Well, this trip started off with absolutely nothing of interest to write about. It had actually annoyed me that I was going to have to write a blog saying “I took a trip to Buffalo New York and nothing of any interest what so ever occurred. Here’s a couple of pics – have a nice day!” Well, in the end it became a good deal more interesting. Isn’t there a Chinese curse something along the lines of “May you live in interesting times”?
It started off as so many before it did, with my getting up far too early so that I would have time to get ready, make the 40 minute drive to the airport, and be there two hours before my 7AM flight took off.
I shook things up just a little bit from my normal fashion and wore a fairly short skirt and a floaty and feminine top under my typical sweater. It wasn’t exactly a major departure from my norm, but hey. . .
As my introduction implied, nothing of any interest at all occurred on my flights to Buffalo. No one made any cute comments, and no one went out of their way to either smile or frown at me.
There had been some fear that the bad weather in the North East might cause me some problems getting there, but that didn’t turn out to be an issue at all. Nope, nothing funny, sad, or bad happened, I just flew to Buffalo, checked in to my hotel, got some exercise, and called it a night – boring.
The next two days were hectic work days. This customer had badly damaged his instrument and was desperate to get it up and running quickly, and in an attempt to help him, my company had sent him a used part from our applications and research department – sort of a loaner to get him up and running while his was being rebuilt. Surprise surprise, the used part had it’s own problems and I wasted an entire day trying to make his instrument work with it, and then troubleshooting to determine that the part we had sent him was at fault. Tired and depressed, I had no urge at all to try and go out, and so just hit up a thrift store or two before calling it a night.
I had started to pack my things away for my flight to Detroit the following morning when I got an automated call from US Airways telling me that my flight was canceled due to the weather. Not delayed, not rebooked, but canceled, so I called the airline and they informed me that there was nothing they could do to get me out of Buffalo for two days! I was just about to just rent a car and make the 6 hour drive to Detroit (through a blizzard) when I got a call that my company was going to send another used part to this customer and so I was asked to go ahead and stay to install and set it up.
The following day rolled around and I received and installed the replacement used part just to find that it also had a serious but different problem. Of course it took me the entire day of trying to get it to work before I at last threw in the towel and admitted defeat. Once again emotionally exhausted from a day fighting a loosing battle, I had no interest in getting dressed up and heading out in the snow and cold. While I wasn’t about to spend the time and effort to get dressed up, I did decide to at least go shopping at the mall in boy mode. The first thing I had to do was find a bathrobe for my six-year-old daughter. You see on my last trip I had found one for myself and my daughter fell in love with it. She has her own bath robe, but it’s your standard terry cloth material, much like a bath towel. When she felt my robe she fell in love with it because it was so soft, and she’s been trying to steal if from me ever since. So anyway, I decided to try and find the critter a nice soft one that will make her smile, and incidentally, keep her from swiping mine! I found one in JC Penny AND it was on sale for like $8, so it was a win win. Next I headed down the mall to Macy’s, just a little amused that since I was in boy mode, not one kiosk attendant bothered me the entire length of the mall. In Macy’s, I hit up the shoe sales rack and was browsing through it when a gentleman took a pair of ladies shoes up to the SA. I can’t hear the entire conversation, but I do hear bits.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” the SA asks him. I can’t hear his response but I then hear her very softly ask another question, no doubt thinking that I can’t hear them.
“Are they for you?” she asks. Again I can’t hear his side of the conversation, but I can still hear hers.
“Well, you never know . . . no, I really didn’t think they were for you . . . just thought I’d ask to see if I can help” her side of the conversation goes on. Soon they are laughing and he leaves, and she and I are the only ones with in 50 feet or so.
“You know, that wasn’t as stupid a question as he might think!” I told her with a grin. “And yes, I am looking for boots for me.” She gave me a great laugh and we sat and joked for a good five minutes before she started walking me around and showing me my options. Eventually we came across a pair that I really liked AND she had them in my size. I told her that I had been having a lot of trouble finding a pair that fit even when they are supposedly my size, and she just gave me a grin.
“Honey, you feel free to sit right here and try them on!” she told me with a smile from ear to ear, and you know what, I did! In the middle of Macy’s sat a tired bald guy trying on a pair of womens boots with 3.5 inch heels. That must have been a hell of a sight for anyone that noticed!
