Well hell, there really isn’t much to say from the last couple of weeks. Been pretty busy, but very little of it had to do with this part of my life.
I had to make a long and nerve wracking service call to Manassas VA, but I couldn’t leave the house dressed because my wonderful Mother-in-law was staying with us. For those of you that haven’t managed to keep up on every little aspect of my life, my mother-in-law stayed with us a couple of years ago, and while my wife and I were both at work, she apparently went snooping through the house. I still have no idea at all what she found or saw, but she was kind enough to tell everyone that mattered in my wife’s family that I am a cross dresser. My wife’s aunt and uncle in San Antonio were kind enough to actually tell me this and it explained quite a few things, for example, why the husband of my wife’s sister wont stay in the same room with me. Anyway, let’s just say that for carelessly and thoughtlessly hurting my wife, she is WAY down there on my favorite person list.
When I arrived in Manassas, it turns out that my customer was no where even close to being ready for me to be there, despite the fact that they were the ones that demanded they needed me right then. They had taken one of our machines that was idle apart to farm out a lot of it’s components to other systems that had broken down over the years. Now that they had it in pieces, half of which were missing, they wanted me to come put Humpty Dumpty back together again and make it work. To really complicate things, this is normally a very reliable machine, and so I work on it very rarely, and this means that I have to pretty much learn the thing from scratch every time I go work on one. Anyway, I arrived to try and put the thing back together and make it functional again just to find out that they didn’t have any of the plumbing or power connected to it! It’s really hard to repair, setup, and test a complex machine when it has none of the gasses, water, and power that it requires to operate, and so I wound up spending an entire week unable to do much work on it until they got their end of things done.
Does this mean that Kimberly got to spend a lot of time out and about? Nope! Instead I spent that week taking an online OSHA course to get a certificate that another customer of ours is demanding we have in order to work in their fab. When I wasn’t working on that OSHA course, I was reading the manuals and training materials that I had for the machine that I was here to put back together so that I would hopefully have a clue when it came time for me to get my hands on the thing. After a week of late nights studying OSHA and the machine I was there to repair, I suddenly found my self burned out on a Sunday morning and decided it was time for Kim to get out of the hotel for a bit.
I started off by going . . . where else . . . to the mall. Bargain shopping has become something of a hobby for me, with my hitting all of the department stores and raiding the closeout and 75% off sales racks looking for treasures. One of the up sides of being a cross dresser is that I like many of the things that your average woman apparently doesn’t, and so surprisingly often I find things that I think are awesome on closeout racks being almost given away. The sky was dark and ominous as I made my way from my rental car and into Macy’s. No rain yet but it was clearly about to seriously unload on the world. I briefly considered heading back to the hotel before I got caught in a downpour, but I was pretty sure that if I spent one more uninterrupted day in that hotel room I was gonna shoot myself in the head. As I entered Macy’s, the door hadn’t even finished closing behind me when a sales associate appeared in front of me.
“Can I help you with anything?” She asked very nicely and with a friendly smile.
“Sure! Where can I find shoes?” I asked her with a grin, and why not? Doesn’t everyone want to go shoe shopping?
“Are you looking for men’s shoes or women’s?” she asked me. I hesitate a moment trying to figure out if she had just slammed me, or if that was a sincere question. She seemed honestly nice and friendly, so I didn’t think that it was a not so subtle way of saying “I know you’re a guy”
“Women’s please.” I replied, and then made my way in the pointed direction.
Well, I made my way through the entire Manassas Mall and didn’t find a single thing that I just couldn’t pass up. The bad news is that I also felt my confidence flagging with just about every step, and by the time I got back to the Macy’s door where I had entered the mall, I was really ready to get back out to the car where I could relax. It wasn’t gonna be quite that easy though, because the rain had decided that this was a good time to wash the world, and it was coming down with impressive power. It was raining so hard that when it hit the pavement it was sending spray back up into the air a good foot or more. I had brought my umbrella with me, but with rain and wind that hard, it wasn’t going to do me much good. Instead, I took one of several chairs by the door and decided to wait for it to at least slow down a bit before heading out in to it. I’d been sitting there for maybe five minutes when an older couple came up and reached the same conclusion that I had. The woman looked at me, smiled, and then turned to speak to her husband.
