Saturday, February 28, 2009

Neighborhood Stake Out

So last night night I had a late night flight from Allentown PA to Austin, where I live. (See yesterdays blog) Since I was going to be home well after my daughter goes to bed, and I live in a quiet neighborhood where everyone is usually buttoned up and in the house by 9 (es even on Fridays), I figured what the heck, and flew home femme.
As I pull up to my street I had the sense to look down it before I turned on to it, sure enough, the visiting mother of my neighbor across the street was walking out to her car in a nightgown. I figured "no big deal" and just slowly drove around the block, returning maybe two minutes later. I peeked down the street again and this time my neighbor AND his mother are walking out to the car. I drove around the block a bit slower and returned just in time to see them drive off, and so I pulled onto my street. Just as I'm backing into my drive way I realized I've made a serious mistake - I was concentrating so much on the folks across the street that I failed to notice that my neighbor on the right side of my house had a BBQ going in his driveway. I had backed all the way into my drive way and had not even noticed this. Lucky for me there was no one standing outside at the moment (it's 10PM). I sat in the truck with the engine and lights off for a moment, checking to see if the coast was clear, when my neighbor walks out of his garage and stands there drinking a beer. He was in the lighted garage, I was in a dark truck with tinted windows, so I doubt very much he could see anything. I waited for about a minute, hoping he would turn around and go back into his garage, but he showed no signs of leaving. I chickened out, started the truck, and pulled out of my drive. I drove a mile or two away on some farm roads, found a quiet place, and changed back into male clothes. I couldn't do anything about the makeup, but in the dark and from that distance, I figured he wouldn't be able to see that in the time it would take me to get from the truck into the house. I had to giggle while I changed in the dark, on a country road, because this took me back about 20 years to when this had been my only option!
So once again I pull up to my drive way, this time in male clothes but still wearing makeup. Now my neighbor across the street has returned but is apparently in the house, the beer drinking, BBQ neighbor is not in his driveway, but now the neighbor on my LEFT side is sitting in his car!
The very first time I'd risked coming home femme, and it seems the entire damn neighborhood is on a stake out looking to catch me!
I figured it wasn't gonna get any better than that, and so I quickly got out of the truck and made a bee-line for the house. My wife got one look at me in rumpled boy clothes and makeup, and busted out laughing. She laughed harder and harder the more of the story I told to her.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Allentown, PA

OK, so this weeks trip was to Allentown, PA to work on an obsolete instrument that was built by a company my company purchased years ago. The good news (in terms of job security for me) is that I am the ONLY engineer in my entire company that can work on it. Someone had the good sense to send me to the factory half a decade ago to train me on one they were refurbishing. There is a PHD at our company (the man that trained me) who is capable of working on it, but he's not about to get on a plane to do a service or repair. :-)

Fortunately, it takes an entire day to fly from Austin to Allentown so I was well justified in spending an entire day just to travel, with no need to go directly to my customer. That means I got to fly pretty! :-)
I adore these 4 inch stilettos but have been hesitant to wear them as I think perhaps they are less than appropriate for everyday wear and may draw too much attention. Believe it or not, my wife was the one that talked me into it by pointing out that women DO wear shoes like these, and besides, I'm already breaking all of the rules, why the hell NOT wear your favorite shoes? It didn't take a lot of arm twisting, and so my favorite shoes it is!

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, but I've got to tell you wearing shes like those for 14 hours will definitely make your thighs and calf's sore! Nothing amusing or interesting happened on the flight to Allentown.
No smart ass comments to or from me. No dirty looks, but no smiles either. Sheesh, you would think everyone is getting acclimated to seeing crossdressers - what kind of fun is that??!! Got to the airport and grabbed my tool box and large suitcase. When you add the backpack I carry for my laptop and cables I was pretty well loaded down when I headed for the door to get to the rental car lot. It was not an automatic door so I was just starting to wonder how I was going to work getting the door open and my huge bags through it, when a gentleman in his early 50's pretty much ran to get around me and open the door. I thanked him and received a large smile and nod in return. :-)
When I checked in at the hotel, the young lady behind the counter hesitated for just a fraction of a second when I gave her my name. It was very quick, but you could tell her brain had just locked up.
.. "Does not compute. Does not compute"
She recovered quickly and she was awesome! All smiles and you could tell she was genuinely amused.

