Thursday, July 29, 2010
I was gonna wear a new skirt and a new top, and as I often do, I laid them out on the bed and I asked my wife if she thought that they went together. She looked at the proposed outfit for a moment before she answered.
“Maybe . . . . on second thought, no, I don’t think so.” she said. She hadn’t seemed all that confident in her answer though, so I thought I’d make my own call on it.
“Well, I think I’m gonna have to buck you on this one because I think they do and that’s what I’m gonna wear tomorrow!” I told her with a grin.
“Ok, it’s your call!” she replied, while walking out the door. She was probably afraid that if she stayed, she’d get hit by shrapnel from the Kim bomb in the room.
The joke was on me though, because the next morning when I put the outfit on, I had to agree with her – damn it! Off came the new top, and on went one of my standard fall backs – a black knit blouse that goes with just about everything.
Absolutely nothing of interest happened going through the airports. The only amusing moment was listening to a mother talking to her children behind me as the plane started to land..
“Yay! The plane is starting to drop! This is SO boring!” says the little boy loudly. Very quickly I hear the mother offer him some advice.
“Please DON’T say ‘we’re dropping’ - say ‘we’re landing’ instead!”
Of course everyone in ear shot busted up laughing.
By the time I had settled in to my hotel room, I’d been up and running for over 14 hours and looked and felt tired, and so I called it a day. I got showered up and went back to caterpillar mode for dinner.
The following morning I headed for the Canadian border to go to the University of Waterloo where I was to repair an instrument. Apparently the Canadians have decided that my prior trips had gone too easily and so made this one tougher. The female immigration agent at the drive through check point grilled me on where I was going and why. When I told her I was going to perform a warranty repair for the University, she wanted paper work showing that the instrument was under warranty. I explained that the instrument was several years old and technically beyond it’s warranty, but that it suffered from a known manufacturing flaw and so we were repairing it free of charge. She still wanted something in writing describing this, and so I pulled up the service report on my laptop and showed it to her, though I had no way to give her a copy. She grilled me for 20 minutes and then sent me to their Customs office where THEY grilled me for another 35 minutes. At last, he agreed I was probably OK to go through, but that since I was carrying over $10,000 in parts and tools in my standard repair kit, I had to go to their “Commercial” office and complete paper work there. Now at the commercial office, they grilled me for yet another 30 minutes!
“I’m sure the University has a broker for this sort of thing. We need you to contact them and have them send us the paper work showing that this is a warranty.” The man tells me after he had grilled me for half an hour. This was the last straw for me though – I’d just had enough.
“I know you guys are just doing your job, and I’ve no complaint with that, but this whole thing has just exceeded my maximum allowed pain in the ass factor. By the time the professor I’m dealing with finds this broker, they find and complete the paper work you want and get it to you, I will be missing my flight home. I wanted to take care of him, but I guess he can just mail the damned thing back to us in the States and we’ll fix it there for him.” I told him. I was mad as hell, but still managed to say it calmly and politely.
He looked at me a second, told me to wait there, and a moment later I hear him talking to a supervisor. Soon she approaches me, asks me all of the same questions, and then tells me I am free to continue on to the University! What do you know – we finally made progress when I threatened to take my toys and go home!
After flying 14 hours, being delayed by their immigration for 2 hours, then driving another 2 hours to get there, it took me a whopping 2 hours to repair the instrument. I thought I was going to have time to go out as Kim, perhaps even to the see Niagara Falls, but I wound up in a huge line of cars trying to enter the US, and by the time I got through that, it was too late and I was too tired to worry about going anywhere.
On the flight home the next morning, I had thought that I was looking pretty good, but when I ordered a Chocolate Mocha, the woman at the counter started every question with “Sir”.
“sir, do you want large or extra-large?”
“Sir, do you want whipped cream on it?”
I might have thought that she was just being rude, but I heard her speak to all of the customers behind me the very same way. English was clearly not her first language and so perhaps it is the custom where she is from.
“Sir. . .”
“Sir . . .”
“Sir. . . “
Oh well . . .
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Just a couple of weeks ago I was in Indianapolis covering a service contract of ours with a customer in the region. Normally we have a dedicated engineer for this customer, but he wanted to take a vacation and so they mailed me in to fill in while he was out. Well, as luck would have it (bad luck for him, good luck for me) shortly after he got back from his vacation he had some sort of crisis with his family and had to turn right back around and leave again, and so here I am back in Indy.
You know, for many years I’ve avoided wearing dresses, feeling that they were not flattering on me. Lately though, I’ve been rethinking this and giving them another go, and to be honest, I’m having a ball. I just bought this dress on sale from JC Penny through the internet and adore it! It fits well, and the white tabs on the sides sort of help give the illusion of a waist AND JC Penny’s was practically giving it away for something like $30! It was a win-win the whole way around.
When I checked in at the Delta counter for my flight, I was helped by the very same gentleman who had helped me the last time, and we had a very similar conversation.
“Hey! Nice to see you with us again! So they aren’t making you take US Scareways anymore huh?” he said with a smile, poking fun at his competition.
“From time to time they still are. Believe me, if I had my way, I’d fly Delta all of the time.” I told him.
“Yeah, that’s what you were saying the last time we talked.” He said with a compassionate tone of voice.
“Well, I’m also Silver on their program, but I never get upgrades from them. You guys have me in first class almost every time I fly.”
“No kidding? I wonder why they don’t upgrade you?”
“I think most of the time they actually don’t even have first class sections, but my last flight with them they had three empty first class seats and still didn’t upgrade me.” I told him with a bit of a pout.
“Well then, we’ll have to make sure that we do better than that!” he said, and he did, because I flew first class the whole way!
I’ve sort of made it my mission to try and chat with the TSA folks at least a little bit while going through the lines and process. I’m not sure why, I guess I just sort of want them to see me as a person and not just as a cross dresser.
“Good morning! How are you doing this morning?” I asked the female TSA inspector who took my ID and tickets. She looked up at me and smiled.
“I’m just fine thanks! How are you?” She replied
“Oh, I couldn’t be a hell of a lot gooder, but I guess I would rather be home and still in bed!” I replied and we both laughed.
As I was placing my stuff on the x-ray belt, a flight attendant walked up behind me. Flight crew can walk right to the front of the line, and often do, but she got behind me. I sort of waved her forward, letting her know it was fine if she wanted to get in front of me.
“Oh no! Thank you, but I’m in no hurry!” she told me.
We were both standing there bored, and waiting for the woman in front of us to get her act together and out of the way, so I looked at her again.
“You know, sometimes I feel like I spend as much time on these things as you flight attendants do.” I told her with a grin.
“Oh I dunno, I pretty much live in the airports and airplanes.” She replied, and we both went back to waiting for the woman in front of us. By now she had set off the metal detector twice and been sent back yet again to take off more jewelry. I looked at the flight attendant behind me, nodded toward the woman that had now held us all up for five minutes, and rolled my eyes. She laughed, and then caught me off guard with a comment.
“Do you ever get tired of smelling dirty feet?” She asked. I was absolutely clueless and had no idea what she meant, and it must have shown on my face, because she pointed at all of the shoes on the X-ray conveyor belt. Until that very moment, the thought had never struck me, and as soon as she planted the thought in my head, I’d swear that I did indeed smell dirty feet. I couldn’t help myself, I busted out laughing.
“You are a mean and evil person!” I told her when I had stopped laughing enough so that I could speak. “That thought had never entered my mind until you said that, and now every damned time I fly, that’s all I’m going to think about when I’m going through this line!”
At last it was my turn to go through the metal detector, and the TSA inspector waived me forward.
“Well! It looks like you made it!” he said with a grin as I passed through with out setting it off.
“Yeah, you would almost think that I had done this before huh?” I asked him with a grin and was greeted by his laughter. Pretty much, this was the last thing to go according to plan all day . . .
