This week I was headed out to the Albany New York area to take a few classes that a major customer there insists that you must have if you are going to work in their fab. Since they have just bought several million dollars worth of equipment from my company that I was going to have to install, that meant it was time for me to go back to school!
As usual, I arrived at the airport quite early for my flight, and so I was checking in with Delta airlines at 8AM for my 1050AM flight. Already, three hours before the flight was to leave, they knew that it was going to be delayed so long that I was going to miss my connection in Atlanta, and so they rebooked me on an alternate flight that went through Detroit and left at 1230 in the afternoon. While they were trying to rebook my flights, we were all chatting with each other, and it turns out that the male customer service rep I have spoken about before has five children! I just laughed and told him that he must be nuts, because having only three children was hard enough for me!
After about five minutes of punching keys on her computer, Mona finally had me on the alternate flight and handed me a ticket from Austin to Detroit, and a “seat request” slip from Detroit to Albany. I shook my head in self disgust as I headed for security and the gate, because I was at the airport at 8AM for a flight that now wasn’t going to leave until 1230! Even I am not that anal retentive!
After killing four and half hours in the Austin airport, I made the almost three hour flight to Detroit with out any problems or issues, but still had to step it out a little to get to my next flight as it was supposed to start boarding in about 15 minutes from the time I landed. Since I didn’t have a seat for the next flight though, I had to stop at the Delta service desk, and I was greeted there by two middle aged women.
“Hi, can I help you?” One of them asked me, with a professional smile on her lips.
“Sure! I need a seat please.” I told her while handing her my “seat request” slip and the card showing that I am platinum with Delta. She glanced at the card, took my “seat request” and then handed them both back to me.
“That ticket is for Matthew – I need yours please.” She told me, still with that professional smile on her face. It’s been quite a while since anyone has failed to realizes that I was a cross dresser once I was standing in front of them and speaking to them, so this just tickled the hell outta me.
“Umm, I am Matthew.” I told her with a grin and batted my eyes several times at her before adding “and you just made my entire day, maybe even my whole week!” Now the professional smile slipped just a bit as she tried to figure out what the hell I was talking about, and then her face lit up in a real smile.
“Well I’ll be!” she said with a grin of her own. “Well hold on a moment and I’ll see what I can do for you!”
While she was typing away at the PC, the woman next to her was staring at me so I glanced her way. As soon as she saw me looking her way she also grinned from ear to ear.
“I love your wedding ring.” She said, giving me a wink while pointing at the inexpensive “fake” womans wedding ring that I wear.
“Thank you!’ I told her, still feeling more than a little smug and self satisfied that the woman had not realized that I was a guy until I had been forced to tell her so. I was about to share with her that the ring was really inexpensive costume jewelry, but I decided that maybe I would just keep that to myself. Besides, I figure that odds are good she knew that darned good and well.
As I got to my next gate I discovered that I had rushed for nothing because the flight that was scheduled to leave at 445 was delayed and not going to leave until 630PM. I wasn’t happy about this, but it was hardly worth getting excited about, and so I got comfortable in the gate area and began reading my book. As I was reading, I couldn’t help noticing that one gentleman in the gate area was taking long and hard looks at me from time to time over his own book. I’m pretty used to that by now and so it didn’t bother me much, but still, I noted it as part of the old military habit of paying attention to your surroundings.
At around 6PM the flight started boarding and so I found my seat and once again got comfortable with my book. After half an hour or so, the flight was loaded and . . . we went nowhere. It turns out that the ramp was closed for thunder storms and so we sat there for about half an hour. Since my day had started at 4AM, I was already getting kind of tired, and so I was a fairly happy camper when the door was closed and I finally heard the engines starting as the plane was pushed back from the gate. The bad news is that my optimism was misplaced. You see, all we did was taxi for ten minutes before the pilot stopped the aircraft and shut the engines down again.