The following day I got up at 3AM to get ready for my 7AM flight from Buffalo to Detroit I get my car all turned in and approach the US Airways counter where I can here the CSR telling the people in front of me that they have no options for flying today and should just go back home for a couple of days. Having heard that, it was with more than a little trepidation that I approached the counter when my turn came.
“Where does your first flight go hun?” she asked.
“To Philadelphia..” I replied, and she started shaking her head.
“And do you stop there, or are you going on somewhere?” she asked, her tone making it clear that I’m in trouble.
“I’m going on to Detroit.” I replied. Once again she shakes her head ‘no’.
“Not today your not. You need to just go home for a couple of days. We have nothing going out of here to Philly and all other destinations are already full.” She tells me with an awkward smile on her face, waiting for me to leave the counter and “go home”.
“Ma’am, I’d love to go home, but New York isn’t it and I can’t get home until your planes start flying! Your sure nothing is leaving today and I have no other options?” I asked.
“Well, your flight MIGHT leave today, but if it does, it’s going to be real late.” She said.
“Fine, I’ll take it. Please book me through then. I don’t care how late it gets there, I have to be in ....Detroit.... for a customer tomorrow” I told her. She kept shaking her head but did issue the ticket and sent me through.
I was supposed to meet a few other TG’s in the Detroit area for dinner, so I sent them my third or fourth email of the last two days concerning my chances of making it there. The emails went something like this over the two day period:
“Yes, I’ll be there”
“My flights are canceled, I wont be there”
“Screw that, I’m renting a car and driving, so I will be there”
“My manager nixed that Idea, so I probably wont be there”
“Have a flight out in the morning and should make it!”
“Flights delayed – don’t know now”
Then I get an email from the others, more than likely irritated with my on again, off again situation:
“Dinner is canceled!”
As the counter agent had predicted, my 7AM flight was seriously delayed. First to 8AM, then 830, 9, 930 and then 10AM when it finally boarded. Once sitting on the airplane, the pilot comes on and tells us that the Philly airport is still closed so we are going to have to wait another half hour . . . then another . . . After more than an hour they pull the jet bridge back up and tell everyone that they can get off if they need to. I wasn’t about to risk that and remained seated, more or less taking a nap, and I was feeling pleasantly relaxed when they came over the intercom.
“If you are catching a connecting flight to Detroit, please grab your belongings and exit the air craft to see the gate agent about rebooking”. More than a little bummed out, I grabbed my things and went to see the agent at the gate, just to be told that I have to exit the secure area and go to the main counter. I fly a lot and know that this is bullshit, he CAN set us up with flight, but he just doesn’t want to deal with us, but what can you do? I headed out of the secured area, got in line at the front counter again, and wound up talking to the same lady I had spoken to that morning. She took one look at me and just started shaking her head again.
“Hon, I don’t think there’s anything I can do to get you there today. Hold on just a second and I’ll take a look.” She is clearly overwhelmed and yet still trying to do her job. At this point, I’ve absolutely had it with the situation, and place a call to the lady that sets up my travel. While the US Airways CSR is shaking her head and looking for alternative flights, I get this young lady on the phone.
“Hey, air travel is still all screwed up because of the storms and they can’t get me to Detroit for at least one and maybe two more days. Would you check and see if Avis has any rentals available that I can just drive there?” I asked her while looking at the US Airways CSR who is still punching keys and still shaking her head. From my phone I get an answer.
“Yeah, I can get you a car and it’s not that unreasonable either, just a bit more than the car in Detroit was going to cost you anyway.” She tells me.
“Well, by the time the airlines get me there, it’s going to be far too late to get the job done so why don’t you go ahead . . .” I start saying before I’m interrupted by the shouting CSR behind the counter.
“THEY TOLD YOU TO GET OFF THAT PLANE??!!” She practically yells at me, making it sort of an exclamation and a question all rolled in to one.
“Yes ma’am, they did.” I told her, trying to figure out why she was suddenly so excited.
“Well they were wrong! There IS a flight to Detroit from Philly and it leaves at 2PM. You need to get back on that plane!” I swear I’m not making this up, but just as she stopped speaking, I hear the announcement over the airport PA
“Flight 1845 for Philadelphia is ready for immediate departure.”