You know I flew for years without a single delayed or canceled flight, but these days it seems to be a rare trip indeed where there isn’t some sort of delay. Well that turned out to be the case for my connecting flight from ....Atlanta.... to Indy – it was delayed by an hour. At long last, they start the boarding process. As those of us in the first class section are boarding, they are making their apologies and are telling us that they can’t serve drinks during the boarding process because the aircraft hasn’t been catered yet. This turned out to be a foretelling of things to come, because once the plane was fully loaded, we still sat there. . . and sat there . . . and sat there . . . After 20 minutes the aircraft catering service guy explodes on to the plane, and with lots of frantic activity, swaps out carts and supplies, and in about five minutes he is gone like the wind. As soon as the catering door is closed and he has pulled away, the flight attendant inspects things and starts to grumble. I’m in the first row of seats so I can hear her explaining to the captain that they have not supplied them correctly – there are NO sodas, and NO juice. Apparently airplanes can’t fly if those on board don’t have soda and juice, because we sat on that damned plane another 20 minutes waiting for that guy to come back again and do his job right. Soon people are complaining and joking about the situation. The guy across the isle from me is a real comedian and he leans over and taps me on the shoulder.
“If they will just get this plane in the air, I’ll donate my bottle of water to anyone that needs a drink. What do ya think?” he says with a huge grin, while holding up the small bottle of water they always leave in the first class seats.
“I’m with ya’! Besides, this is only like an hour long flight. If they had just gone, we would have been there by about now!” I replied. About this point, 40 minutes after the flight was loaded, there is another catering guy on board and he and the flight attendant are arguing. I can’t hear the conversation, but this cute flight attendant is clearly PISSED. While they are arguing, the comedian across from me looks around the first class section and starts trying to instigate a riot.
“This is the STUPIDEST reason for a delay I have ever seen! I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and I’ve NEVER been delayed for ‘sodas and juice’!” he says with a grin, though he clearly really is agitated.
Soon the catering guy is throwing little bins of sodas on the galley floor, and as he turns to run after another load, I hear the flight attendant gasp in frustration.
“Those are the wrong bins! They are for a different type of aircraft and wont FIT here!” She almost yells at the catering guy and the captain.
“These are for a ..!” She tells the Captain, raising her hands in defeat and frustration. Finally someone got the bright idea to take the drinks OUT of the bins and just stack them in the carts. One of the Atlanta Delta reps is now standing on the plane, looking apologetic, and clearly trying to see what he can do to help get this flight moving, when the flight attendant had clearly had enough. The flight attendant talks to him, consults with the captain, then comes back to him.
“No, we are aren’t waiting for anything else. Get that man off my plane, we are pushing back NOW.” She said while pointing at the caterer.
Two hours late, my flight at long last takes to the skies, and first class is getting comfortable with an assortment of alcoholic beverages being served all around, and everyone joking about the delay the entire way.
The comedian across the isle from me is apparently a bit of a ladies man. He spent the entire hour and twenty minute flight with the flight attendant kneeling by his seat and him chatting her up. I deeply envy them both. She is young, skinny, and beautiful, with long blond hair in a glorious pile on top of her head. He is not young, but he is clearly comfortable and capable when it comes to talking to beautiful women. I can hear that much of the conversation revolves around wine, and that is convenient as she is bringing him bottle after bottle of it. Later in the flight, after a few too many of those little wine bottles, I hear him tell her with a slight slur to his speech, that he would be delighted to send her a bottle if she would tell him where to send it to. I wonder if this is an honest gesture between two people who had spent an hour talking about wines, or if it was a thinly veiled excuse to try and get her number?
As the plane is landing, I see the lady in the seat next to me getting clearly nervous. She is gripping the armrest so hard that her knuckles are turning white, and as the plane approaches the runway, I can hear her talking softly while staring out the window.
“He’s going too fast, too fast, too fast . . . “ she says under her breath, probably not realizing that I can hear her at all.
“You know,” I said, trying to distract her a little “landing is the one part about flying that makes me nervous too! All the rest of it I’m fine with, but landing gets my heart racing a little.”
“Yeah, well, a couple of flights ago, they landed fast like this and skidded the damned plane on the runway!” she told me, clearly not in the least comforted by my speaking to her.
“Well, I can see how that might tend to make you a little nervous!” I told her with a laugh as the wheels hit the ground with a distinct “thump”.
As the plane approaches our gate, you can hear most of the first class section laughing and cutting up about the silliness of being delayed waiting for sodas. You can tell that most of them have had a drink or two, because they are really letting loose and cutting up. You should have seen the looks on their faces when the plane stopped just short of the gate and the captain comes over the intercom, clearly disgusted with the way this flight has gone.
“Uh folks, it looks like they don’t have a crew ready to guide us in, so we are going to have to wait here for a few minutes. I’m sure they will be here momentarily, so please remain seated and we’ll get you in just as soon as we can.” He says. Now the conversation on the entire airplane goes into over drive, with lots of angry voices mixed in with lots of laughter and joking. I’m kind of with the folks that were laughing, because what is the point to getting excited about it? There is nothing you can do to influence things, so you might as well just relax.
The comedian across the isle from me is having a ball, cutting up left and right, so I get his attention.
“What do ya’ say that you and I go guide the plane in for ‘em?” I asked with a wink.
“That’s a GREAT idea!” he then looks at the flight attendant. “Hey! Let us out! She and I will guide the plane in. You got any of those bright orange vests? I think we ought to have a vest. Don’t you think we ought to have a vest?”
Thankfully, twenty five minutes after we landed, the plane starts to throttle up to pull into the gate area.
“Their just teasing us.” Quips someone.
“Thank God! We’re finally there!” someone else comments.
“We aint there yet! Don’t jinx us” replies a third person to the laughter of all.
Once the seat belt sign goes off, people rocket to their feet and start to grab bags, clearly sick to death of being on this airplane. I’m in the first row of seats, so I was standing right behind the flight attendant as she is peering through the little round window in the door to get a look at the jet bridge. Minutes drag by, tick-tock, tick-tock, when I see her forehead fall against the glass so hard it makes an audible thump.
“It’s not moving. They can’t get it to move . . . “ she says to no one in particular, with her head still buried against the door and slowly shaking it back and forth. After a bit, she lifts her head and looks out of the window again.
“All right! Here comes someone else to help!” she says, with a voice filled with hope, but soon it was dashed. “Noooooo . . . he can’t get it to move either . . . “
“Thump” goes her head against the door again. . .
Then we all hear the static of the captain triggering the PA.
“Well folks, your not gonna believe this . . . “ he starts to say in a weary voice, but I couldn’t hear the rest of the announcement over the groans and complaints from the passenger cabin.
“You know, at this point I think we would all be thrilled just to use the stairs.” I told the flight attendant.
“Hey, don’t y’all have one of those fancy inflatable type emergency slides?” I asked her with a grin. “You know I’ve always wanted to try one!”
She turned around and looked at me with a smile.
“You know, I’m starting to consider that an option!” she said. We continued to wait and wait and wait . . .
“So, umm, what happens if they cant get the jet bridge to work? Do you have to get all of these pissed off people seated again and move us to another one?” I asked
“Ayup, and wow would I NOT want to do THAT right now!” she said with a laugh. She cut her laugh short, and her head whipped toward the door.
“I hear bells! I HEAR BELLS!” She said, clearly excited. “YAY! They got it to work!” she shouted, and the entire plane started to applaud. At almost 730PM I stepped off of the flight that was supposed to arrive at 330PM . . .
As I did on my last stay here, I had booked a room at the Staybridge Suites. I like this because they have fully stocked kitchens, with dishes and everything, so you have the option of cooking something instead of eating out. To most people that don’t travel a lot, eating out is a treat, something to be looked forward to and enjoyed. A lot of us that travel a lot though, grow sick and tired of restaurants and would rather eat mac and cheese or top ramen in the comfort of our own room. The bad news though, is that if I was gonna cook something, that meant I had to go grocery shopping, so off I headed to the Super Walmart grocery store not far from the hotel.
After I parked, I took a good long look in the mirror and decided that I was really pushing my luck. Sixteen hours after I had started getting ready at home that morning, my makeup and I were both starting to look kind of rough and tired. Still, I was tired and just wanted to get this over with, so in I headed. When I entered the store, I saw the carts all parked off to the side, and went to get one. There were two teenage boys and one girl sitting on carts and bullshitting, and I see one tap the other on the arm and nod my way. Soon he looks at me and gives a mock cough.
“*cough* dude *cough*” he teased.
I was too tired to really care much about his comment or attitude, and so I grabbed my cart, smiled at them, and entered the store. Despite the greeting of the asshole at the door, I had a fleeting moment while shopping where I started to fantasize about what it would be like to be a house wife, just out doing her grocery shopping. Of course I doubt many house wives go shopping in heels and a dress, but still, it was kind of a profound moment.