My second night there, I met with Sophie Lynne for dinner. She was drab (in boy mode) so I didn’t take any pictures of us together. Sophie was a great host and went out of her way to try and show me something of Pennsylvania and also treated me to dinner! I'm often uncomfortable meeting with men because I have met one or two who led me to believe that they were also crossdressers, but then it turned out that they were not - they were admirers. I have no problem with "admirers", after all, people in glass houses shouldn't ought to be throwing rocks, but I DO have a problem with those that mislead me to get me to agree to meet them. I was probably a bit reserved with Sophie at first while I tried to determine if this might be the case, but it very quickly became clear that she was one of "us" and I started to relax and enjoy the evening. Of course it didn't hurt that she bought us each a shot of whiskey - LOL. (Yes, I AM a redneck!) Good thing we had that shot too, as it turns out they were doing Karaoke and all but one of the singers was TERRIBLE. Sophie's got a good sense of humor, and was very easy to talk to - I really enjoyed the night.

My next night there, I had planned to go shopping and to dinner, but I got a call from another one of our engineers who lives a few hours away in PA. He found out I was in the area and he and his wife met me for dinner. The bad news - no Kimberly time that day. The good news - I like this couple and enjoyed the time.

Like my first day, this last day of the trip is dedicated just to traveling, this time home to Austin. It's a relatively late flight, with my not getting home until around 10PM, so I decided to fly home pretty. This is only the second time I've flown out of an airport other than Austin and so I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night and was a nervous wreck going through security. But hey, I'm sitting in the airports gate area as I type this and I had no trouble what so ever - everyone treated me like gold. Allentown is a relatively small airport in a very conservative area, so if they didn't give me any trouble, I think I can assume that I wont have problems flying from ANY US airport.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Durango - Mudding in a PT Cruiser!