Guess what flight I was supposed to be on, had in fact been on and was told to leave, and that this CSR is now insisting I need to get back on even though I’m now on the wrong side of the security check point? You guessed it, that’s my flight already boarded and about ready to leave.
“Ma’am, are you SURE?” I asked her. This woman had been dealing with all of the travel nightmares resulting from all of the huge storms in the region, and clearly she was also at the end of her rope, and so was a bit blunter than she might normally have been.
“Honey, you need to get your ass on that airplane, and in a hurry!” She told me with a grin.
“Thank you!” I shouted to her, “Cancel the car!” I shouted in to my phone as I threw it in my purse, and off I ran for the security checkpoint. There was no real line to speak of, just a couple of older women at one xray machine and a couple of young women at the other. I can see that the older women already have their things on the belt, and the young ladies are still messing with their things, so I jumped behind the older ladies, which of course turned out to be the wrong thing to do. Even though their things were already on the belt, they weren’t moving. I don’t know if they were looking for documents, separating their liquids, or what, but they weren’t moving. I grabbed a bin, tore my laptop out if its case, threw my jewelry and coat into another bin, and took it to the other line where the young girls were.
“Ladies, my plane is already boarded and about to take off. Would you mind if I jump in front of you?” I pleaded with them.
“No problem, go right ahead!” they both laughed and waved me forward. I threw my stuff on the belt and quickly went through metal detector, and was shocked when it alarmed. You see, in my rush to get to the gate, I had completely forgotten that I was wearing a chain belt. The TSA guard just shook his head and waved me back out, where I removed the belt and sent it through the machine alone. This time I made it through the metal detector without incident, and fill my arms with my belongings without taking the time to put them away or put them on. In my arms I have my backpack, my laptop, my heels, a bag with my liquids, my jewelry, my tickets, my paper back, and then my chain belt, and I ran like hell to the gate in my stockings. They are literally closing the door as I get there, and open it to wave me through. When I got all of the way down the jet bridge and to the door of the plane itself, I stopped long enough to drop it all on the floor, get my shoes on, and put the laptop away, and then stumble on to the plane still holding a fistful of my belongings. Much to the amusement of those seated around me, I reclaim my seat and collapse. I look across the aisle where there are two young ladies in their 20’s both looking at me and grinning, so I smiled back at them.
“Get on the plane, get off the plane, get on the plane!” I said in an exaggerated tone while rolling my eyes. They both busted out laughing and we chatted more or less the rest of the way to Detroit. As the plane landed and was pulling up to the gate, I was joking with them about what the odds were that my bags had made it through that fiasco to Detroit with me.
“Oh my God! My bags better make it damn it!” one of them said, the idea apparently never having occurred to her that they may not have. Soon after the plane parked at the gate, the young woman next to the window looks at the woman next to her.
“I just saw your bag!” She says to the other, clearly delighted. I was standing in the isle waiting my turn to exit the plane and glanced out the window and at the conveyor belt, and what do you know – there went my tool box!
I had just a short wait outside for the Avis shuttle to pull up, and when it did, the driver got out and insisted that I leave my bags for him to load. This caught me just a little off guard, because these folks all know me by now – they know my name and they damn sure know my gender, and yet he was being chivalrous. Once he got my bags loaded I gave him a small tip for his consideration and was surprised again when he didn’t bother to wait too long for anyone else, and left for the car lot with me as his only passenger. Along the way we spoke about this and that, and among other things, I told him how much I had appreciated the friendly attitude of the Avis folks at the Detroit airport. They have always greeted me with a smile, and it’s not just the smile of someone tolerating diversity, but the honest smile of good people doing a good job. In the end I asked him for his managers contact info so I could let them know how impressed I am with the service there. At the exit checkpoint, the guard once again smiled as he checked my contract.
“I know you don’t need no map! You have a good evening!” he said with a grin as he waved me through.