More than eighteen hours after my day had started a thousand miles away, I was in my room and washing and brushing my sweaty and nasty wig out. That accomplished, I then collapsed in the bed and went went sound asleep!
The following day of course involved doing my job, but I did get to break free long enough to eat lunch with Dana (http://www.crossdressers.com/forums/member.php?u=12163). We both met drab (dressed as males) so I’ll use male pronouns. I was shopping at what is becoming one of my favorite stores – the Vanity Fair Outlet. I had just found three summer tops that I thought might be OK on me despite the fact that they were intended for juniors, and I was looking for the dressing room when Dana calls and suggests meeting at Arbys for lunch. I agreed, wrapped up my shopping, and headed off to meet him. While I’m parking the car, I get a call on my cell.
“So is that you that just pulled in?” He asks.
“Yup, I just got here!”
“Good! I wasn’t sure I’d recognize you, but thought that was you!” he said.
I got out of the car and started looking around but didn’t see him. Then I entered the restaurant, looked around, and STILL couldn’t see him.
“Ummm, you apparently saw me, but I’ll be damned if I see you anywhere!” I told him.
“Yeah, it wasn’t you that I saw earlier. So where ARE you then?” he asked with a laugh.
“I’m at Arbys, just parked and am standing inside looking for you!”
“Well that explains it then, because I’m at Hardies across the street!” he said with a laugh.
“I’m so sorry!” I said between laughs “I thought you said “Arby’s” not “Hardies”!”
We sat and talked for an hour or so, about everything and about nothing much. Wives, jobs, women and men and the differences between them. . . It was an entirely pleasant lunch and strongly recommend you take the chance to meet Dana if you ever get the chance. A really nice person, and a “real” person too.
We said our goodbyes and I went to get a refill on my iced tea to tide me over on my drive back to Indy. I had to wait a few moments for an older woman who was moving kind of slow, with her hands shaking, and moving in a slow and deliberate fashion. I noticed that she had a cute little butterfly clip in her thin and gray hair and leaned over to tap her on the arm.
“That butterfly is such a pretty hair pin!” I told her with a wink. She looked up at me, clearly surprised that someone had bothered to speak to her.
“Well thank you! I think you’re the first person to ever comment on it.” She said with an odd smile. I got the distinct impression that she was grateful for the comment.
“Your very welcome. My six year old daughter just loves pretty things like that. After all, what’s the point of being a girl or a woman if you can’t wear something sparkly once in a while, right?” I asked.
“Well, I’m just an old woman, but I still like ‘em!” she said with a smile, patting my hand as she turned and walked away with her drink.
I made the drive back to Indy and I had just parked my car when the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile pulled in, circled the parking lot, and parked directly behind my car! The first thing I thought, was that no one was gonna believe this if I didn’t get pictures. Last week I wrote about Dora the Explorer walking right by me, and if I now claimed to have touched the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, folks were gonna think that I have been wearing my wig just a touch too tight. Scared the thing might just be turning around in the parking lot and then leaving, I dove across the drivers seat to snatch my camera out of my back pack and snap a few shots as it drove around.
Much to my surprise, it parked, and after a long delay, two small women got out! Why I was surprised that this icon from my childhood was being piloted by two women, I have no idea, but there it is. The urge to go talk to them was killing me, but it was late, I was tired, and they were probably tired as well, so I left them in peace. Still, I couldn’t help myself and so went and peaked in the windows. Did you know that things has a first class interior, huge leather seats, and looked to me like it could put a Limo to shame for comfort!
The following day I was tied up with an assortment of customer issues on the phone and by email until almost noon. At long last, all know fires were put out, issues addressed, and I had the chance to head out the door ‘pretty’. Guess what was still parked in the parking lot?
Once again I went to the Castleton Mall, but this time I hit up the Sephora cosmetics counter. The lady that approached to help me couldn’t have been but about five feet tall. I’m five feet nine inches tall AND was wearing three and half inch heels, so the conversation gave us both a neck ache. She tried to be helpful, but in the end didn’t have any products I really thought were going to take the place of my current foundation, so I thanked her and moved on to the movie theater. I went to see “Inception” and had to smile most of the way through the theater. As I was buying my ticket, a manager walked up and stood behind the girl at the counter, and she kept grinning at me. When I was buying my coke and candy, another manager came over to “help” the girl that was taking care of me, and she also grinned from ear to ear as she handed me the soda and told me to enjoy the movie.
The movie . . . I just don’t know what to say! I’m sitting here thinking about it a day later and still can’t decide if I liked it or not! The special effects were of course stunning, but we knew that going in to it. The plot was pretty good too, but it was just so damned confusing, even for a huge sci-fi buff like me. Circles in circles, puzzles inside of puzzles. I can’t really explain it any better than that with out being a spoiler, but I guarantee you that if you go see the movie, you will come out thinking ‘Damn! Kim was right! That was confusing!’
As I was leaving, the adorable blond manager from the ticket counter grinned from ear to ear and shouted out to me as I was walked by.
“Thanks for coming and come back soon!” She was so cute. Sigh . . . .
I went back to my hotel room for an hour or so to freshen up, and then took off for English Ivy’s where I was to meet up with Kim (http://www.crossdressers.com/forums/member.php?u=27750) and Sarah (http://www.crossdressers.com/forums/member.php?u=62741 ) for dinner. I got seated about ten minutes before they were to arrive and decided to revisit the whole white wine thing from my recent visit with Missy and Anne.
“Hello Hun, would you like something to drink while you wait?” the waiter asked me.
“I would, thank you! Do you have a chilled white wine?” I responded. I couldn’t recall the details of the wine I’d had and liked a few weeks ago, but I recalled that it was white and chilled.
“Of course we do! I’ll be right back.” He said, then he left to go and get it. A moment later he is back, but empty handed.
“Did you want like a chardonnay?” he asked me.I'm getting the distinct impression that he doesn't know any more about wines than I do, and is stuck playing the go-between with the bartender and I.
“I’ll be damned if I know! I don’t know a thing about wine and am just trying to kind of check the stuff out.” I replied. He laughed and then left to return to the bar. A moment later he returns, but is again empty handed.
“Did you want it kind of sweet?” he asks me, clearly doing his very best to be sure I’m going to like what ever I get.
“As a matter of fact I would like it sweet! So, white wine, chilled, and sweet! That ought to do it!” I told him with a grin, and once again he took off to the bar. In a moment he returns, and this time he is holding a glass of wine. He waited while I took a sip and assured him I did indeed like it, then he started to leave but I stopped him.
“Hold on just a sec! What is this?” I asked, quickly swallowing my drink so that I could catch him before he walked off. He just got kind of a confused look on his face, clearly not understanding the intent behind my question, so I expanded.
“I just want to know how to order it again in the future, so that I don’t look like a damned idiot again!” I told him, and we both laughed. I was in the midst of making a note “Barefoot . . . “ in my cell phones memo app when Kim and Sarah walked up to the table. I stood to greet them and in a moment of uncertainty I offered to shake hands while they offered to hug. I’m never quite sure which way to go when it comes to shaking hands or hugging . . .
Both were very likable and attractive people. They joked about how Kim’s look and wardrobe got an upgrade when Sarah got involved. Sarah must have done a good job, because Kim looked terrific, and very much like your every day woman out and about her life. Sarah was cute, with pretty eyes and a head full of hair that I’d kill for, and she had that wonderful quality of being a pretty woman that might not actually know she’s pretty. Funny how often that happens . . .
Clearly she did something right in her life where I did something wrong, because she’s only a few years younger than I am but hasn’t got a single damned wrinkle on her and looks at least 15 to 20 years younger than I do. That’s just not fair I tell ya, not fair!
We talked for quite a long time I think, and much like my conversation with Dana the day before, we spoke of everything and nothing. We swapped stories of meeting our spouses, dating, the pros and cons of having children, careers, and of course being transgender. Kim had just left a job she had had for eighteen years and was now exploring her options for the future, and Sarah has an interesting job that she enjoys and finds fascinating. Both are considering having children and I’m not sure if I encouraged them or discouraged them! There is nothing like having your child sleeping in your arms, or getting a hug from them, or having them say “I love you”, but there is also nothing like having them scream and cry all night when you have to be up at 4AM in the morning!
