When I landed in Austin last week, I was shocked when my bags came rolling down the baggage claim. The chemical smell wafting up from my bag was overwhelming and choking. It seems that my brand new bottle of nail polish remover had apparently worked its way open and happily soaked everything in my suitcase. That zip lock bag that I had the bottle in just in case of this unhappy event? Yeah, forget about it – it leaked too. Most of my clothing I have bought off of sales racks and at thrift stores. Very few garments I’ve bought were full price or expensive, and so wouldn’t you know it that the only skirt I ever paid more than $100 for was in that bag, and yes, it came out ruined. Everything else seemed to be OK after a washing and so it wasn’t as bad as I might have feared. One hidden surprise though – when I was getting ready for this weeks trip and putting my shoes on, I discovered that the acetone had apparently destroyed the elastic strap for the buckle of my favorite black Mary Janes. Now THAT really pisses me off but what can you do?
This week I was off to the Boston area, where I was to repair an obsolete instrument that had been shipped to our factory from Great Britain. When this customer first contacted us, I was terribly excited thinking that as I was the only one in the company capable of working on this instrument, I was probably about to take a trip to GB. I’ve been to Europe many times, but never to GB and so I was sort of looking forward to that . . . right up until my manager shot me down. He made it clear that his region was the United States and so was mine, and he had absolutely no intention of allowing me to travel to GB to do the repair. DAMN HIM! J So anyway, they worked it out so that the customer shipped his instrument to our service center in Methuen MA and I would travel there to do the repair. The good news? I like coming to this region as I know several people here and enjoy meeting up with the various Sisters groups there.
This time I took a couple of what I considered to be fashion risks. As I seem to do fairly often these days, I had bought a long black lace skirt months ago and stowed it away for a while because it was far too heavy and hot for summer. I had also bought a purple, sort of tunic style top that I had feared may be too long on me, but I think my fears were unfounded. When I put the two together I was most pleased with the outfit.
As I arrived at the Delta counter, I could see my favorite lady at the counter and couldn’t help but grin when I noticed that she was dragging her feet so that the guy in front of me would go be handled by someone else, allowing her to take care of me. That’s OK though, because right after inflating my ego like a balloon, she punctured it for me.
“Hey, how are you doing today sir?” she asked with a friendly smile. I had long ago decided I wasn’t going to get worked up about the “Sir” vs. “Ma’am” thing, unless it was done with the intent to be disrespectful, and so I said nothing about it and just smiled back and struck up your typical conversation, none if which do I recall as I write this. I was fortunate enough to get free upgrades to First Class, and so flew in comfort. Having spoken with Kristen of the Sisters of Worcester, I knew that she was going to bring her guitar to their weekly get together and so I also brought mine. Several years ago, making this exact journey on United Airlines, my favorite guitar was destroyed by them. I was flying with Delta this time, but still I was far too frightened to check my guitar and so carried it with me. Unfortunately it was too large to go in the over head for the first leg of my trip and so I had to gate check it, so as I was getting off of the airplane in Detroit to catch my connecting flight, I had to stand there waiting for them to bring it up. After a dozen or so other bags were brought up, at last I see my guitar being carried by a female baggage handler. As she came in the door I waved at her to let her know it was mine and she got a huge grin on her face.
“I just knew it was yours!” she said. We both laughed as I thanked her, but as I walked away it occurred to me that I had missed the chance for an interesting conversation. I should have asked her why she thought it was mine. J
As I was leaving the gate area, a fellow passenger approached me.
“So you’re a musician then?” he stopped and asked me.
“I’m an amateur musician anyway.” I told him. I had the distinct impression that he wanted to talk more with me but was trying to decide if he should or not. He had a very pensive attitude, like someone trying to make a significant decision. I don’t know if that was the case or not though, because as I looked at the monitors to find out where my next flight left from, he slowly walked off. I mentally kicked myself, thinking that he might have really wanted someone to talk to and instead of giving him my full attention, I had focused on my own concerns. That was very thoughtless and inconsiderate of me . . .
I found my gate and was getting comfortable while I waited, when a woman sits down across from me and speaks with a British accent.
“What a wonderful traveling companion you have there. What is it?” she asked. I thought it was obvious it was a guitar and so assumed she wanted to know what kind.
“It’s a Takamine.” I told her. She got this blank look on her face.
“I’m sorry. What is it?” she asked again.
“It’s a Takamine.” I repeated, and then seeing that she still had a confused look on her face, I added “It’s a Takamine guitar”
“Oh! I see!” She exclaimed. She said nothing for a few minutes but continued to look at the case.
“Do you play guitar?” I asked her, thinking that maybe she would be interested in playing it for a moment.