The following day, Friday, I finished my work with one of my customers in the Detroit area. It was a mixed day as I’d managed to repair one of their instruments, but failed on another. I take it very personally when I can’t get a customer up and running and so it pretty much depressed the hell out of me. Still, at some point I had to throw in the towel and admitted at around 430PM that I didn’t have the foggiest idea why I couldn’t get it to run, and so it would have to be returned to the factory. One major component can not be aligned in the field as it requires a bench top alignment fixture, and I assumed this was the problem, but have no real way to prove it. So, bummed out and depressed, I headed for the hotel, where I got ready for dinner with Jenny, a TG friend in Detroit. All of the other folks that had been willing to join us for dinner the night before could not make it tonight, so it would just be the two of us at Gratzi in Ann Arbor. Due to my working so late trying to fix the one instrument, by the time I got cleaned up and to Ann Arbor, it was 730 and I was half an hour late and I was a basket case. I got the car parked in a garage and headed off walking down main street looking for the restaurant but am not sure where it is. I was running late, starting to feel lost and over whelmed, and feeling more than a tad anxious, when two teenage girls walk up to me.
“Excuse me? Can you donate a little to help?” She asks very politely. Lost in my own worries I almost ignored the girl, but something in her tone got my attention, so I stopped and took a deep breath.
“Donate to what?” I asked her. They told me of their schools efforts to help some of the local people and of an upcoming trip that they had to pay their own way for. It sounded good to me and so I gave them a five dollar bill to many thanks, and turned to leave, but at the last second I turned back.
“Hey, you don’t where Gratzi’s is do you?” I asked them.
“Sure!” they both laughed and one pointed directly across the street at it. I was literally going to walk right on by it if I hadn’t stopped to talk to them. Hmmmm . . . karma . . . it works!
I got as far as the door to the place, and that was where all forward progress stopped. The area inside and outside the door was absolutely packed to the point where it would have required a machete to get through it, and given the week and day I’d had, I would have seriously considered the option if I’d had one. I waited for a moment until it became obvious that no path was going to open up, and then started asking people to let me through as I was meeting someone that was already there and seated. In a few moments I was upstairs, sitting at a table across from Jenny, and I was a complete and utter nervous wreck. One of the things that I couldn’t help noticing as we talked was that every single woman that walked by us was a beauty, and I do mean a 10. They were all perfect, flawless, and gorgeous, and Jenny and I were not the best dressed women there by far. So, if you want to see gorgeous and well dressed women, go to Gratzi’s in Ann Arbor on a Friday night. Of course you might have to fight your way past their hulking boyfriends to talk to them, but hey . . .
Jenny and I sat and talked for about two hours before calling it a night and heading for the stairs back down to the first floor. I have no idea why, it’s not like I tripped on anything, and I’d only had one drink, but I more or less started to loose my balance heading down the stairs. I had to sort of run down three or four of them to keep from falling down all of them on my backside. I looked back up at Jenny who was behind me and I laughed.
“Well, that was just the height of feminine grace and beauty wasn’t it?” I asked. I have no idea what she replied, if she replied at all, because I was mentally just too far gone and made a beeline for the parking garage and made my way back to my hotel. Once safely back to my hotel, I chose to hit up their pub for a drink and found the place almost as packed as Gratzi’s had been. The only seat left was right up under a TV with a basketball game playing, so I pulled up a chair and sat down. Shortly a young man walks up to me and points at the TV.
“I was supposed to be there!” he says, clearly unhappy that it didn’t happen. I glanced up at the TV and then looked back at him.
“You mean in Dallas or at the game?” I asked.
“Both!” he told me, “but I can’t get there because of the weather!”
“Yeah, I know the feeling, I was more or less stranded for two days myself.” I replied.
This led to a few minutes conversation about the weather, the airlines, and how much we both wished we were in Texas!
Here’s the funny thing! I had to stay the weekend to take care of my other customer in Detroit and so I had Saturday and Sunday to do with as I pleased. I could have done anything I wanted in ....Detroit.... but just couldn’t gather any enthusiasm, and so spent my entire weekend doing nothing and going no where.
Monday rolled around and I head off to work with my second customer for the ....Detroit.... leg of this trip. This one was sort of responsible for much of the confusion on this trip because we had set it up to fix ONE machine. That’s how much time I had allocated, and how many components I had brought. Then after my trip had started he called to tell me that he had FOUR he wanted worked on. Hence my being forced to stay the weekend so that I would have all day Monday with him. Good news - things started going my way and I got all four rebuilt, to include one that they had completely torn apart trying to fix it for themselves. Talk about a nightmare, but I got it done and was back at the hotel before 5PM.