Oh my God, I wanted to KILL my customer in Durango. His work site was way the hell and gone out in the middle of nowhere so we decided to meet at his hotel. I told him that I was driving a PT Cruiser, he pointed out his Suburban, and said "Follow me!" and off we went. . . where a itty bitty PT Cruiser with two wheel drive had absolutely no business going. We'd been driving about 15 minutes when he turned off the pavement onto a dirt road. At first the road was wet with a bit of mud from the melting snow, but nothing that caused me too much concern. As I am following his Suburban (A huge four wheel drive) I suddenly see mud spraying 3 to 4 feet in the air from all sides of his truck. He made a hard left turn, mud still being slung all over, including on my car. Too late to stop - if I had tried I would have just lost my momentum in the middle of the huge mud mess and been stuck. I know this from a miss-spent youth hot rodding cars on dirt roads. Instead I kept the throttle even and followed him through the turn, car sliding sideways and then weaving back and forth, with a windshield now so covered with mud I can't see the road. I thought to myself that maybe I should just stop now, pride and inconvenience be damned, but I figured these were two grown men ahead of me that should know there are limits to what a tiny two wheel drive can make it through. Surely that must be the worst of it? WRONG! The road did get a bit better for about two miles and then the next 10 miles was pure, heart pounding, adrenalin through 4 to 6 inches of mud, sliding sideways toward sheer cliffs, and almost getting stuck so many times I lost count. The problem is, by the time you get so far into that sort of stuff, there's not much point to turning around. I had already made it through stuff I really didn't think I was gonna make it through, with rocks and mud pounding the under carriage of the car, and I kept telling myself "This MUST be the worst of it! If it were any worse these guys would have warned me not to bring the car". Every time I thought this, I was proved wrong, and the road kept getting worse and worse. I snapped some pictures, but could get not shots of the worst. Let's face it, I was too busy trying to keep my rental car from getting stuck in six inches of mud and water, on a muddy road, in the middle of dog gone nowhere to be snapping pretty pictures. Fortunately, most of this trip was down hill, where gravity worked to help keep the car moving. All I could think of though was how bad my odds were of getting that car back UP the mountain when my repair was done. When we at last pulled into my customer location, my heart was doing it's very best to beat its way out of my chest, and I was mad . . . I mean deep down, spitting nails, mad! Fortunately I've been working with customers a long time and kept my temper, but I told them pretty clearly "It sure as hell would have been nice if you had warned me about the conditions we were heading into so I could have got a four wheel drive or just rode with you! I hope you guys have a rope or a chain and intend to follow me out, 'cause I'm fairly sure that car is NOT making it back UP the mountain!" Again, was polite and tried to make it sound like I was kidding around, but I was really seething. Then they added insult to injury! "Oh hell, that's all right, there's a better way out of here." Better . . . way . . . out of here????!!! He brought me down a hazardous road, in a car no where near capable of it, beating the undercarriage of the car against rock after rock in the mud, and there had been a better route available??!! That "better route" by the way is a purely relative term. There were a few spots that were just as bad, and it was at least it was down hill, but I still left a good deal of Detroit Steel in the mud and rocks. All of the attached pics are of the "better route" on the way out. Like I said, taking pictures on the way in was not an option. Oh, you know what really tops it all off? THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH OUR EQUIPMENT! It was operator error! The instrument is a Infrared Mass Spectrometer that uses a Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) cooled Infrared detector that requires refill every 8 to 12 hours. When it is allowed to come up to room temperature, the LN2 will just boil out at first, trying to get the detector cold enough to hold LN2. So at first, you get a lot of bubbles and over flow making it appear to be full, when in fact, all your seeing is the very cold LN2 boiling right back out of the very (relatively) hot detector. Having run in to this before with customers, instead of filling it myself, I asked him to fill it so I could watch his methods. Sure enough, as soon as LN2 started to boil out, he pulled the funnel out and said he was done. I explained that so far, the detector is likely still empty, all your seeing is boil off while the we try to make the detector cold enough to actually hold Ln2. He insisted that that it WAS full when my company helped him trouble shoot by phone, but I think he is mistaken. He had no idea what I was talking about when I asked him if he had seen a spout of LN2 when he put the funnel tube into the detector.When you drop the relatively warm funnel tube down into the ultra cold LN2, you will always get a spout, where the LN2 is being flashed to a gas by the heat. The fact that he had no idea what i was talking about tells me he had never seen this, so I demonstrated with the detector we had just properly filled. When I dropped the funnel down inside the LN2 in the detector, LN2 shot about a foot high out of the funnel, and both of customers jumped damn near as far! "THAT is what it looks like when you put the funnel into a detector that still has LN2 in it. If you didn't see that when you were trouble shooting, your detector was not properly filled." I said this with a smile, after all this IS my customer, so I can't pound his pee pee into the ground TOO far. :-) Watching him clearly fail to fill it properly, coupled with all of the symptoms, and his own surprise that LN2 will spout out of the hot funnel when it's dropped in to the detector make it a slam dunk for me, but he still adamantly refuses to admit he may have done it wrong. By the way, I can forgive the customer for not knowing this, but I'm having a hard time accepting that the people in my company that tried help him over the phone while I was working in Golden didn't catch it! In the end, we compromised. I agreed to lave the part with him that we had thought might be bad when this trip was set up. I left it on two conditions: - He mail it back to me when it was clear there were no problems. - He take a rope or a chain in his four wheel drive, and lead my happy ass outta the swamp to make sure I made it. He agreed! The route out was much longer, but the majority of the road was in better shape. Even at that, my heart was pounding like mad when I finally got to the pavement. It must have looked like a circus clowns car when I first hit the pavement, with the car bouncing up and down on huge chunks of mud stuck to the tires, and flinging mud to both sides and the rear! Durango is a very small town, with very little to offer of interest in the way of something for a crossdresser too do, so I'm spending tonight in the hotel watching the idiot box. :-(
Durango 2009 02 13 014 Durango 2009 02 13 010
If you follow the above pic/link to flickr and view the large version, you can better see just how bad the road is about to get directly in front of the truck! Oh, and yes, he DID take the left turn into the worst of it!

