You know, for someone used to traveling and being on the road as much as I am, it’s almost painful to be stuck behind a desk inside a gray little cubicle. Painful or not, that is where I found myself for the first half of this week. On my male facebook account, I posted about being bored all to hell, and how I wished that one of my customers would break something so that I could get out of the office and go earn my paycheck. Well, one should be careful what you wish for, because less than half an hour later one of my favorite customers commented on my facebook post that he had five dead instruments and desperately wanted a service call to repair them. With most of my customers this would have started a whole long process of providing a quote and waiting for the customer to produce a purchase order before making travel arrangements, but this customer has always been awesome about very quickly paying us after service calls. My manager actually tried to talk me out of going so late in the week and with so many instruments to repair in only one day, but I convinced him that I could get it done, and so off I went! I later decided that I should have listened to him. . .
I have to be out of the house pretty early in the morning so that I’m gone before my daughter gets up for school, but my flights didn’t leave until late morning, and so I started off by going to Denny’s for breakfast before catching my flight. The waitress there was a cute little “hottie” with a perfect figure that made me feel guilty for eating, but she was a real sweetheart and good at her job. Everything was “Sweetie” this, and “Sweetie” that, which actually grew a bit annoying, but in the end she kept my coffee cup full for a couple of hours and did it without constantly interrupting the novel I was reading. That’s a real art by the way – taking good care of your customer without becoming a pain in the butt. I have no doubt at all that I would make a terrible waitress. I can work hard all day, or I can be nice and smile all day, but don’t ask me to do both at the same time.
A few years ago I was looking at one of only half a dozen photos I had of me as Kim, and thinking to myself “Gee, you were cute back then. Why didn’t you take more pictures to have something to remember the days before you got old by?!” Right about there a monster was born. I bought my first digital camera, and started taking loads of pictures every time I had the chance, and in only a couple of years I went from having only six ten year old photos, to having over a thousand. I was so caught up in it that I didn’t even realize how crazy it had gotten until my wife and daughter-in-law both started laughing at me about it. I hadn’t realized it, but since they are both connected to my yahoo account, they both get a notification every single time I uploaded a photo to flickr, and let’s face it, I upload a LOT of pictures. I guess a lot of cross dressers do this, and so in the cross dressing community this wasn’t terribly out of place, but when my wife and daughter-in-law started commenting each time I posted pics, I realized that in the “normal” world, I had become a pretty narcissistic obsessive individual. I figure I’ll stop taking the pics the day I decide I’m too damned old and ugly to bother with them, but until then, I will settle for just being a bit more reasonable in the number I take. Maybe. I think.
Even after taking my time, slurping a lot of coffee and reading my book, I still had several hours to kill after I finished my breakfast, and so I went looking for someplace pretty to take my usual “this is what I wore today” photographs. I had fully intended to wear a floaty green and white polka-dot summer dress, but I chickened out at the last moment. I’m not sure why, but I just didn’t feel confident in it, and so I put it back on the hanger and chose to wear one of my all time favorite outfits instead. In the end, I was glad that I did, because I felt confident and happy, and I think it showed. I’ve mentioned it before, but you really have to see this skirt in motion to appreciate it. It’s made of very light material and swirls and floats around your legs as you walk, almost as if clouds were dancing around your feet.
I think that Mona, my favorite customer service representative at the Delta Airlines counter, must stand by the window waiting for me to arrive, because she seems to walk out of the back office and help me every time I am waiting in line. I was in line maybe two minutes when she walked out and quickly looked my way and waved me up to the counter.
“Good morning Matthew! It’s kind of strange to see you here so late in the week. You usually leave out of here on Mondays.” She said with a smile.
“Yeah, and usually MUCH earlier in the morning too, huh?!” I answered. “The lady that usually makes my travel arrangements is out of the office this week, so I got to make my own flights. Today, I’m flying at a reasonable hour!”
“So where are you going today dear?” she asked. Would you believe I had to pause and think for a moment because I couldn’t remember?
“That’s a real good question! Where the hell am I going?!” I said out loud. I travel so much these days that it all kind of blurs together, but after a moment it came to me.
“Detroit!” I blurted out, embarrassed that it had taken me so long to recall something so critical to what I was doing. She was still laughing as I fished out my ID to hand it to her.
“Oh no, I don’t need to see your ID. I’ve got your name memorized.” She said with a grin.
“So what are you saying? That I’m a little unique and maybe even memorable around here?” I asked with laugh.
“Yeah, pretty much!” she answered with a laugh of her own.
On my last flight through Austin, I had worn a fairly long skirt and they had not sent me through the whole personal inspection process for it, so I thought that maybe they had lightened up on that particular policy. I was wrong . . . Just as I walked through the metal detector, a TSA inspector walks up to me with a big grin on his face.
“Lucky you! You have been selected for additional screening. Please step right this way and we’ll be right with you!” He was so cheerful about it all that I wanted to kick him in the shins. It was hard to get too angry though, because at least they were being consistent and not just singling me out. I found myself standing right behind another woman who had also worn a long skirt. In no time a all a female TSA agent stepped forward and took the woman in front of me, and there I stood next in line. Waiting. . . and waiting . . . and waiting . . . At the end of the inspection area there is always a desk with several TSA inspectors presumably supervising the process, and around it stood two or three female TSA inspectors. They were all chatting each other up and having a good time for several minutes before one of them glanced my way. When she noticed I was waiting she took two or three steps my way, and then seemed to realize what I was and spun around on her heel and walked back to her friends. I sat there starting to fume as they all started grinning and laughing. In a few seconds, I see one of them mouth “I’ll take care of this” and then turn and head my way. I have no idea what they think my motivation is, or if they are irritated that I wear long skirts knowing that it may cause an inspection, but for me it is simple. I spent more than a decade serving my country and doing my part to earn the freedoms that we enjoy, and it has taken me the better part of forty years to build the courage to wear what I wanted to wear - I will be damned if I’ll let terrorists or the TSA force me out of them. So if they want to inspect a frequent flier that they all know and recognize by now for wearing a long skirt, then I figure that is their own stupidity and they can deal with it.