“Oh no, not at all. I’m the audience you see.” She told me with a sheepish grin, looking like she was embarrassed that she doesn’t play one herself.
I got about five miles south of the Manchester airport in my rental car when my GPS starts to complain. “BEEP” it says, and when I look at the screen there is a message that the battery is low. ‘What the hell?’ I asked myself as I checked the cord connecting it to the car’s cigarette lighter. Everything was firmly connected and yet my GPS was getting no power from the car. “Blurp!” it again says, sounding sad and pitiful, and once again I acknowledge the ‘Battery low’ alarm. This time I had the sense to scan it’s list of future instructions on what exits to take to get to my hotel, and was in the process of trying to commit them to memory when the GPS turned itself off. Fortunately I knew the general area of the hotel and had no worries finding my workplace the next morning, and so not being able to power my GPS wasn’t going to be a show stopping tragedy. Still, I felt traumatized looking at me dead and dark GPS hanging from the windshield, because I have truly come to rely in the thing, and felt like my right arm had just been taken off.
The following day was just kind of a “blah” day, and so after I got off of work, I just went to the grocery store to stock my suites kitchen, and then walked through the Burlington Mall in boy mode searching for replacements for my now ruined favorite shoes. I found a pair in Macy’s that I was mildly interested in and as I was examining it, a SA asked me if I needed help. I held the display shoe out to her and asked if she had it in size 10. She assured me that they would and went off after it. When she brought the shoes out, I examined the pair and decided that they really weren’t what I wanted.
“Well, what did you have in mind?” she asks.
“Black Mary Janes, with three to three and half inch heels” I told her.
“Hmmm. . . . how tall is she?” she asked. I looked at her for a moment and then grinned.
“Oh, about this tall!” I told her while placing my flat hand on top of my head. She got a huge smile on her face and held up the shoes I had just rejected.
“Well then, these are gonna make her a lot taller!” she said with a laugh.
“That’s not a problem, I’m long since over worrying about that.” I told her with a wink.
She took me to another pair, but with two inch heels. I shook my head.
“Nope. Not sure why, but those scream ‘old lady’ to me. Is there a happy medium between ‘old lady’ and ‘slut’?” I asked.
“Oh ho, I see!” she said with a laugh.
“Hmmm . . . maybe I should rephrase that! Do you have a happy medium between ‘old lady’ and ‘sexy’?” I asked. She offered a few options but nothing I really thought screamed “buy me” and so I thanked her for her help and left empty handed.
When Wednesday rolled around, I charged my GPS with my laptop and timed how long it took to go dead on the way to my factory, and then later on the way home. I timed it at about 45 minutes and figured that if I shut it off on the long stretches, this should be enough to get me to the Sisters of Worcester meeting at Club Blu tonight and then back home after.
This is a great group of people, every one of them an honestly nice and kind person, and they always welcome me, and anyone else for that matter, with open arms and a hug. If your ever in this area, and don’t look up the Sisters, your being a fool. Well, shortly after I got there, Kristen showed up with her guitar and we started to make some noise. No question in my mind that if she and I had the chance to play together more often, we could be fairly good together. We made it through a few songs together and just generally had a very good time.
A few hours later it was time to go, and so I made the short and very cold walk to my rental car. As the car was warming up, I fired up the GPS and was immediately greeted with a loud “BEEP!” and “Battery low!” message. ‘Holly smokes’ I thought to myself, ‘I only used it for five minutes on the way here! It can’t be low already!’ The GPS really didn’t care about my opinion of what it’s battery life should be, and so I’d only gone a mile of so from Club Blu when it went dark and turned itself off, leaving me in a city I didn’t know, with an hours drive to another city I didn’t know well. No worries though, because there were a few things I had learned in over a decade of active duty Army service, and one of them was to always be prepared for the worst. With this very thought in mind, I had thrown my laptop in the trunk of the car, and so I pulled over and got it out. After plugging it into my cell phone, I was off and running with mapquest.com on the laptop in the passenger seat. It wasn’t safe, it wasn’t efficient, but it did get the job done, and so an hour later I was back at my hotel in Burlington MA.
Thursday turned out to be another “blah” day, and all I did after work was surf the net, and push the channel up and down buttons on the TV remote repeatedly, and for hours on end.