“Ladies and gentlemen, if you will look out of the right side of the aircraft, you will see a very long line of airplanes all waiting for their turn to take off. Unfortunately we are at the end of that line, and so we are going to wait here for a while and conserve fuel.” The pilot told us over the intercom. This was met with the sounds of groans from the passengers, but no one was real upset just yet. Of course at that point we didn’t know that we were going to be sitting there for almost an hour! At long last, the engines are started once again and we moved to take our place in what was still a long line of aircraft, all awaiting their turn for taking to the sky. We sat in that line for almost another hour, moving only once that entire time before the captain came on the intercom again. You knew it was going to be bad by the way he hesitated and kind of stammered as he spoke.
“Uh folks, I’m sorry to tell you that we have developed a technical problem with the aircraft that we can’t resolve from the cockpit, so we are going to have to return to the gate and let maintenance take a look at it.”
This time the groans were much louder because by now we have been on this plane for about two hours.
Apparently the man in the seat in front of me had had enough because he started to get quite loud.
“This just sucks! Delta is the worst God Damned airline I have ever seen . . . “ and he went on and on and on. He continued to rant loudly at the poor flight attendant as if it were all her fault as we taxied to the gate where we sat for almost another hour before again getting an update from the cockpit.
“Well ladies and gentlemen, we have resolved the technical issue but are now waiting on Detroit to bring us a fuel truck. We have made multiple calls, but there are a lot of aircraft in exactly the same situation we are in and so they haven’t been able to get to us yet. To make matters worse, the way our problem was resolved now requires us to be fueled over the wing, and that requires a different truck than the one that is normally used. As I said, we have made multiple calls for fuel, and we will continue to keep you informed.”
Since we had been cooped up in the plane so long, the flight attendant started handing out free drinks, and also allowed people to stand up and stretch their legs. Of course there was a mob of people all trying to get to the bathroom and so I decided to stay seated for a moment. When I next checked, I found that the bathroom was finally empty, but there were three or four women standing in the isle and talking to each other. I also noted that the same man that had been looking at me in the gate area was standing in the aisle one row of seats up from me and supposedly reading his book, but I kept seeing him looking over his book at me. I’d had just about enough of being stared at, and by now really had to go the bathroom, and so I got up and made my way to the back of the plane, asking the ladies to excuse me as I went by. On the way back to my seat I once again had to brave the gauntlet of chatting women.
“Excuse me just one more time ladies.” I asked softly as I drew up behind one of them.
“Of course!” she told me, and quickly tried to make way for me to get by. As I was walking past them, I heard one of them make a comment.
“What a darling dress!”
“What? This old thing?” I replied with a laugh while tugging at the skirt. “I’m just teasing, and thank you. It is kind of cute isn’t it?”
They all gave polite laughs as I continued on to my seat. As I grabbed my book, I also took the safety handout out of the seat in front of me and started to use it to fan myself. The air-conditioning just wasn’t cutting it with the door wide open and so I was getting uncomfortably hot.
“You know you should come and stand by the door to get some fresh air.” I heard a voice say, and when I looked up, I found that it was my “admirer” addressing me.
“Oh no, I’m fine thank you.” I told him with a smile.
“Well, I hope you don’t mind my saying so, but you look pretty uncomfortable. The air coming in the door here is actually pretty cool if you would like to stand here?” he repeated.
“Thank you, but I’ll be fine.” I replied.
Of course he wasn’t that far off of the mark. The medication that I am on for the skin condition on my legs makes my hands and face feel flushed and uncomfortably warm in the best of climates, and when you add a wig, nylons, and a poorly air-conditioned airplane, I was feeling fairly miserable.
We were still waiting for the fuel at 10PM when the captain finally threw in the towel and admitted defeat.
“Folks, I am sorry, but as a result of the bad weather, this crew has already been on duty for 15 hours and we are no longer allowed to fly. I know this is a huge inconvenience for you, buy it’s your safety that we have in mind. We have tried to get you another crew but since so many other planes were in the same situation, there just isn’t a crew available, and so we have no choice but to cancel this flight.”