Right or wrong, hesitant or not, when they decide to do a personal inspection, they do a very personal inspection. By the time this woman was done frisking me, I was blushing and more than a little embarrassed. Blushing and embarrassed, I grabbed my back pack, shoes, and laptop, and made my way to my gate. I was sitting there and getting myself back together by putting in my earrings and putting on my bracelets, when I noticed a pretty young woman sitting across from me. She was probably in her early twenties, pretty, with long dark hair, and she was reading a book with her feet propped up on her bag. Several days later I’m still not sure why, but something about her just kind of captivated me. Sure she was pretty, and sure she was wearing a nice pair of heels that I of course noticed, but that wasn’t it. I think that what captivated me about her was just the fact that she was so damned comfortable with who and what she was. There I sat, all uptight and nervous, stressing over what I was wearing, how I was being perceived, and what people thought of me. In contrast, there she sat – perfectly comfortable with being herself, with her feet comfortably propped up on her bags in what might be considered a less than lady-like fashion.
She was not worried at all about what people thought of her.
She was not worried at all about behaving like a lady.
She was not worried at all . . .
I was sitting there kind of confused over my own reaction and brief obsession with this young lady, when a woman came and sat down in the same row, and just one seat down from me. It took me a second to realize that this was just a little bit odd. It was still more than an hour and a half before the flight and so the gate area was fairly empty. With the seating of an entire gate area open to her, she had chosen to come and sit next to me. With my curiosity aroused, I glanced up to take a better look at her, and found myself looking directly into the eyes of the pretty young woman with short blond hair. The moment our eyes met, her face lit up in a brilliant smile and she leaned toward me.
“You are beautiful!” she told me, and then sat back into her chair.
‘Did she really say that?! Did I hear her right?!’ I was asking myself over and over.
Pretty woman . . . complimented me . . . thinks I’m pretty . . . no way!
Absolutely shocked, I sat there staring at her like an idiot for at least five or ten seconds while my brain processed that completely unexpected comment. Finally the gears and belts in my brain stopped slipping and smoking and my brain started to work again.
“Thank you!” I blurted out. “You just made my day. In fact, you just made my entire week and month!”
“Your welcome and I’m happy that I made your day!” she said with a friendly smile. I sat there for a second, not sure about the social implications of my returning the compliment. I wasn’t quite sure if it was ‘appropriate’ for one woman to tell another woman that she didn’t even know, that she was pretty, but I figured that she had done it first.
“You know, you’re more than a little cute yourself!” I told her hesitantly, kind of treading on unfamiliar ground for me. I’ve never been terribly confident when it came to complimenting women, and I’d certainly never done it while I was trying to present as one.
She and I talked off and on for the next half an hour or so until her flight left. It turns out that she was going home to visit family that she hadn’t seen in years. It was kind of a triumphant homecoming for her, certainly more than just your average person going home. It seems that many years ago she had been literally run over by a drunk driver. She had died something like four times on the way to the hospital and had spent years learning how to walk again. Now she was making her way home to show her family that she had “made it”. She had overcome great adversity, had become a confident and happy person, and was going home to show her family that she was going to be her own person. I got the impression that there was much more to the story, but you can only say so much to a stranger in thirty minutes.
After I got my luggage and boarded the rental car shuttle bus in Detroit, the driver asked me if I was “Avis Preferred” or not. I assured him that I was, gave him my last name, and then took an empty seat in the rear of the bus. He took his seat and started pushing buttons on his touch screen, and then shouts all of the way through the bus to me.
“What is your first name please?”
I sat there looking at him for a second, more than a little reluctant to shout “Matthew” across a bus full of people, so he repeated the question. It’s silly, because unlike the name Huddle that I use here, my real last name is highly unique in the US, and there is zero chance that there might be any ambiguity that would require him to have my first name to verify if it was me or not. Less than amused, I got up and started to make my way to the front of the bus to reply a bit more discreetly when he looks up at me with a smile.
“Oh! Never mind – I’ve got you.”
You might think that I had ducked that embarrassing little bullet, but you would be wrong. As the entire bus load of people was exiting the bus at the lot, a woman was standing at the door, holding a contract and keys, and loudly calling my name.
“Matthew Huddle? Matthew Huddle?!”
At the top of the steps and waiting for the crowd to clear out of the way, I raised my hand to her, hoping to get her attention, but apparently she didn’t see it and continued to call out.
“MATTHEW HUDDLE? MATTHEW HUDDLE?!”
Disgusted and a little irritated, I gave up the entire concept of being discrete.
“YES?! That’s me.” I replied, trying not to sound as irritated as I felt. Still, I couldn’t help but grin when half a dozen people looked up at me in surprise, apparently not having realized what I was.
So do you remember at the start of this little story, I mentioned that I had been bored and wished that someone would break something so I could go to work? Yeah, well, you gotta be careful what you wish for, because I started working at my customers facility at 7AM Friday morning and didn’t get out of there until after 9PM. It was a long and miserable day, so I was sort of bummed that here I was with a Friday night in the Detroit area, and I was too tired and it was too late to go out and have fun.
I’m really gonna have to watch what I wish for from now on . . .