“I think this young lady has the right idea. How about we just take a seat and wait for a bit?” she asked him.
“Oh I dunno, I can go get the car and bring at around for you.” He said doubtfully while staring out of the glass door at the heavy rain.
“No, no – I know you! You will run and you might slip and fall. Let’s just take a seat and wait for a while.”
Well apparently this was a grand idea, because in moments there were about a dozen people all gathered at the door and watching the rain pound the snot outta the pavement. After about 15 minutes it finally slowed enough that my desire to get away from the crowd at the door exceeded my desire for dry feet, and so out into the thunder storm I went.
I have no idea why my self confidence was so low, but I returned to my hotel fully intending to take a shower and go back to being a guy, but I just hated the idea of having spent two hours to get ready, just to take it all off after only an hour. I looked in the mirror and thought that I actually looked pretty decent, but I just didn’t feel confident. Still, I had spent two hours getting ready and I’ll be damned if I was gonna let it all go to waste, so I headed out to the movie theater to see “8 MM”.
I guess a lot of people wanted to pass their wet Sunday watching movies because the place was absolutely packed and I had to park way to hell and gone out in the parking lot and make a hike up to the counter. As I approached the door, there were two teenaged girls wearing identical burnt orange shirts standing outside chatting, and they both stopped talking to watch me approach. As I got within three or four feet of them I gave them a great big smile and then watched their reflection in the glass doors as they turned to watch me walk past. When I got to the ticket counter, I found myself face to face with a young lady with absolutely awesome eyes and very elaborate eye shadow and eye liner applied. I got the usual reaction from her that I seem to get from most young women – a moment of confusion while her mind tried to figure out what it was about me that just wasn’t “quite right”, and then a huge grin as she figured it out. As I handed over my money and she prepared my tickets, I kept trying to figure out exactly how she had done her eye makeup, but ultimately I gave up and just decided to appreciate the fact that her eyes were incredible. The very thought of getting into another line of people for soda and candy just made my stomach do flip-flops, and so I just headed directly into the theater.
It looked as though my timing was just right, because just as I was taking my seat, the lights dimmed and the previews started. Soaring music began to fill the theater and a line of bright and flashing stars started to progress across the screen and everyone in the theater leaned forward in anticipation . . . and then everything stopped. The music stopped and the dancing stars froze mid way across the screen, halted dead in their tracks. We all just kept watching the screen, convinced that any moment now the stars would resume their interrupted journey, but it was in vain – the stars refused to move and the music refused to play. In about five minutes people started to get annoyed and loud, and at least half a dozen people walked out, presumably with the goal of rounding up an employee to resolve the issue. About ten minutes after the screen froze, a young woman with a radio and a flashlight entered the theater and we could hear her talking to someone over the radio about the frozen movie.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry, but there appears to be a glitch of some sort and we have someone looking at the projector right now. It should only be a moment.” She announced to the crowd.
The stars disappeared and the screen went dark. The house lights came up, then dimmed, then came up, and then dimmed again, but still no movie.
“Well, it looks like the problem is more serious than we thought, but we have a technician on the way right now to look at it. We will have the movie started shortly, and I will also meet each and every one of you after the movie to give you a free ticket to the movie of your choice. I’m so sorry for the inconvenience.” The young lady with the flashlight loudly told us. Of course you could hardly hear her apology at the end because the crowd was applauding and shouting their approval at the idea of free tickets to another movie.
The movie was all right. Not awesome, but not bad, and clearly intended for the youngsters, but I knew that when I went in to it. It surprised and impressed me by focusing far more on the emotional interactions between the people than it did on the “monster movie” aspects of the film. I would say that it is worth seeing, but you should probably wait to see it on video instead of paying for the theater experience. As I was leaving the theater after the movie, I felt like a big, ugly, old cross dresser, and not at all like a woman, and so I all but ran for my rental car with out even considering sticking around to redeem my free movie ticket. Only four to five hours after spending two hours of effort to try and look like a woman, I was in the shower washing it all off, and for the very first time in almost a decade, I seriously considered purging – throwing away all of my female things. Don’t panic folks - I only considered it, I didn’t do it.
After my shower I sat at the desk in front of my laptop just staring at it. When I found myself seriously considering taking my two thousand dollar company laptop and heaving it against the wall, I decided that maybe I would go and see that free movie after all. Back in boy mode I was once again at the theater, and once again face to face with the young woman with the awesome eyes, and this time I decided to tell her so.