Just as soon as he stopped talking, the flight attendant was on the PA.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have checked and there is one other flight to Albany scheduled tonight and so you may be able to fly standby on it. I’m sorry, but I have no other information for you so please check at the gate counter or proceed to the Delta service desk.”
While she was talking, I, and a lot of others, were already on cell phones with Delta in the hopes of getting a seat on that flight before the entire aircraft full of people hit the counters to try and do the same. Just about the time she stopped talking I was being told that the flight she had just mentioned was 100% full and there was no chance in hell that I would be able to get on it.
By now, the guy in front of me had gone completely ‘round the bend and is almost shouting.
“I can’t believe you guys run an airline like this! You guys really need to get your shit together. I swear to God, I will never fly Delta again!” He went on in this way with the poor flight attendant for a good five or ten minutes, and was getting so loud and obnoxious that I fully expected to see police boarding the plane to take him off. I don’t know squat about self defense, but this guy was so unreasonably mad that I found myself unbuckling my seatbelt just in case I might have to get up and drag him off of the poor flight attendant. This was gonna be just awesome – ‘stranded, no guy clothes, and gonna go to the hospital after this guy kicks my ass when I pull him off the flight attendant’ I thought to myself.
I guess the flight attendant was getting nervous too, because she lost her professionalism and started to shout back at him.
“Look, it’s not my fault sir!” she was replied loudly.
“Well DO you work for Delta or do you NOT?!” the man shouted back at her.
Much to my great relief, the jet bridge finally arrived and everyone started to file off of the aircraft without anyone being assaulted.
‘Wonderful, just freaking wonderful!’ I thought to myself as I walked up the jet bridge. This entire trip had been for me to take a class the following morning with two other people from my company and now I flat out wasn’t going to get there in time. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, now I was stranded in Detroit without a single stitch of male clothing to my name. By the next morning I would be sporting a beard shadow so flying pretty would be exceedingly ugly. The airline would put me up in a hotel for the night, but that wouldn’t solve any of my special problems – how was I going to fly to Albany in the morning with no male clothing, and without the makeup and razors that were packed in my checked baggage and would be needed to fly pretty?! It had been a long day and I was tired, so my brain sort of spun around in circles for a while before I came up with a plan. I told the airline not to worry about the hotel – I would get my own. Next, I called Avis and was thrilled to hear that they were still open and did have one car available on the lot!
As I entered the Avis kiosk, I found two women still working there and one of them glances up at me.
“Can I help you?” she asked, and then after a slight pause. “Hey! I haven’t seen you in a while! How are you?!”
“Honestly? I am in a whole world of shit right now and I hope like hell you can help me!” I told her with a tired laugh.
“I’d be glad to help you! What’s the problem?”
“Well, the problem is that Delta airlines just stranded me here for the night, so I need a car and I need to know where to find a Walmart or Target that is open 24/7. Please help me!” I said with a laugh.
“Not a problem!” she said with a laugh of her own. “We have one car left and I know where to find a 24/7 Walmart only three or four miles from here!”
“Awesome! You rock, and thank you so much!”
“Not a problem.” She repeated. “I had the very same thing happen to me about a year ago, so I understand.”
“Yeah, but things get a lot more complicated when you’re a cross dresser.” I told her with a giggle while she started doing the paperwork. “If I go to work like this tomorrow, I loose my job, and that’s sort of a major problem.”
“I guess it would be. Ya gotta keep that J O B!” she said, spelling out the word ‘job’ instead of saying it.
“You got that right! My wife and children have grown kind of addicted to eating and having a roof over their heads.”
Soon she had all of my paper work together and she gave me instructions on how to find the Walmart that was supposedly open 24 hours a day. It was almost 11PM when I threw my backpack into a bright yellow compact car and headed out for Walmart. Along the way, I called the Holiday Inn and they booked me for a room for the whopping three or four hours I would have left to sleep in, so things were looking up.
Not one person looked at me sideways as I made my way through Walmart to buy one entire male outfit for the following mornings travel. I hate buying clothes at Walmart as they are often so cheap that they degrade on the first washing, but beggars can’t be choosers at around midnight. Being so tired, I was having trouble thinking straight and so I kept going through the list to myself.