I considered shopping, but have no more money and need no more shoes (I know, I know! But if I keep telling myself that . . . ) In the end, I chose to go to the Motor City Casino and donate $20 to their video poker machines. As I was sitting there slowly watching my credits disappear, an older Asian woman takes the seat next to me, and soon her phone rings.
“Herro?” she says, with a VERY heavy Asian accent, though I can’t place it. Having spent time in Korea, Taiwan, and Japan there was a fair chance I might, but I didn’t.
“Who?” she says to the phone, and then again and louder “WHO?”
“No, no, you have the wrong numba. I’m orientar!” she said hanging up the phone and laughing like hell. She looks at me, still laughing.
“Did you hear? I told her I was orientar!” and that set off a whole new bout of laughter at her own cleverness. I laughed with her, because what I can say, it DID strike me as amusing.
“Where are you from?” I asked her in a moment.
“I am from ....Vietnam...., but I don’t tell people that. I just tell them that I am orientar.”
With that, she returned to her machine, and I returned to throwing my money away in mine.
Tuesday morning, I was at long last headed for home, after more than a week on the road and countless flight cancellations and delays. The good news is that my flights didn’t leave until 10AM so at least I didn’t have to race the sun out of bed. So it’s 6AM and I am standing in front of the bathroom mirror trying to decide if I should go male or female. Honestly, I had no enthusiasm for the time and effort required to go female, but I knew from experience that if I didn’t, I would spend the entire day feeling bummed about it. Still, the decision was so touch and go for me that I stood there staring in the mirror for at least five minutes before grabbing my makeup.
At the Avis lot, the driver was the same guy that months ago had sort of teased me about how heavy my tool box and bag were, and he took the opportunity to do it again this morning as I tossed one of them onto the bus.
“Wow that thing is heavy!” he said with a grin on his face. “So where have you been? We haven’t seen much of you!”
“I’ve been working!” I told him. “Just not in Detroit!”
“Well it’s a good thing you’ve been working anyway.” He agreed.
Headed through the TSA check point on the way to my gate, one of the agents was standing at the “First class / Premium Passenger” line. I wasn’t going to bother using that line as the other wasn’t long, but he called to me as I walked by.
“Come on gorgeous, I’ll take care of you!” I didn’t know if I should be tickled or offended. Let’s face it, it’s highly unlikely that he would speak to a genetic woman that way, too unprofessional and far too high a chance of his getting in a world of shit over it. Still, I grinned and entered his line just the same.
Pretty much par for the course on this trip, my flight was delayed by about an hour, but soon I was in Chicago’s O’Hare airport waiting for my next and last flight to get me home. I started the day off not entirely sure if I wanted to make the trip as female or not, and the feeling of anxiety just kept growing through the day. At last, I finally decided that I’d had enough and made up my mind to find a “special needs / family restroom” to clean up and change clothes in. The joke was on me though, because I couldn’t find a private bathroom to change in. I’m sure that in the huge Chicago airport there must have been a private bathroom somewhere, but it wasn’t on my concourse and I didn’t have time to tour the airport hoping to find one. Nothing to be done about it, so I sucked it up and went to the gate to wait for my flight. As I was waiting, there were four soldiers also waiting, only a few feet away, and they keep glancing at me, whispering to each other, and laughing. Normally this wouldn’t have bothered me too much, but my confidence was already low, so it did kind of bum me out. As they were scanning the tickets of the passengers entering the jet bridge to the plane, the CSR looked at me and smiled, and started off kind of a confusing little conversation.
“Wow, your real and not just a Barbie doll! You look so cute!” he said as he was scanning my ticket. The machine couldn’t read it so I had to wait for him to move over to the keyboard and start punching in the numbers. I don’t recall if I said anything back to him or not I was so caught off guard by his comment. He hits the enter key, the computer beeps, and he hands me my ticket back.
“I knew something was up when all of the girls started talking about your cute shoes!” he said with a smile. “Have a nice flight!”
I swear I was in shock as I headed down the jet bridge and trying to make sense out of the brief exchange. I wasn’t sure if he was honestly complimenting me, teasing me, or what.