Just off to the side of our table was a large group of older folks having a birthday party. It was really kind of sweet, and I found myself hoping that maybe someday when I was that old, I would have a group of friends that would care enough to share my birthday with me like that. We had been there talking for a couple of hours when someone picked up and moved one of the tables near the party. I had thought it was just that the birthday party group might have had someone else arrive and so they needed more table space, and so I paid it no attention. Shortly though, I discovered that I had misread the situation, because they were laying one of the birthday party folks flat on the floor and doing CPR on him. It seems that he had decided to have a heart attack. I sat there watching a couple of men working on him, and tried to decide how much I remembered of my CPR training from 20 years ago in the army. Ultimately I decided I recalled very little of it and so was most grateful that the two men who were doing CPR on him really seemed to know what they were doing. Despite their best efforts, the poor man on the floor was turning gray, and clearly wasn’t breathing. One man was doing the chest compressions for a few moments, then he would stop and check for a pulse while the other would do mouth to mouth.
“I can’t feel a pulse.” The one would tell the other, and they would start the cycle over.
A few more cycles and the news gets little better.
“I can feel a pulse every once in a while, but it’s weak.” And then back they would go to the CPR. I looked at Kim and Sarah, they looked at me, and I think at first we were all pretty sure we had just watched a man die. We discussed calling around the restaurant for a doctor or EMT, but I think we all decided that the two men working on him already sure looked like they were professionals and knew what they were doing, and so we just waited. Time has a funny way of stretching and contracting during events like these, so I’m not sure, but I think it was about five minutes later when we notice that the mans chest does appear to be expanding and contracting on its own, but only every once in a while. I was holding my mothers hand when she died about a year ago, and this was exactly the way she had been breathing a minute or two before she went. It sure wasn’t normal breathing, but it was something, some small sign that might still be there. It was right about then that the paramedics arrived, and never has there been a more welcome sight. They started shoving tables farther out of the way, we all helped them get the piles of chairs moved to the back, and we watched the pros go to work. They wired him all up to a portable defibrillator, shouted at everyone to back away from him, and zapped him once or twice. Unlike the movies, you didn’t hear anything – no loud pop and no electrical sound at all, you just see the man go rigid for an instant. By the time they carried the man out on a stretcher to the applause of the entire restaurant, he was breathing and did have a pulse, so I can only hope that he made it. Soon the tables and chairs are being moved back in to position, the lights are once again dimmed, and the few remaining party goers are clearly in shock. So is most every one else in the room for that matter. After watching the heart attack, all levity was gone from the evening. It just didn’t seem proper or appropriate to return to a frivolous evening after watching the heart break of a man coming so close to death that he may yet not escape with his life.
The following morning I again spent on the phone and in emails with customers. Such is the life of a field service engineer! Somewhere around 2PM I got it all done, and so got to head out in to the world again. I had decided to visit a resale shop that Kim had told me about – the Toggery (http://www.toggeryresale.com/). As I entered the store I was greeted by a woman behind the counter.
“Hello! Come on in!” she said as I hesitated at the door. I smiled at her and entered, still looking around. I can see several older women looking at me with that ‘What the hell! That’s a guy!’ look on their faces, but I ignored them and returned my attention to the woman behind the counter.
“Hi! I’ve heard good things about your store!” I told her with a smile. She actually paused and stopped working for a second to look up at me in surprise.
“You have?!” she asked, sounding almost incredulous.
“I have!” I told her again, mimicking her excited attitude. She just kind of laughed and again invited me in to shop. I found a gown there that I liked but just couldn’t bring myself to buy. It was short, green, size 12, and adorable! It was very short, and sort of poofed out at the bottom, and I liked it enough to go try it on. It actually fit, but I decided it would be silly to spend $30 on something I know I’m not going to have anyplace to wear. Trying to do the intelligent thing, I put the dress back with a disappointed sigh . . .
Next I raided the mall and made it a point to visit JC Penny. That is quickly becoming one of my favorite stores as I really love their “....Worthington....” brand. I found a couple of tops I was interested in and headed for the dressing room . . . where I was stopped by an attendant. Since I had thought the joint was empty she really caught me by surprise, but all she did was look up at me, smile, and tell me to take my pick of open rooms! Both of the tops I tried on looked awful so I took them out to the rack where they ask you return unwanted items. The attendant was standing there as I hung them up so I tried to make her smile.
“They were both terrible mistakes! I have no idea what I was thinking . . . “ I said with a grin.
“Oh . . .” she replied, not even thinking about smiling.
You know, some days I feel very confident, and some days I don’t, and today was a “don’t” day, so I decided to call it quites at about 6PM.
In the hotel, they serve kind of a light dinner most week nights, and so it makes the dinning area a popular place to be in the evening with many of the guests, so when I got to the elevator I found two children on it. I’d say the girl was maybe 15 and the boy about 10, but since its getting harder for me to tell with people that age, I’m not really sure. The girl was adorable with long, light, red hair, and she was chewing gum and staring at me. As she was standing right in front of the panel, I asked her to press 2 for the second floor but she just stared at me, still slowly chewing her gum. I didn’t know if she hadn’t heard me, or had decided that lifting a finger was too much work on my behalf, so I smiled and leaned in front of her to push it myself. When I got off at my floor, I had made it maybe ten feet out of the elevator when they both erupted in laughter, and I heard her yell at him “That’s it! Get out! Get out! GET OUT!”
The next morning was my flight home, and I stood staring at the old man in the mirror and trying to decide – pretty or comfortable? First I decided on comfort and going male, but then I changed my mind, changed it again, and then changed it again. In the end I selected a new skirt and sandals that I had just bought last night. I’d have to admit that the shoes really didn’t work so well with the outfit, but I was dying to wear them anyway.It was hot as hell making the long walk from the rental car lot to the airline counter, and by the time I got checked in, through security, and in to the bathroom, the back of my top was soaking wet and had a huge dark spot where my backpack had rested. I was kind of grossed out and depressed, thinking to myself that this was just more evidence to everyone that saw me that I was just a sweaty old guy. I took my top off, and since they didn't have a hand dryer I tried to use towels to soak the worst of it up. In the end it remained wet and looked terrible, so I gave up and headed to the gate area to wait for my flight. I was sitting there reading my book when a beautiful woman walked up to the gate counter, clearly in a hurry and concerned she might have missed her flight. I was looking at her flawless hair and outfit, and then just couldn’t keep from grinning as I realized that her back was also soaking wet. . .
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
My flight didn’t leave until almost noon, but I’ve decided that I really need to be out of the house by 6AM when I’m flying dressed. Any later than that, and the sun will be up, and I’ll be in full view of the neighbors as I’m leaving. As it was, one of my neighbors across the street was pulling out just as I was putting my bags in the truck. He wasn’t there when I exited the house, but as I put my bags in and closed the back door of my truck, he had gotten in his car and backed it in to the street with out my noticing. It was still mostly dark, and so I have no idea if he saw me or not, and don’t really care. In the eight years that we have lived in this house, that particular neighbor has never said a word to me.
Since I was leaving the house six hours before my flight left, I had decided to stop at a Denny’s not far from the airport. As soon as I entered the restaurant, the hostess looked at me and gave me “the” grin. You know, the one that says “How cute! That’s a cross dresser”. Oh well, there are worse things in the world than having someone amused at what you are.
So I sat there in Dennys, and ate a nice omelet, slurped some coffee, and read my book to pass a couple of hours. As I sat there, taking my time for obvious reasons, I saw two women walk in wearing shorts, and giving the distinct impression of a couple of people on vacation. They both looked at me and grinned as they walked by my table, so I smiled back and returned to reading my book and sucking down caffeine. The airport was only a mile or so from the restaurant, and even dragging my feet and taking my time, I was leaving the restaurant at least three hours before my flight, so I decided to look for a pretty place to take a few pics.
Inspired by how pretty I had felt the last time I wore a dress, I had decided to do it again but I think I made a mistake. Unlike the dress I had worn the last time, this dress was very light and floaty, which accomplished two things –
1 – It made me feel naked all day, and no, I don’t like feeling naked in public.
2 – Every gust of wind tried to lift my dress up around my waist! I spent the entire day holding the thing down when I was outside.
Still, I did think I looked pretty decent in it!
Oh, while going through the security check point at the airport, I saw none other than the same two women who had grinned at me at Dennys. Once again they gave me a huge smile when we caught each others eyes.
