I flew from Austin, I’m starting to feel like I am the TSA’s entertainment there. Finally it comes time to board the airplane and I am handing my ticket to the female agent at the gate.
"Hey! We haven’t seen you for a while!" she said with a huge grin.
"Yeah I know. I like Delta but my company keeps booking me on your competition!" I said with a pout and while sticking out my lower lip to make a "boo boo" face. That earned me a great laugh from her, just as I had hoped.
"I kind of figured you were probably flying with ‘them’ at the other end of the concourse" she replied, emphasizing the word ‘them’ in a way that clearly meant ‘the enemy’.

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When the flight landed in Detroit, I made my way to the gate for the Erie flight and spent an hour or so surfing the internet. About a half an hour before the flight was scheduled to leave, I packed up my laptop and other gear and went to stand near the door to wait for the boarding to start. I was standing there waiting when a beautiful woman about my own age, maybe a little older, starts walking toward me. She has long, dark brown hair, with curls falling mid way down her back, and is wearing a dark blue skirt suit – she is everything I wish that I were. I was standing next to a trash can, and I figured that she was probably going to throw something away, and so I moved a little off to the side to get out of her way. Much to my surprise, she altered her path to stop directly in front of me, and even in three inch heels, she probably didn’t clear five foot tall. Considering my own height while wearing four inch heels, this was probably a hell of a sight to anyone looking.
"That is an awesome skirt!" she tells me, with an oddly intense look on her face. It was almost a defiant or proud look, as though she had said to herself and the world ‘I damned well will talk to her and I don’t care what the world thinks about it’, and was then proud of herself for doing it.
"Thank you SO much, it’s one of my favorites!" I told her with a wink, feeling so grateful for her act of kindness and for the courage it probably required of her. In all honesty, I know that the skirt is a bit over the top, but it’s so adorable I just have to wear it once in a while. You know, I spent the rest of the day feeling oddly pleased with life as a result of this woman’s comment.
When I got to the Holiday Inn, I was treated well, as I always am in any of their locations. I seem to recall reading once that the Holiday Inn had run a series of commercials years ago trying to attract the GLBT crowd, but eventually had to discontinue them because they were loosing too much high dollar business from conservatives. Advertising it or not, the Holiday Inn chain clearly is very friendly and respectful of all and I highly recommend them. A quick search on the internet and I discovered that there is a movie theater a couple of miles away, and there were a couple of movies that I was interested in seeing. It was a toss up between "Legion" and "The book of Eli" and since "The book of Eli" started soon, that’s the one I chose. It passed the time, but I’m afraid that I really can’t recommend it. It was mostly about thinly veiled excuses for impressive fight scenes, and a bit light on plot. As I left the theater, a light snow started to fall, and it continued to fall pretty much through the entire next day.

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The repair I was here to do didn’t require long, maybe four hours the next morning, and a good hunk of that time was spent waiting on my customer to find liquid nitrogen. Still, I was back in the car and headed for the hotel shortly after noon. I flirted with the thought of trying to get a flight out today, but I still had 30 minutes of driving to get back to the hotel, and I hadn’t packed my things. I would end up paying for the day anyway AND a $100 for changing my flights, assuming that there were flights to be had. In other words, it would have actually cost my company more for me to fly home today than it would for me to wait for tomorrows scheduled flight. Having justified staying to myself, I got ready and went shopping, to the movies again, and to dinner.

