Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Car Towed at the Smithsonian

I just can't seem to get away from the US Army! lol
Just teasing - I loved the Army! I spent over 12 years active duty Army and regret very little of it - it was an awesome experience. If it weren't for my joining the Army, my life would have been so much poorer. I would not have the education I now I have. I would have never left that small town in Southern California and so would not have seen so much of the country and the world. I would not have met my wife, had children, and become the person I am.

Anyway, this time I'm off to Aberdeen Proving Grounds where one of our instruments is working poorly. I got it up and running with very little trouble, and so am done before noon! I bet you can guess what I wanna do with the rest of my day!

Before I had left home for this repair I had searched the Internet for things to do here and was stunned to discover that I would be only a hour and a half from Washington DC. Politics, the white house, etc, do not interest me in the least, but the Smithsonian Air and Space museum is almost my holy grail and it is in downtown D.C.! I mention my intent to my customer and she tells me parking can not be found in the city and suggests that I should park outside the city and take the metro in. For those of you that have gown up or lived in a city, "The Metro" may be old hat, like taking a bath, or brushing your teeth, but for a small town girl, the metro is a great big and scary idea! I'd have no idea how to get around, pick the right route, get off at the right place, get back to my car, etc, etc. I would have no idea how others on the metro may take to me if they "read" me. Put bluntly, the idea scared the hell outta me. I told my customer "Thank you very much, but it's not gonna happen".

 I get back to the hotel and get ready as quickly as I can. Not a lot of time to waste as the museum closes at 5:30PM. As usual, I take a few pictures to record the memory, and head out the door. Started off in a brown pair of pumps that work perfectly with my outfit, but I discover a problem walking across the parking lot.

When wearing hose, my feet keep sliding right on outta the shoes, so something has to go - either the shoes or the hose. Sorry, but I AM a cross dresser so the hose aren't going anywhere - I change my shoes! :-)

Get into WA at around 3:30 and find the Smithsonian with little effort. After my customer told me what a nightmare it was to find parking there, imagine my surprise and joy when I see a number of parking spots right in front of the Smithsonian! Very pleased with myself and my decision not to take the metro (you might say I was feeling smug), I pull up to the curb, load up the meter, and head inside.
There are three guards there, and I am told that I need to send my purse through the metal detector. I still had my keys in my hand and started to drop them onto the belt as well, but one of female guards smiles and says "Don't worry about them hun". I am just about positive that she has "made" me (realized that I am male), but she is nice and so it doesn't matter.
Get through the security check point and am in the Smithsonian! (Cue the sound of angels and a large choir "AHHHHHHHH"). I try to stay calm but my heart is pounding and I'm scared to death that everyone that will see me will make me. I literally walk in circles for almost five minutes, looking at a lot, but not really seeing any of it because of my nerves. At last, I calm down, my brain engages, and I start to truly look around and enjoy myself.

Anyone reading this on the Internet can go to the Smithsonian's web page to see what exhibits were there, so I wont give you a complete list here, I'll just touch on a few of my favorites.
  • The Pershing II Missile. Standing tall and proud among its bigger brothers and sisters, was one of the very few remaining Pershing II missiles in the world. Maintaining and repairing this missile and all of it's support equipment was my first adult career, the start of my adult life (Army MOS 21G). It looked so odd standing there on the floor, without its erector/launcher platform. When in use, this missile would have never been mated and standing on the ground as displayed here. Unlike the two other remaining missiles I have seen in recent years that are all in outside displays, THIS missile is inside, well taken care of, and not showing its age. The other two I have seen (at Ft Sill and White Sands Missile Range) were outside, not maintained, and were litteraly rotting. I know it sounds stupid, but seeing those other two missiles, my lifes work, rotting and rusting brought me to tears. At least this one is being treated with dignity and retains her pride.
  • The Wright Brothers flier. Wow - the beginning of aviation! Yes, I know the Wright Brothers didn't start Aviation, but they sure gave it a heck of a boost!
  • A mock up of Skylab. I remember when America had our own space station, and I remember when it came crashing to the ground.
  • A working 100% accurate replica or the Viking landers! This is NOT a model, but is a duplicate of the lander that we landed on Mars. How cool is that??!!
  • The model of the USS Enterprise from the Star Trek (the original series) TV series! When you hear that things are done with models, you picture something like the cars and planes you put together as a child. Uh huh, nope! This model, that was actually used to film all of the shots of the Enterprise is HUGE! It's got to be at least 7 feet long and about 4 high! (I'm sure someone is going to correct my guesstimate).
So, I have seen these things that fascinate me, seen the Smithsonian Air and Space, and done it as female with not a single glance or odd look - a perfect day! The museum was closing and I was feeling on top of the world as I walked out . . . and discovered my car was gone! I kept walking back and forth thinking "Nah, I must be confused, maybe I'm on the wrong side of the building!". Nope, I wasn't on the wrong side of the building and no matter how hard I wished, my car did not appear. Took a real good look at the meter and discovered a sticker clearly saying that you were not allowed to park there during rush hour (yes, the hours I parked there).

Went back in to the museum and went to the security desk, told him of my screw up, and asked him to please tell me how to get my car back! This gentleman was VERY nice and sincerely helpful and . . . kept calling me "sir". :-( As I've said before, as soon as I open my mouth all illusions are shot to hell.
For those of you that are thinking I should have taken this chance to educate him, tell him "it would be kind and polite to call me ma'am" forget it! When your that far up S%#t Creek, and someone is bending over backwards to give you a paddle, you don't quibble over "sir" or "Ma'am". So he gives me a phone number and an address and I head out to the street where the cabs are parked. I get one with a gentleman that speaks very poor English but he agrees to take me. Went the whole way without the air conditioning on. Considering my state of mind, the makeup and hair, this means my appearance is beginning to degrade. I see him spending almost as much time looking at me in the mirror as to where he is going.
Get to the company that towed my car and the manager leaves me standing outside in the heat for a good five minutes before he can be bothered to ask me what I want. This guy is clearly a "man's" man, and not in the least amused when he looks at my drivers license and figures out I'm not female.
Well the good news is my tools and my laptop are still there, for some reason the towing company did not or could not charge me, and "all" I owe is $100 to Washington DC that I can pay by internet.
This makes two serious incidents I've had involving cars while dressed and I'm thinking maybe I should consider taking cabs from now on!
You know the funny thing? Even having gone through all this junk with the car, I STILL feel that the day was a success and I enjoyed it. Go figure . . .

So here are some of the photos I took that I liked the most. Enjoy!

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