When I got to Detroit and made my way to the Avis lot, I hit a bit of a snag. As he dropped us off, the bus driver told us that our names and parking spaces would be on a board – he lied. There were a dozen people standing in the heat waiting for cars to become available. It seems that they were having a bit of trouble logging cars in, and getting them cleaned and brought around for customers. There I am getting in a long line of angry people and I’m dragging two huge boxes, carrying my back pack, it’s hot as hell out, and I’ve got sweat starting to drip down my nose. Then, just to make things really interesting, every once in a while, the wind gusts up and tries to blow my dress up around my neck. Grrrrr. . . .
After about ten minutes of waiting, I told the woman at the counter that I didn’t care if the car was clean, if it was undamaged and had a full tank of gas, I’d take it! Ten minutes after that she calls me up to the counter.
“Mr Huddle?!” she calls out to all who are waiting. I was sitting on my tool box and winced at the “Mr”, but stood to approach the counter. As I did, a woman speaks up.
“Excuse me, but I was here first.” She calls out arrogantly and loudly. Considering that I’d been on the bus when she entered it at the airport, and that as a courtesy I had let her grab her bags and exit the bus before me so that she didn’t have to wait while I struggled with all of my bags, I wasn’t inclined to fall on my sword for her. Besides, maybe when she starts renting a car or two a week for a decade, they might call her up first too. Anyway, I ignored her, wiped the sweat out of my eyes, and took my keys and contract.
As I entered the Holiday Inn Express in Canton, the girl behind the counter greeted me warmly.
“Hey, welcome back!” she said with a huge smile as I approached the counter.
“Thanks! Boy, y’all are keeping it kind of warm around here these days aren’t ya?” I asked with a laugh.
“Yeah, it’s been hot like this all week now.” She said, shaking her head.
“Well, I’m kind of used to it from living in Austin Texas, but I didn’t expect it here!”
When I got in to my room, I spent a few moments washing up, because I smelled like a goat from my time waiting in the heat at the rental car lot. Next, I grabbed the wedding gown I’d bought last week and spent better than an hour and a half ironing it so I could take some pictures in it.
The gown is amazing , but is unfortunately a bit too short for me. I had to take all of the pictures in bare feet, because if I’d worn heels the dress would have been an inch or so off of the ground. Really, given the way the heat had destroyed my makeup, and made me just feel yucky, I really should have just waited for another day to play with the wedding gown, but I’d been looking forward to it all day and so I plowed ahead. Since the only way I can take self pics with my camera is to use the timer, with about an 8 second delay, I found it just impossible to set the camera, get myself in place, and try and arrange the gown before the flash. I made several attempts and all failed.
Eventually, I dragged out my laptops video camera and tried to use it. Bad news though, apparently it’s incapable of capturing a good image at a distance. This was the best I could get with it.
The next day I drove two hours round trip AND worked 12 hours straight. The bad news – it was a damned long day. The good news – it meant I was gonna be free the entire next day! Would you believe that I slept until almost noon the next day? Sigh . . .
I spent three or four hours responding to customers emails and doing my service reports. After all, the jobs gotta come first, because if I don’t do my job, ALL of the fun comes to a screeching halt. Still, fairly early I was heading out to see a movie. It wasn’t really my first choice, but I watched “The Sorcerers Apprentice”. Not a bad movie, but sort of aimed at younger teens I think. It was cute enough, and had a couple of great one liners, but it’s in no danger of making my favorite movie list.
I returned to my hotel long enough to use the restroom, and then headed to an Italian restaurant called Maria’s in Ferndale. The food there is really very good, the owner almost always comes up to speak to me, and they are very friendly and accepting of alternative life styles, like, oh, say, cross dressers. I was in the parking lot across the street from Maria’s, loading up the parking meter, when Dora the Explorer walked right past me. No, I wasn’t hallucinating or drunk, Dora the Explorer walked by me not more than five feet away. I have no idea what kind of event or show must have been going on in the area, but it was someone about 5 foot tall and in a full costume. Unfortunately she was gone by the time I got my camera out of my bag, so you will just have to take my word for it.
I was going to go to SoHo for karaoke after dinner, but as 9 PM approached I realized that I was exhausted AND had to be up in the morning for my flight home anyway. I stood outside of the restaurant for a minute or so trying to make up my mind, and eventually decided I just didn’t have it in me. In the end I think I made the right call though, because by the time I made the drive back to my hotel, got cleaned up, and got my bags all packed, it was midnight.
On the flight home, I decided to wear pants and my all time favorite top. I love this top, but it really has to be worn with pants. For me to wear a blouse this elaborate with a skirt just doesn’t seem to work – it’s too much. As I exited the Avis shuttle bus at the airport, I approached a huge escalator with my bags. As I’ve done literally hundreds of times, I pulled / flung my tool box around from behind me so that I could push it in front of me up the escalator. Usually the tool box simply slides across the floor smoothly and in a fluid motion, and continues rolling with out interruption. This time things didn’t go quite so smoothly though. Can you just imagine my joy when my tool box opens up wide, slinging all of it’s contents across the floor? It took me five minutes or so to pick it all up and pack it away again, and every moment of it I was blushing in embarrassment.
My connecting flight was in Chicago and there I had a three hour wait. The thing is, the longer I sat there, the more I felt like people were starring at me, and the more I felt like a freak. This happens only rarely to me these days, but it does still happen. At last, it just got to be more than I could stand and so I made my way to the “Family / Special Needs” bathroom where I started stripping off my clothes and washing up. It takes me about ten or fifteen minutes to get the makeup off and clothes changed, so I was more than a little dismayed to hear a knock on the door just as soon as I started scrubbing my face. I can hear two or three children and their mother outside the door, but I’ve just destroyed my makeup, so I have no choice but to just plow ahead and get changed. I yelled that I would be a minute or two, kind of hoping she might go to another restroom, but apparently she had her heart set on this one, and I hear them laughing and talking right outside the door the entire time I’m scrubbing makeup off and getting my clothes on. At last, I’m back to being Matt and then start stuffing my female outfit in to my back pack. Feeling like a heel with a mother and children outside needing to use the room that I’ve now occupied for almost ten minutes, and I hit a major snag. My purse, heels, breast forms, and outfit don’t fit in my freaking bag! I consider how embarrassing it’s going to be to make the rest of the trip carrying my heels or my purse, but eventually hit on the idea of taking out my paper back books, note books, and a couple of odds and ends to make room for the female things. With my bag stuffed to bursting, and with more than a little effort, I at last get all of the embarrassing things in the bag and get it zipped up. When I exited the bathroom, it was with a bulging backpack and carry an armload of books and notebooks. I looked at the poor mother and offered a lame excuse.
“I’m so sorry, I just needed to clean up rather badly.” I told her. Hey, at least it had the virtue of being the truth! She just kind of looked at me, saying nothing as she herded her children in to the bathroom. I made the remainder of my journey as Matthew, feeling bummed and depressed, and I STILL feel guilty for making that poor mother wait for the bathroom.
Sigh . . .
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Sunrise at the Austin-Bergstrom Airport
Phew! As I start to write this, I am on an airplane, at about 34,000 feet, and my head is killing me. Of course since I did it to myself, I can’t complain TOO much, now can I? But I’m getting ahead of myself . . .
This week I went to the Philadelphia area to work with yet another customer who was deeply angry at my company due to the service he received from the guy my company just had to fire for alcoholism. It seems that he had been there to do routine maintenance on one mass spec, and before it was all over, the customer had to return four instruments to our factory. Right or wrong, the assumption and perception of the customer here was that the guy we fired caused the problems, and so they are mad as hell and have no faith in our field service department. We have rehired a guy that we laid off last year to cover this region, but as angry as this customer was, my manager decided that he would rather send me than this other guy. I will sure be happy when the dust settles from behind the guy we lost. He was one of the best guys I’ve ever worked with, one of the few I truly respected. It hurts like hell to think of him, and every time I have to do something like this, it is like opening the wound up over and over. The good news is that I have several really good TG friends in the Philly area and so I was happy to have the chance to see them again.
Tuesday morning I checked in at the Delta counter as usual. While I am not as friendly with him by a long shot as I am with the lady I often mention, I did at least recognize the gentleman that checked me in as I’ve seen him many times over the years.
“Well, I haven’t seen this ID before!” he said with a huge grin as I handed him my Texas state ID with my female picture on it. It has all of my legal and male info on it, but I took the picture while I was dressed as female.
“It’s me, I promise.” I told him with a smile and he just let out a laugh.
“Oh, I know, it’s just that I’m used to seeing your other ID!” This was of course referring to my male driver license.