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As it had now been lightly snowing for well over 12 hours, the roads were slippery as hell, and so were the parking lots. I’m telling you, high heel pumps might as well be ice skates when your walking in that kind of stuff. This of course inspired me to take up my search for a pair of boots that I like, and so I started off at DSW Shoe Warehouse. As I entered the store, I see two sales attendants (SA’s) chatting, and the one facing me speaks up loudly.
"Hello and welcome to DSW!" she says.
"Thank you!" I said, trying to speak reasonably softly so that I wont be announcing my gender to everyone in the store with my voice. Still, as I walk in I can see her out of the corner of my eye tapping the other SA on the shoulder and nodding my direction. Soon both of them are looking my way, and I am once again wondering what it is about me that seems to broadcast that I am a male. I don’t walk like a quarterback nor do I exaggerate the female mannerisms. I’ve looked in enough mirrors that I know I don’t have a neon sign on my head or backside, so I just don’t get it. I did find a pair of boots that I liked, and they even had them in size 10 – my size. Still, I tried them on and found that they were too tight and hurt my toes. That is of course the reason that I long ago decided to never buy shoes with out trying them on. Sizes with female shoes are far too inconsistent and you just can’t assume that it will fit just because it claims to be your size. Disappointed, I left DSW and took a short drive to the mall near the movie theater. As I was walking through it, one of the ladies at a kiosk tries to stop me.
"Excuse me ma’am, have you got a moment?" she asks. I’ve long since lost all patience with this sort of thing, but still I replied nicely.
"No thank you, I’m not interested".
"OK, can I ask you a question?" she presses on. It astounds me. They must send all of the people that work in these kiosks, in all of the malls across the entire country, to the very same training course, because they ALL use this line.
"No, thank you." I again told her and continued walking. If you think I’m exaggerating about how annoying these people are, just ask your wife or girlfriend. These people don’t bother men, but they always put the hard press on women, and it gets to be a major inconvenience to be stopped and harassed every five or ten feet.
I managed to find a paper back book that looked interesting and proceeded to pay for it with the credit card I use for all of my travel related expenses. The clerk takes a look at the card, and then pauses for a moment as if unsure.
"I’m sorry, but do you have an ID for the credit card?" she asks. I used to hate showing my ID when femme, but since I got a state ID with my femme picture on it I actually get a kick out of it. It still shows my legal name and gender, but has my femme picture on it. Anyone looking at it still knows that I am transgendered, but at least I don’t have to show them my ugly pic.
Walking back down the same hallway to return to my car, I can see the kiosk woman that had stopped me earlier talking to another woman, and soon they both turn to watch me approach. As I get close, she steps out to meet me again, this time holding a tube of lotion.
"Did you change your mind?" she asks with a happy little grin, making it clear that she is kidding.
"Nope, still not interested!" I told her with a laugh.
"Listen, can I ask you a question? Honestly, it’s got nothing to do with this stuff," she said, waving a hand at her kiosk. Considering that she said it had nothing to do with her goods, and thinking that maybe she was sincere and perhaps interested in asking about my being trans, I actually stopped, and she started in as soon as I did.
"You polish your nails sometimes right?" she asked. At this point I can see the box of nail buffing products she is holding and start to seethe that she had misled me into stopping. I’ve had the whole nail buffing sales pitch before and wasn’t at all interested in spending $40 to buy the same stuff I could get at Target for $10.
"No thanks" I interrupted, and turned and walked away.
Next, I headed for the movie theater where I watched "Legion". It had some intense moments, but once again it was not a movie I’d go out of my way to see if I were you. It was more or less a horror flick with lots of blood, guts, and gore. That’s the sort of movie that I might get on DVD, but would rarely pay to see at the theater.
Trying to save money, both my own and my companies, I have been eating a lot of inexpensive fast food the last couple of months, and I’ve reached the point where I’ll scream if I have to eat one more burger. Tonight we eat at the Red Lobster! As they are at most restaurants, the hostess was drop dead gorgeous, and led me to a table in the corner and sat me facing away from most of the customers. I would have thought she was trying to keep me out of sight, either as a courtesy to me or to her other patrons, but she sat me right next to a family of about eight people. There is a young girl, maybe eight or nine facing me, and she is fidgeting a lot as do most children of this age. She keeps looking at me, but doesn’t look alarmed, or excited, so I wasn’t sure if she had "read" me or not. Finally I returned her look and smiled and winked at her. She gave me back a huge smile and returned to fidgeting. As they are finishing their dinner, I hear part of the conversation.
"It sure is going to be a long flight," she said, sounding exasperated. "It says we arrive at 2:30, but I don’t know if that is our time or theirs. Don’t we go through three or four time zones? If that is their time, it’s a real long flight!"
"I don’t know if it’s our time or theirs Momma," I hear a younger woman respond, and then hear a number of the others agreeing that they also had no idea. As I just about live on airplanes, I know that the arrival time is always given in the time of the place you are landing, but I hesitate to insert myself in to their conversation. After a few more comments about the topic, all expressing uncertainty and anxiety, I decide to speak up.
"Ma’am? The arrival time on your ticket will be the local time where you are landing." I told her
"Really? Have you been there?" she asked me nicely and with a note of excitement. At this point I had no idea where they were going – I hadn’t heard that.
"No, but it really doesn’t matter where you are going – they will always give the arrival time in the local time. Trust me, I fly a lot!" I told her with a grin.
"Well thank you then, I appreciate that!" she said.
"Your most welcome." I replied. "So where are you going? Someplace warm I hope?" I asked and was greeted with laughs around the table.
"We are going on vacation to Hawaii!" She said, looking around the table at her family, where all were clearly excited and delighted to be heading out on this adventure.
"You know that is one of the few places that I haven’t been to yet. Can I come with y’all?" I asked while batting my eyes, and was once again rewarded with laughter from around the table.
"Sure you can. We leave from the airport at 530AM tomorrow morning!" she said, playing along.
"I’ll be there!" I assured her, and I was there, but I accidentally went to Austin instead of Hawaii . . .

1 comment:

  1. I would love to try shoes on before buying, but I'm a size 12-13 girl. Finding size 12-13 shoes is rare, and in stores virtually impossible. I have seen size 13 in a few Payless shoe stores. Needless to say Payless shoes are not all that great. My best luck has been with Aerosoles.