“You know I have to tell you, you have really awesome eyes.”
“Thank you.” She said with a smile as she handed me my tickets. Unless I miss my guess, she is probably told that a lot and has long since stopped being surprised by that compliment.
The next movie I saw was the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” and it was a good deal of fun. I wont spoil the movie for you, but let’s just say that I’m never gonna watch “The Little Mermaid” in quite the same way again.
A little bit at a time, my customer was managing to get the required electrical, water, and gasses that my machine required plumbed to it, and so I was able to do a little work on it Monday, and by Tuesday, my work was able to start in earnest. No great surprise to me, but Tuesday morning when my machine at last had all of the things that were required for it to operate, I found that it had many problems, and I was not able to make it work correctly. I spent the next two days pounding my head against it with no success, and by Wednesday night, with my face red with shame, I was sending emails to my customer and my manager letting them know that I had failed to find the root causes and resolve all of the issues, and that we were probably going to have to bring someone from our factory in Berlin over to pick up my slack. That was a pretty bad moment and day for me, because in the 16 years that I have worked for this company, I have never failed to fix an instrument just because I couldn’t figure out what the root cause of the failure was. I have failed to fix instruments because they required work that can only be performed at the factory, but never because I wasn’t smart enough to figure out what the problem was.
I went to bed that night feeling horribly depressed and ashamed of myself. I’d been laying in bed for about an hour, listening to people in the hallways, slamming doors, and the sounds of someone moving around in the room above me, when my eyes flew open – I had it! I hadn’t even realized that I was thinking about it, but just like that and completely unbidden, the solution to my customers failing instrument had come to me!
The following morning I charged into my customer fab (factory) and just about ran to my machine where I adjusted one stupid little gas regulator from the low end of our spec (75 PSI) up to the high end of our spec (85 PSI). I moved around to the front where the control panel is located and initiated the start-up process, and all but held my breath while everything began to come on line. I’m not sure, but I think I actually shouted “YES!” at the top of my lungs when the thing started to function flawlessly! At least it was operating flawlessly right up until the Ozone safety monitor started to howl at me, warning me that my machine was leaking a HUGE amount of Ozone inside of its cabinet, and if I didn’t shut it down, things and people were going to start getting hurt. I was still laughing though, because leaks I can find and address, and now there was no question that I was going to go home leaving a working machine behind me and a happy customer.
By about 3PM on Thursday, my customer and I were both satisfied with the performance of the machine, and I found myself sitting in a very hot rental car in the customers parking lot trying to decide what to do with the rest of my afternoon. There wasn’t enough time to get ready and to do anything pretty, but I just couldn’t stand the thought of returning to the hotel room where I’d spent the vast majority of the last two weeks cooped up. In the end I decided to indulge my bargain hunting hobby and raid the sales racks at all of the local department stores that weren’t in the mall that I had already raided. I went to Sears, Marshalls, Ross, and at last found myself at the Burlington Coat Factory. I found three tops selling for $10 or less each and then found a cute light green lace top on the clearance rack. It didn’t have a price tag on it, and I figured that might be a problem, but I decided to take it to the counter with me anyway. I got into one of the two check out lines, and when it was my turn, I laid the top in front of the young lady.
“This was on the clearance rack in the back of the store, but it doesn’t have a price tag on it. Does this mean I don’t gitta take it home?” I asked her while batting my eyes at her. “Not a problem! I’ll just look it up!” she told me after stopped laughing. She started entering a lot of numbers into her PC off of the tag, but it was in vain – the machine kept coming back empty handed.
“Uh oh, this doesn’t look good for the home team!” I told her with a grin. She told me not to worry about it, and then called a manager over who then trotted off to see if she could find the same top with a price tag still on it, or one that was at least a lot like it. We stood there waiting for at least five minutes, which is a long time when you have a long line of people glaring at you for holding them up. Not exactly an ideal situation if you’re a guy buying several womens tops and you had really wanted to stay under the radar.
“You know, I like that top, but I’m not sure I want it that bad!” I told her at last.
“No problem!” she said, and was just starting to set the cute little green top aside when the manager finally showed up, holding a top that was similar but not quite the same as the one I had wanted to buy.