Friday I finished my work early and was back at the hotel around 1PM, and decided to go shopping for Christmas presents and then to the Sisters of Boston meeting at 8PM. I had already walked the Burlington Mall Tuesday and so knew there were no shoes there that I wanted, and so I headed north to the Rockingham Mall in NH. The traffic was horrible, and it took me over an hour to go the six miles from Burlington to the I93 / I95 interchange. By the time I got past that, I was a basket case and mentally already almost prepared to call it a night. As I pulled in to the parking lot for the Rockingham mall, I knew I had done something wrong, because I had been there before and recalled it as being a fairly large and state of the art mall, and yet I was looking at your typical and small strip mall in front of me. I was just starting to get irritated with myself for not checking out the mall location a bit better before heading out for it, when one of the stores in the little strip mall caught my eye – Saks Fifth Avenue “Off Broadway shoe store”. Hmmm . . . as long as I’m here, this is worth a quick look see! I walked up and down each isle but didn’t see anything that I just had to have and so was about to leave when I noted a sale rack and went to look. On it, I found a pair of Kalvin Klein Mary Janes, with 3.5 to 4 inch stilettos. They normally sold for over $100 but were now on sale for $55. I’ve never cared even a little tiny bit about name brands on anything I buy, and I couldn’t care less that they were Kalvin Klein, but when I tried them on I was instantly sold. They were a touch higher than I wanted, but were remarkably comfortable, and so I snatched them.
“Would you like a gift receipt to go with that?” the SA asks me.
“No ma’am, I live in central Texas and so a trip to return them would be a bit out of the question.” I told her.
“Not to mention you wouldn’t want to come back to the cold!” she added with a small laugh as she rang them up. I got back in the car and tried to puzzle out where I had gone wrong, as this clearly was not the mall that I remember from prior trips here. I turned on my crippled GPS and searched for “Macy’s” figuring that there was a Macy’s at pretty much every mall, and so if I was close it should tell me. Surprise, surprise, the huge mall I recalled was only about 0.3 miles from me, and so off I went.
My primary intent for this shopping trip was to get a “Ariel” doll from “The Little Mermaid” for my daughter. My wife had told me that this is something she had wanted, along with the male figure so they could ‘go on dates’. My mistake was entering the mall through Macy’s though, and so on my way through Macy’s to the Disney store, I had to walk past the shoe department. There are limits to my self control, and so I stopped to at least look in their sales rack, and was stunned at what I found. I found a killer pair of Mary Janes in a plaid cloth, priced at $70 and with a “Take 75% off marked price” sticker on them. I did some rough math in my head and figured that this meant that these awesome $70 shoes were now selling for around $15! I snatched it up and took it to the counter where the SA range it up at around $40.
“Hold on now!” I told her. “I know my math sucks, but it’s still good enough to guesstimate that %75 off of $70 is somewhere in the ball park of $15, NOT $40.” She got this real surprised look on her face and started examining the price tag and the sale sticker.
“Your right!” she said. “It must have been miss-marked or else someone moved the sales sticker.”
“So you think someone was playing with the sales stickers and moved it to this pair? I asked her.
“Yeah, it happens all of the time!” she said while shaking her head. I thought about it for a moment and then decided to do the right thing.
“Well, if you think someone did that to you then I wont hold you to the price, but I also don’t care to buy them then. If you were gonna practically give them to me I was gonna grab em, but I don’t want them for $40.” I told her.
“Oh no, not at all!” she said with a huge smile. “That’s what they are marked at, and that is what we are going to charge you!” She then took out a calculator and figured the cost at around $17 and shook her head as she started ringing it up and modifying the discount.
“Are you sure?” I asked her, not wanting to take advantage of something caused by someone that had clearly intended to steal from the store. “This is your last chance. If you think a customer swapped that sales sticker to take advantage of you, I wont make a fuss or hold you to that price.”
“Nope – that’s what it is marked and that’s what we are gonna charge you. Hold on a moment – I have to call security so they don’t think that I am trying to steal from them by modifying the discount.” She said with a laugh. I sat there wondering if she wasn’t really calling security to come get me, thinking that maybe I was the one that played with the stickers, but I heard her entire conversation to them describing the situation. Shortly I had a very colorful pair of awesome $70 shoes for $15 and was on my way to the Disney store where I bought three Barbie doll style Disney characters for my daughter.
Once again in my car, I headed south to go to the Sisters of Boston meeting at a hotel in Peabody. I tried to exit I93 to I95 and discovered that it was STILL a parking lot, with a huge line of cars all fighting each other to get where they wanted to go, and the line wasn’t moving at all. As far as you could see were lines of stopped cars moving perhaps one car length every two or three minutes. I decided to leave that stalled line and just travel a bit further south and work my way back to the highway a bit further East. After hunting and pecking my way around the unfamiliar city with my dead GPS, I did eventually find my way to the meeting, and what a gathering it turned out to be! Not only was it the standard Sisters of Boston (SOB) meeting, but they were sort of celebrating both Christmas and Ashley’s birthday. Ashley is the founder of SOB, she’s a real looker, and a very bold and brave TG that sort of sets the tone for the group.