“Yeah I like this one much better! It doesn’t tend to raise as many eyebrows!” I told him with a wink.
“Well it certainly looks more like you. I’m guessing it’s a lot less hassle with TSA down the hall too huh?”
“Oh Yeah, big time, and it’s a lot less stress on me. They used to look at me pretty hard!” I told him, while demonstrating how the TSA used to compare my ID and I by glaring at my ID, glaring at him, glaring at my ID, and glaring at him again.
When we stopped laughing, I made my way to the very TSA line we had just been yapping about, and was rewarded by the inspector looking straight in to my eyes, grinning from ear to ear, and wishing me a safe flight. Once I’d gone through security, I sat on a bench putting my shoes on, putting my laptop away, and getting my jewelry back on. Imagine my joy when I realized that I had apparently dropped my ticket somewhere along the way! I made my way back to the security line where a TSA agent stopped me.
“Excuse me ma’am!” she said, holding her hand up to stop me from moving any closer to the X-ray machine. “Can I help you?”
“Well, I hope so! Being the brilliant individual that I am, I apparently managed to lose my ticket on the 30 foot walk through the check point.” I told her. She told me to wait there and soon she returned, carrying my ticket.
“Awesome! Thank you so much!”
I’d known that it would be relatively simple to get a new copy printed at the gate, but I still hadn’t wanted the hassle.
You know, I love flying Delta because they treat me well, and the majority of the time I get to fly first class, but I have come to realize that they really seem to suck at getting flights out on time. As seems to be the case so often these days, they informed us that our flight was going to be delayed by half an hour. Since I had only had 50 minutes to make my connection in Detroit as it was, I was less than thrilled about this. It made it almost certain that I was going to be missing my connecting flight and get the hassle of waiting in long lines of angry people to try and get a new flight, and then arriving many hours later than planned. I was sitting in the gate area worrying about this when a Delta customer service representative walks directly up to me.
“You should still be able to make your connection, but I just wanted to let you know that I’ve gone ahead and reserved you a seat on the next flight from Detroit to Philly just in case you don’t make your scheduled flight.” She told me, with a friendly and sympathetic smile.
“That is SO awesome! I was just sitting here worrying about that very thing, so thank you so much!” I replied, deeply touched by the concern and courtesy she had shown for me. As I sat there a moment longer, it occurred to me that I had not dealt with this woman today, and so she must have my name memorized from prior visits. As usual, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about so many people at the Austin airport knowing my name and being able to match it to my face in both male and female mode. Oh well, it’s a bit late to worry about that now, now aint it?!
As is my habit, as soon as I was in my seat on the plane, I turned on the overhead light and pulled out my paper back book and began to read it as people boarded and the plane began to taxi. As the plane starts moving, we all hear the loud “Bong” sound from someone pushing the flight attendant call button. Two or three seconds later, it goes off again, and then again, and continues to go off every few seconds.
“Bong. Bong. Bong bong. Bong bong bong.”
Over and over the damn thing sounds off loudly over the intercom until every one starts looking around in concern and irritation, trying to find the impatient person that must be pushing it over and over. Well, it turns out that no one was pushing it – the damned thing was going off all by itself. A couple of rows away from me, I can see the call button light above a gentleman going off and on all on its own, with no one pushing it. About the time I realized the thing was going off and on by itself, my reading light turns itself off, so I reached up and turned it back on.
“Bong. Bong. Bong bong. Bong bong bong.” Goes the attendant call button over and over and then off goes my reading light again, then again, then again. Everyone was looking at each other in bewilderment and irritation at the loud and persistent “bonging” noise over the intercom, and I was just beginning to think to myself that maybe this is a sign that I shouldn’t be on this plane, when it took off. Fortunately the problem went away shortly after take off, and the rest of the flight was made in blessed silence.
When my plane landed, my next flight was already boarding. I had only 20 minutes to get off this plane and make my way to my next plane two terminals away. I wasn’t about to run across the airport but I was stepping it out pretty good as I approached the next gate. Today I was wearing one of my favorite peasant skirts that I have told y’all about before. It’s long and made out of extremely thin and light weight materials, so it tends to swirl around your legs when you walk. It looks absolutely beautiful in motion, and boy was it ever in motion given how quickly I was walking to catch the flight.
“That is a beautiful outfit!” said the Delta rep as I walked up to her and handed her my ticket.
“Awe thanks! It is definitely one of my all time favorites!” I told her.
Part way through the flight, the flight attendants make their rounds asking everyone what they would like to drink. I went ahead and got a screwdriver (Vodka and Orange Juice), figuring ‘what the heck, might as well take advantage of flying first class!’ When I finished that drink, the adorable flight attendant returned and asked me if I wanted a refill.
“Hmmm . . . . “, I thought about it for a moment, but figured I really didn’t want to arrive tipsy. “Nah, how about a coffee?”
“Are you sure?” she said, with a huge grin on her face. Clearly she had noted my hesitation.
“You’re a bad influence aren’t you?!” I asked her with a grin of my own.
“Who, me?! Not at all! You want some Bailey’s cream in that coffee?” She asked me, and somehow her grin had gotten even bigger.
“Don’t tempt me! No, I think I’ll stick with the good old fashioned cream and sugar, but thanks!”
“Ok, ok! One coffee coming up!”
In about half an hour I was finishing my coffee when she walked by again. She looked at me with one eyebrow up, lifted her hand with her thumb and pinky finger extended, and rocked her hand back and forth near her mouth to simulate drinking a beer. I started laughing so hard that I startled the guy sitting next to me.
“You are SO bad! No thank you, I think I’m done for the flight.” I told her. Funny, her smiles and teasing made the flight so much more pleasant . . .
When the plane landed in Philadelphia I was shocked at the heat when I stepped off the plane! Usually when I travel from Austin to anyplace in the East, it feels like going back to spring or fall to me because it is so much cooler. Well not this time - it was HOT! I stood out in the heat waiting for the Avis shuttle bus, but apparently Avis is not running as many buses as their competition. I sat there for ten minutes and watched the shuttle buses for other companies come and go several times, and still no Avis bus. About to die of heat stroke, I dragged my bags back in to the terminal and waited there, peering out of the windows for the bus. In a few minutes I could see the Avis shuttle bus approaching, so I grabbed my bags and headed out to the stop. Much to my major irritation, the damned bus went right by me and never stopped, and since I had waited for ten minutes or more, this really irritated the hell outta me. I grabbed my bags and went back in to the terminal, and once again waited. I watched three National Car buses come and go over the next ten minutes, until at last, I saw another Avis bus approach. This time the damn thing stopped.
I had been invited to dinner tonight by Missy and her wife Anne. This is one of the sweetest couples that I have ever met. They are full of light and brightness, and their love and respect for each other is evident in all that they say and do. I couldn’t even point to any thing and say “See, this is why I feel this way about them”, because it’s not one big thing, it’s the countless small things that make it clear they love each other. They picked me up at my hotel, where we chatted for just long enough to be sure that we would be late for our dinner reservations. I don’t recall the name of the place, but it was a very nice restaurant. Missy and Anne have become pretty good friends with the owner, and have eaten there many times in both male and female modes, and the owner doesn’t seem to think it’s any big deal at all. He personally approached our table to ask what we would like to drink. Anne ordered something, I think a red wine, and then the proprietor looked at me waiting for my drink request.
“You know, I have to admit that I don’t know a thing about wines, so we’ll just assume that she knows what she is doing and I’ll go with the same thing she ordered!” I told the man, trying to be just a bit amusing as well as honest. I’ve never really cared for wines and so have never bothered to learn anything about them.
“Well no, that’s not a good idea at all!” he quite bluntly replied, and much to my surprise. “Tastes in wine are very personal. She might very well like something that you wont. Do you like warm wines or would you prefer something chilled? The red wines are generally heavier and the white wines are a bit sweeter.”
He said quite a bit more, but I’m afraid my memory sucks and I don’t recall the entire conversation word for word, but in the end I chose the chilled white wine and LOVED it! Like a good host, he kept checking back in to see if I had enjoyed it or not.
We spent the night chatting about just about everything from electronics to the Transgender lifestyle, and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening with them.
As a result of my time waiting in 103 degrees for the rental car shuttle bus, my wig was nasty, and so the last thing I did that night was to wash it, and hang it in front of the air conditioner to dry overnight.