“Jeans, socks, shoes, shirt, belt . . . jeans, socks, shoes, shirt . . .OH! A bag to carry my female outfit back in too!”
At about half past midnight I found myself entering a hotel room carrying my back pack and two or three bags with tomorrows outfit. Since I had to be back at the airport by 530Am, I was only going to get about three hours of sleep. Exhausted, and angry at the world and myself, I showered and hit the bed.
It seemed like I had just closed my eyes when my cell phone alarm started to go off ever so freaking cheerfully. I considered throwing it across the room but didn’t figure that would make my life any easier, and so I just dragged my butt outta bed and headed for the airport where I returned the car I had rented only five hours earlier. The way I figure it, my failure to carry a male outfit with me had just cost me and my company in the area of $250 in hotels, rental cars, and clothes, and that doesn’t come close to the cost of the fear and anxiety I had been under all evening when it had begun to become clear that I might not be making it to my destination as planned.
Going through the Detroit airport security the following morning, I had bit of a problem. I had purchased a small bag to carry the female outfit that I had worn the day before and this of course included my “gel” breast forms. They are considered a medical prosthesis and so are technically allowed through the check point, but there was the whole embarrassment factor to be considered. Technically I was supposed to place them in bins and send them through the x-ray machine, but I was awful tempted to just leave them hidden in the bag and see if I could avoid the embarrassment. In the end, I just sucked it up, grabbed my courage, and placed them in the bin to go through the x-ray machine. To my great relief, no one seemed to notice or care, and no questions were asked.
Well, I did of course miss the class that I was supposed to take that morning, but oh happy day, the very same class was offered the very next morning, and so at least my pain had not been in vain or for nothing.
I spent the following three days taking an assortment of safety and protocol classes that were required for me to work at the new factory, and I amused myself by looking at the people around me during the training. I am not so small that people pick on me or anything like that, but I am definitely not a big guy, and so I had to kind of grin as I realized that compared to the vast majority of construction type guys sitting around me in the classroom, I really was the pipsqueak. Not just one or two of them, but most of these guys, had huge arms – at least one or two times the size of my own thighs. I kept reminding myself to stand up straight, shoulders back, and to puff out my chest, but I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t fooling any of these guys. I felt like a shrimp compared to the iron workers and other construction guys.
I had one evening to myself, and while I didn’t have the time for getting “dressed” and doing anything, I did have the time to walk through a mall and a store or two. Much to my delight I found treasure in the Burlington Coat Factory – a killer pair of red Mary Janes and a Red, White, and Black dress that was awesome! Even better, the red in the dress was a very close match to the red shoes, and so I knew then and there what outfit I would be wearing for the trip home!
It’s kind of funny – I see very few women wearing Mary Jane shoes and yet they all seem to adore them! Not just women, but guys seem to notice them too.
“And I see that you found the perfect shade of shoes for that dress!” the man in front of me said as I was taking my shoes off of the X-ray machine going through security in the Albany airport on my way home. I looked up at him and grinned.
“You might be joking but, but I’ve been looking for the perfect red shoes for a long time!”
Boarding the flight from Albany to Detroit, the flight attendant was a woman maybe ten years older than I am, and I could tell by her grin as I approached the aircraft door that she knew good and well what I am. As I got to the door, I noticed that she was literally staring at my new shoes.
“They are a bit taller than I wanted, but they were so cute I had to get ‘em!” I told her with a laugh and a wink as I passed her.
“Sweetheart, they are adorable!” she replied with a laugh.
Mid way through my next flight, a connection from Detroit to Austin, a beautiful young flight attendant with long dark hair stopped by my chair and leaned in to talk to me.
“Your shoes are so cute!”
“Thank you! I just got em! They may not be the most practical, but I couldn’t resist!”
When the plane finally landed in Austin, I did my superman routine in the “special needs” bathroom – enter it as a woman in a pretty dress and cute heels, and exit it as a tired old man. Sigh . . .