It turns out that we set a new record for the group, with an all time high attendance of 35 people! So many familiar faces in the crowd. People I have now known for half a decade or more, to include one of my very favorite people, Sally. I have a soft spot for Sally for several reasons. She and I have quite a bit in common, like many of the same things, have similar careers, and just get along great. In addition, it was Sally years ago that went out of her way to respond to me on a trip to Boston when I was all alone, inviting me to join with her and the sisters.
From that time forward, I’ve loved going to that area for the friendly and wonderful folks that live there. In fact, it may well have been that event years ago that kicked off my little hobby of meeting other TG’s when I travel.
We took up a collection for the Toys for Tots, and in addition to the $100 they had already collected before the meeting, we came up with another $150, giving us a total of $250 to donate. Believe it or not, a retired Marine came to our meeting to collect the donation, and he was a real trooper.
I had to giggle at the thought that he was the only Marine brave enough to come to this sort of meeting to collect the fund. He took it very well, laughing when he found himself surrounded by TG’s that towered over him because he was fairly short, and we were all wearing heels. He joked that he needed a box or something to stand on to even the playing field a bit. In the end, he seemed genuinely touched by the donation and thanked us all. It was a fine evening, among good people, with many smiles and lots of laughter.
Saturday morning I got ready for the flight home and headed to the Manchester Airport where no one batted too much of an eye at me. As I approached the TSA screening area, I saw two TSA agents standing there grinning at me. As I handed the first my ID and ticket, the second glances at my guitar and then looks up at me.
“How well do you play that thing?” he asked.
“Oh, fair to middling I guess.” I responded.
“Fair huh? Can you play ‘Clasiical Gas’?” he askes me.
“I can play the very beginning of it, but not the whole thing.” I told him.
“Still, even the beginning means you must be fairly good.” He tells me with a smile.
“I just play the little I know, and then stop and act like I just got bored with it!” I told him, and they both laughed.
“Hmm. . . do YOU know how to play Classical Gas?” I asked him. “If you do, you can show me!”
“No, hell no I can’t play it! I don’t play guitar at all!” he said as the other agent returns my ticket and ID. I was reading a book as the flight from Manchester to Atlanta took off, and is they typically do, they turned off the cabin lights, plunging my book and I into darkness. Before I could react, I heard a click and my book was suddenly brilliantly lit! I glanced over and the gentleman sitting next to me had just turned my light on for me. I thanked him and gave him my very best smile.
On my flight from Atlanta to Austin I was once again fortunate enough to get a free upgrade to first class AND this plane had storage bins large enough to hold my guitar and so I carried it on with me. As I prepared to put it in the over head bin, one of the flight attendants stopped me.
“Look, I’m sorry but we can’t let you take the entire over head bin space in first class. Would you mind putting it a bit further down the plane and in the coach section?” he asks me.
“Honestly? I’d rather not because then your going to have me fighting to get back to my guitar against 100 passengers all trying to get off this plane when we arrive.” I told him. I wasn’t getting pissy or uppity with him, I was just telling him why I hated the idea. He gave me ‘what can I do?’ look.
“Well, we can gate check it then. They’ll put it in the hold last and take it off first?” he offers. It’s almost 8PM, I’ve been traveling all day, and am just too damn tired to argue about it.
“All right, but don’t you guys pull a United Airlines on me and ruin my guitar!” I scolded him, with a smile on my face to show him that I was teasing.
“Well, I don’t know what United Airlines did to you, but we’ll take care of your guitar for you!” he promised as he carried my instrument away.
Soon I see a young man, probably in his early thirties walking on the airplane and looking at the seat next to me. He sort of points to the window seat next to me to let me know that I need to get up and let him in, and I see him smile and shake his head as he contemplates sitting next to a cross dresser. We both get comfortably seated and he sits back with his eyes closed, clearly intending to go to sleep, when suddenly a child in the first class section starts to cry and scream. My seat mate literally starts to laugh, still shaking his head from side - to side, clearly unable to believe his lick this flight – sitting next to a cross dresser and with a screaming child only a seat or two away. Well, look at the bright side – he’s going to have a great story to tell his friends.
About 20 minutes in to the flight, the flight attendant walks up and kneels besides my seat to talk to me.
“They can just hold their coats – I put your guitar in the coat closet instead of checking it.” He tells me in a stage whisper. I was so touched by this gesture that I almost teared up.
“Your awesome! Thank you so much!” I told him. Then I sat back and relaxed, knowing that my beautiful guitar was safe and warm. The world really does have a lot of decent and kind people in it you know?