The following morning I had to go and earn my paycheck, and so off I went to visit a customer that had initially refused to let us come fix his instrument in the field due to the experience he had had with that guy we just fired. In short order I had his instrument fixed and asked if he wanted me to look at his others. He hesitated a good 20 to 30 seconds and then told me that his boss had specifically told him not to let me touch any of their other machines because he didn’t want to risk a repeat of what had happened the last time, where four instruments had to be returned to our factory. I assured him that I understood his reluctance, and offered a compromise – I’d check their instruments through the software just to be sure that they appeared to be operating reasonably well but I wouldn’t touch or change anything with out talking to them first. He agreed, and off we went! The next instrument I checked had been damaged by them, and the threads intended to hold an external tank full of liquid nitrogen had been badly stripped. It doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but when this happens, it results in the entire weight of the five liter container resting on the infrared detector of the instrument, and knocking it out of alignment. In just a few moments, I had determined that this was indeed the case, and that the instruments Infrared detector required realignment. I didn’t have to work too hard to convince the customer that this really wasn’t an optional thing, and the instrument really had to be worked on, and so soon I was taking it apart. When I was all done with that instrument, and the customer was properly impressed that I had dramatically improved the performance of both instruments I’d worked on, they decided to set me loose on all of their others, and fortunately I found no other problems.
At about 2:30 PM I was free and headed out in boy mode to look for Goodwill stores to raid. I was going to be hanging out with Sophie tonight, but that wasn’t for a few hours yet, so I had a little time to kill. The first Goodwill I found was a fairly nice one but I didn’t find anything I liked there. The next Goodwill I found really didn’t look all that impressive, but I was pleased to find a really neat wedding gown there in my size! I picked it up and found that it was very heavy and very well made, and so I started looking for the price tag, fully expecting to find it selling for around $80 as most wedding gowns at Goodwill do. Much to my shock considering the obvious quality of the gown, I found the price to be only $35! Still not believing my luck, I grabbed it and headed in to the dressing room to be sure that it fit. I found it to be a little shorter and tighter than I’d really like, but for $35 I wasn’t about to pass it up. Soon I was at the check out counter with my arms full of the white explosion of satin and lace fabric. The cashier, a woman in her late 50’s I’d guess, grinned from ear to ear as I covered her counter with the huge pile of fluff.
“Your going to make a beautiful bride!” she told me with her smile and eyes beaming.
“Well thanks! I thought it was awesome, and since y’all are just about giving it away, I wasn’t about to pass it up!” I told her, no doubt with the skin on my bald head turning red in a blush. She found the price tag and then looked up at me.
“Oh my God, you sure aren’t kidding about that! I wonder why they priced it so low?” she said, looking kind of puzzled.
“I dunno, but I’ll take it!” I replied with a grin.
“I don’t blame you.” She said, and then after a moment. “Now I don’t want to see any June brides! Besides, it’s July so your too late for that!”
“Ma’am, I’ve been married for over 23 years, so it’s WAY too late for that!” I told her with a laugh.
When I got back in to the car, I placed my daily call to my wife to tell her I love her, and to chat for a bit, and of course I mentioned my new found treasure.
“I just compounded my lack of closet space problem!” I laughed.
“Oh no! Matthew, what did you do?!” she said with a serious tone. For those of you that aren’t named Matthew, I’ll clue you in on a little secret. The name is ‘Matt’ right up until your in trouble. When you have done something wrong, the name suddenly gets elongated into ‘Matthew’, and if you really piss your wife off, the middle name gets thrown in there. Her calling me ‘Matthew’ implies that she is assuming I have done something wrong.
“I bought a wedding gown and it’s awesome! They were practically giving it away so I snatched it!” I bragged. Here is where things started going south. . .
“What is it with you and wedding gowns? That’s kind of weird and creepy . . .” she said.
“It is not creepy! What is creepy about it?” I said
“It’s just creepy!”
“No it’s not”
“Yes it is!”
“Come on, your OK with my being a cross dresser but you have a problem with my buying a beautiful wedding gown?” I asked, getting kind of flabbergasted.
“But it’s a wedding gown! That’s creepy!” she repeated
“Well what’s possibly more feminine and beautiful than a wedding gown in the modern world? What else is there these days that comes even close to a wedding gown for something beautiful?”
“Fine, but I still think it’s creepy.” She mumbled.
As near as I can tell, my wife is hung up about it’s intended purpose and possibly even the implications of the wedding night, while I’m just looking at the gown for it’s own sake. I couldn’t care less that it’s intended purpose was for a wedding with all of it’s implications, I just like the fact that it’s elaborate, gorgeous, and sophisticated. Still, the conversation did bring me down a notch or two.
As I was getting ready for my evening out with Sophie, I kept glancing at the clock and trying to decide if I had the time to try the gown on and get a picture or two of it. As much as I may have wanted to, I had no where near enough time for that, and so I had to ignore its continued pleas for attention.
I was going to wear a long orange skirt that I had liked the last time I’d worn it, but when I tried it on it just wasn’t flattering. I guess I’ve gained too much weight or something, but it just didn’t look right. I tired a second outfit and it also didn’t look right. Plan C was this rust colored skirt and brown flecked top. For those of you that worry about that sort of thing, I have not developed a fetish for leather, it’s just that leather skirts are very flattering. They hide lots of flaws like the lumps and bumps of hip pads or nylon waist lines, etc.
Having finally decided what to wear, I started to get my wig in to shape, and this is when I discovered that I had left my hairspray at home! This wouldn’t have been a huge problem, but I’d been forced to wash my wig last night, and it looked like hell! I also had my new wig, but it had been washed at home and then thrown in a box for the trip, so it looked terrible too. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t make it look at all decent, not even good enough for a short walk through a store to buy hairspray. No way around it, this was going to end up with me embarrassed. I was just stealing my nerves for walking through a store with hair that looked terrible when I recalled that there was a small shop in the hotel where they were selling incidentals so I gave the front desk a call. Much to my great relief, he confirmed that they did indeed have hairspray there, so now I just had to look like hell in front of one person, instead of walking past dozens in a store. I had just finished getting my new wig into shape and looking fairly decent when Sophie arrived. Since I’d had the little hairspray fiasco, I was running behind and didn’t have my act together, so poor Sophie had to wait around while I grabbed my jewelry, put my purse together, and ran around in circles accomplishing nothing at all . .
At long last I had it all together and asked her if we should take a few pics in the small and somewhat drab hotel room, or take them outside in the sunshine and trees. Considering it was 100 degrees outside, we chose to take a few indoors. Since the room was so small, we had to kind of improvise an area and a suitable place for my little tripod and camera to take them. When I got this idea for the tripod, Sophie started laughing and dragged out her own camera, saying that everyone needed a behind the scenes look at this one.
First we headed off to a hotel restaurant where Sophie had read that they were going to be doing karaoke tonight. As we started to pull away in the brand new Mustang the rental car company had so nicely upgraded me to, I looked over at her and grinned.
“You have GOT to hear this!” I said and then I floored the car. The car hesitated for just a moment and then roared like an angry dragon was under the hood, and we shot down the road at break neck speed! I was grinning like a lunatic until I realized that Sophie had had a lap full of odds and ends, and my little bit of fun had just tossed it all on to the floor. She managed to pick most of it up as I continued to drive on at a more sedate pace. After a few more minutes though, I just couldn’t stand it, and let the Mustang loose again, reveling in the angry roar from under the hood. Sophie looked at me and started to speak.
“Two things. First, remind me to pick up my cell phone. I think it’s on the floor by the door. Second, the cops here drive Chargers. I’m just saying . . . “
Well, now I had tossed poor Sophies things on the floor twice, and so I started to feel a little bit guilty, and started to drive like a more respectable and decent person.
Most of the way.
Most of the time . . .
I don’t think Sophie was terribly excited at the idea of karaoke, but she knew I loved it and was trying to be a good host and take care of her nerd of a friend. Unfortunately it turned out that their web page had been incorrect, and tonight the restaurant was doing trivia, and not karaoke. It was getting a little late in the evening, and we were both hungry, so we decided that we would stay for a while anyway and at least eat dinner there. We had arrived between trivia rounds and so had time to make a toast with a double shot of Jack Daniels and time to order our dinner before the game resumed.
If you get four questions right, you get a chit for a free drink, and if you win a round, you get a chit for a free snack. Like I said, my memory sucks and so I don’t recall the questions, but I sure recall Sophie’s expertise in answering them. The guy would just barely start asking the question when Sophie would shout out the answer. This happened time after time, and it would have been something like this:
“In 1876 this popular author. . . “ the MC would start to say.