“OK, just sell it to him for the same price as this one.” The out of breath manager told the cashier as she was handing the garment and its tag to her. I was pleased to see that it was also less than $10 and then I noticed that I really kind of liked the top that the manger had brought.
“You know what? I like that one too and I can’t believe that I missed it when I was shopping. Why don’t you go ahead and chuck that one in the bag too?!” I told her with a wink.
Friday, almost two full weeks after leaving my wife and children behind, it was finally time to head back home. I spent a lot of time trying to decide if I should fly home as Matt or as Kim. My confidence has been exceedingly low lately and that can be a problem if your gonna enter the airline system. Once you take the plunge and start your trip, your pretty much committed, because once you leave the hotel there isn’t much you can do if you suddenly decide “Gee, I’m not having fun and wish I hadn’t done this.” On the other hand, every time I have taken a flight as Matt that I could have taken as Kim, I spend the entire day beating myself up, and hating myself every time I see a woman in an outfit I like. It seems like my choices were between spending the day anxious and self conscious as Kim or angry and jealous as Matt. The more I thought on it, the more I figured it was a “get back on the horse and ride” kind of thing, and so I started getting ready to go as Kim.
As you enter the Washington-Dulles airport, there is a long ramp that you walk down that takes you from where the rental car shuttle drops you off to where the escalators are that take you up to ticket counters. I was about mid way down that ramp, hauling my rolling tool box and my large suitcase behind me, when a woman came up from behind me and leaned in towards me as she walked by.
“That’s a great dress!” she told me in kind of a conspiratorial way as if we were sharing a secret. I laughed and thanked her, but she never slowed down - she just kept walking.
I think that I might have been the first TG that the TSA inspector checking tickets had ever seen, because he looked at me and my ID pretty long and hard before scrawling his approval across my ticket. One thing for sure, there was no fear this time of my being frisked for wearing a skirt or dress that was too long! After the guy that checks your ticket waves you through, you still have to get into another line that goes through the metal detector or full body scanner. It was kind of a luck of the draw thing whether you were going to have to go through the full body scanner or just the metal detector, and I was a bit relieved when I was waved through the metal detector line. I was relieved because every time I’ve gone through the full body scanner I’ve been stopped and had my chest patted down because of my breast forms. I would really rather not have he hassle. When I got up to the metal detector, there was a large African American TSA inspector running it and she waved me through with a smile. I walked through and then joined yet another line of people waiting at the X-ray machines output for their bags to come through. There was some idiot standing there and he left his bins on the X-ray belt while he was slowly taking each of the items out and putting them away. With all of his bins blocking the belt, no one else behind him could get their things. Six or seven of us stood there in line watching him very slowly reach in and pick up his watch and put it on. Then at the pace of a glacier he picked up his belt and slowly put it on, picked up his wallet and put it away, picked up one shoe and slowly leaned down to put it on. The guy running the machine had finally decided that he had enough and started the belt running again, forcing the slow poke to pick up his bin and move to the countless benches that they provide for people to put it all away. I was just about to reach up and grab my things to carry them off and put them on when I realized that the female TSA guard was trying to get my attention.
“Ma’am? Ma’am?” she called two or three times before I realized that it was me she was calling to. Kind of wondering what I might have done wrong, I looked up at her.
“Yes ma’am?” I asked.
“How high are those heels? About five inches?”
“No, they aren’t that high!” I replied, relieved that she didn’t want anything official to do with me. “I think they are three and half inches.”
“They are so cute! I noticed you while you were standing in line and all I could think of was how much I liked them!”
“Well thank you! They are kind of cute aren’t they?” I told her. “I got ‘em at JC Penny’s a while back on clearance.”
“Yeah, but don’t they hurt your feet?”
“Well . . . maybe just a little bit!” I told her with a laugh while holding up my thumb and forefinger up and about half an inch apart.
No one paid me the slightest bit of attention on the flight, but when it landed in Austin and I was making my way up the jet bridge, the Delta customer service rep that had operated the jet bridge stopped me as I was walking by.
“I LOVE your shoes!” she told me. I couldn’t help myself – I just started to laugh.
“Well thank you. You know, I’m getting that quite a lot today?!”
“I’ll bet you do!” she said with a laugh.