“Mark Twain!” Sophie would pipe up, interrupting him before he even got the question out. After the fifth or sixth time in a row, one of the women at the bar shouted our way.
“That’s it. You're not welcome here anymore!”
After a few more questions very much like this, another one shouted our way.
“Next time I’m sitting at your table!” and everyone laughed.
Soon the game was over and we had two or three white chits for free drinks and a red one for a free snack stacked up in front of Sophie. Being the awesome person that she is, Sophie took the snack chit over to the group of women at the bar and offered it to them. The drink chits on the other hand, we made good use of for ourselves.
“So what was your masters degree in again?” I asked Sophie, just stunned that she had answered so many questions correctly and so quickly that I hadn’t even comprehended the question before she was responding to it.
“In education!” she said with a huge grin.
We played a little bit of pool while we discussed our options for the remainder of the night. I don’t recall who won the pool game, but we did finally decide that we would make the drive in to Philly and see what kind of trouble we could get in to there.
After a little bit of hunting and pecking, Sophie got us to the parking garage near the pub we were going to visit. There were two guys sitting in lawn chairs outside the garage, which I thought was kind of odd, but I drove past them anyway. I was about to head up the ramp and find a parking space when Sophie yelled.
“Stop – STOP!” I hit the brakes but still had no idea why we were stopping.
“What the hell?” I said to her.
“Umm, the sign says ‘stop’” she said, as though educating an idiot. She was pointing at a stop sign and the huge word “STOP” painted across the concrete, as if to imply ‘you DO know how to read right?’ As we were sitting there laughing, one of the lawn chair guys approaches the window. It turns out that you don’t park your own car there, you give them the keys and they park it. Oops. . .
Soon Sophie had paid for the parking and we headed off to walk to the pub. It had been about a half hour drive from the restaurant and part way through our drive I’d discovered that the beer I had drank wanted back out, and it wanted out NOW! I guess I was pretty much doing the “I gotta potty” dance most of the way on our walk to the pub, and so Sophie kept offering to go in to assorted places with me.
“This looks like a good place! Let’s go in here, you can go to the bathroom, and then we’ll leave!”
“Are you crazy? I don’t know if these are friendly places, straight places, or what. I don’t want to die tonight so I’ll just wait for the place you know is friendly!”
We continued walking, and after a few blocks, I realize that Sophie doesn’t look at all confident about where we are going.
“Holy shit! You're lost aren’t you? You have no freaking idea how to get there do ya’?” I asked her with a laugh, just trying to yank her chain. Of course, I’m trying to yank her chain and be cute, but I really DO have to go the bathroom something fierce!
“No no, I know how to get there, but we must have gone past the street.” She reassured me, so we turned around and headed back the way we had come. It turns out that she was right, we had just gone a little too far, and just a couple of streets back she turns down an alley.
“You have GOT to be kidding?!” I asked her. “You're gonna get us killed walking down a dark alley late at night in Philly aren’t ya’?
“Hell no, we’re only going to where those people are standing down there.” She said and pointed down the alley. The only people I saw “standing down there” were a good three or four blocks away so I started to give Sophie hell again.
“No you idiot, not down there – the people standing right over there!” she said, pointing to a couple of folks standing only about 50 yards or so away on a stair case.
When we entered the Tavern on Camac, Sophie went one way, and I went the other – straight to the bathroom. Phew . . .
When I got out of the bathroom, Sophie had got us a couple of seats at the piano where a tiny and adorable woman was playing. She was playing a good variety of music and encouraging folks to sing along, and so it wasn’t long at all until I was having a great time.
At one point I looked over at Sophie and see her in an animated conversation that at times seems to be
With a laugh, I go back to listening to the music and chatting with the young couple seated in front of me.
As the night goes on, the man is getting friendlier and friendlier, and we talked about where we were from, what we do for work, and where we had been. When the night drew to an end, he looked at Sophie and I.
“If you have any trouble at all, or need any help at all, you just give me call.” He told us. He was clearly sincere and also clearly drunk.
“I know you don’t have my number though. . . “ he said and then paused. “Do you want it? Do you want my number?”
“Awe, that is so sweet, but no thank you. We will be just fine and I’m headed home tomorrow morning anyway, but thank you so much!” I told him.
We got back to the parking garage with no problems, and while we stood there waiting for the attendants to bring my pretty pony around to us, a Taxi cab stops in the middle of the street and honks his horn – twice! We looked over to see what I assume is a young Indian man behind the wheel and we waved him on, making it clear that we didn’t need a ride. Having told him we didn’t need his services, we turned back away, and the guy honked at us yet again! When we looked back at him, the guy is frantically waving at Sophie, clearly inviting her to join him in his car. At this point our car arrived and we climbed inside, trying to look graceful and classy doing it, but failing miserably. Those Mustangs are low to the ground, and there is no way in hell to get in and out of it in a lady like fashion. As the doors close, Sophie looks over at me, and looking maybe just a little bit wistful.
“You know, I think that’s the first time anyone has ever hit on me!”
“No kidding?! Well congratulations!” I told her, and we both laughed as I drove up the ramp toward the street that was STILL being blocked by the love struck Taxi driver. Finally getting the message, the man did eventually move his car so we could leave.
By the time we got back to my hotel, Sophie got washed up and on her way home, and I got washed up and packed, it was about 3:30 AM. It’s funny, poor Sophie spent half the night apologizing that her plans for karaoke had gone wrong. She seemed mortified that the night had not gone entirely as she had planned, and yet I had an absolute ball. To spend an evening with friends, gathered around a grand piano with someone that knows how to play it, was nothing short of magic to me. It was an AWESOME night!
In about four hours the alarm went off, and I was absolutely hating the world. Up way too late, drinking way too much, and with way too little sleep, I headed to the airport in boy mode to meet with yet another friend from the Philly area – Jenny! Jenny and I have traded countless emails and messages over the last couple of years, and I’ve found her to be a lot of fun to chat with. She has always struck me as being a reasonable person and with a great sense of humor. She also happens to be good friends with Missy and Anne and Sophie, and so I’ve wanted to meet her in person myself for some time now. Apparently the feeling was mutual, because she went to a great deal of effort to rearrange her work schedule to allow her to meet me at the airport for an hour or so before my flight. Considering that she is a pilot for one of the airlines, the airport was a fairly convenient place to meet!
As I made my way through security my head was pounding and I was utterly miserable as I gathered my things from the belt of the X-ray machine and found a bench to put my stuff back away. Soon I had my act back together, stood up, and entered the terminal proper, and even though we were both in boy mode, it only took a second to identify each other. There stood a pilot, in full dress uniform, and he was grinning like a kid in a candy store as he started walking toward me. I tried to smile back but I’d wager that it came out more like a pathetic and lopsided grimace instead. As we approached I had wanted to hug her, thinking of the many amusing messages we had traded over the last year or so, but this was her work place and I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable, so we just shook hands as I suppose guys are supposed to do.
“You look so very official and professional!” I said with a grin. He’s a good looking guy, with a happy face, and eyes that sparkle like an 18 year olds. I’m not “in” to guys, but there was just something adorable as all hell about the impish face and eyes staring out from under the captains hat.
“You know I wore this damn thing just for you!” He said with a laugh. “I got all dressed up for meeting Kimberly, and you decide to show up in drab!”
“Ugggghhhh . . . I was out way too late with Sophie. There was no way in hell I was going to be able to get up early enough to fly pretty.” I told her.
“So how was your night doing karaoke with Sophie?” She asked with a smile. I started telling her about our evening, and with my head pounding, and my lack of sleep, it took me a moment to realize that she was trying to hand me something. I looked down and took the item clumsily, lifted it to examine it, and started to laugh so hard I thought my head was going to fall off. She had handed me a small travel pouch of Tylenol. It seems that she had suspected I might need it this morning!
We got breakfast and chatted about everything and nothing. She was every bit as personable, amusing, and likeable in person as she has always been in our electronic correspondences. I’d have to admit that I was ashamed and felt guilty that I was in such poor condition to meet her for the first time, especially considering the lengths she had gone to to make it possible.
In far too little time, we had to part ways when I had to board my flight. I very much look forward to a time when I can see her again, this time perhaps with my feeling a bit more like a human being and more like someone who deserves the sort of effort she went through to see me.