Durango 2009 02 13 009
If you follow the above pic/link to flickr and view the large version, you can better see that we are approaching two streams. Both had mud at least eight inches deep and even the four wheel drive in front of me bottomed out going through them. I actually stopped the car at this point trying to figure out what my options were - I had none so I followed him, grimacing at the sound of the floor of the little car going through the water and rocks pounding the under carriage.

Durango 2009 02 13 006
Again, take a look at the original size version of this pic to see how bad it really was. The smaller pics just don't convey it!

Detroit to Golden Colorado

Well, after sitting in the office for the better part of a month (a bad thing for a field service engineer in a slow economy) I at last hit the road again this week.
My trip started in Detroit but I had no fun and nothing to write about there. Most of the time I tend to fly to a location the night before and then start working with my customer the following morning. This is a luxury my company and I can no longer afford if we have the choice though, so my day started at 4AM and I didn't get the repair done and back to my hotel until almost 9PM. Uggghhhh. Again tying to save my company as much as I can, I flew directly from Detroit to Denver for an installation. Here's where I passed another milestone - I flew from Detroit to Denver "pretty". :-) I've flown dozens of times by now, but only from the Austin airport, where I knew people were friendly and "accepting",
AND where I would have had the option of returning to my car to change if I'd had to. Flying dressed from a airport other than my home airport allows for no "back-up-and-punt-plan" though. If you check your bags, then the TSA didn't allow you through, your stuck. No clothes, no place to change, etc, etc, so I had not tried this until now. I have read a lot of posts on the web in the last year or so from other TG's that had flown from all over the country with no problems, so I went ahead and gave it a whirl. The only down side was, to get ready, and get to the airport for my morning flight, I had to get up at 3AM after having had so little sleep the night before and working a 17 hour day before. You might say was dragging ass a little. (pun intended)
I recently bought this red(ish) skirt at Goodwill and thought I'd give it a shot. When I first saw this skirt, I thought it was hideous, but for some reason it kept grabbing my attention, and I ultimately changed my mind and decided it was cute.

Denver 2009 02 10 007

No exaggeration - that day I had seven women go out of their way to tell me how pretty they thought it was. :-) Honestly, I still haven't decided if I should love it or hate it. Everyone at the airport (The airline and TSA) were great and treated me with respect and courtesy. Going through security, I handed the female TSA agent my ticket and license and she started to grin. I winked at her, and in a loud stage whisper I said "Shhhhhh!!! Don't tell anyone!". She busted up laughing and said "Sweetheart, your secrets safe with me!"
Got to Denver, got the bags and rental car with nothing of note happening, and then made the drive to Golden Colorado where my customer is. As I had on my last visit here, I stayed at the Holiday Inn on Colfax. Also as with the last time I stayed there, the staff didn't so much as blink when I checked in. This hotel is designed with HUGE indoor spaces that give you the feeling of being
outside while still in the comfortable and heated environment. I thought the area was very pretty and so took a photo or two.

Denver 2009 02 10 018

Recalling the name from a trip I took to Southern California where I had dinner with Holly and her spouse, I went to Mimi's Café for dinner. The waitress was awesome with a genuine smile,and the food was great too.
The next day, the first day of a two day install and training, I spent working with my customer. I have to wonder if he might have been one of "us" (TG). He had very long hair in a pony tail, and was very closely shaved, and just seemed very friendly even after seeing my long nails (they do
sometimes make customers hesitate). Anyway, hardly definitive proof he was TG, but still I wonder.
Fairly exhausted from two long days with little sleep, I got to the hotel and just went to bed.
The following day, I completed the training a bit early as the customer was already fairly familiar with out equipment. Having a good part of the afternoon off, I decided to go see a movie:
"The Reader". I wore a new outfit again, a long leather skirt and a pink sweater. Did I mention it's COLD in here?
Denver 2009 02 12 002
"The Reader" was a VERY good movie, very well done, but MEGA depressing. It left you feeling horribly sad. I wont say anymore 'cause I don't want to be a spoiler, but if your inclined to suicidal tenancies, stay away from this movie. After the movie, I returned to Mimi's Café again
for dinner, and this time got a very young male waiter. I honestly felt sorry for him and just a touch guilty as he was clearly uncomfortable dealing with me. I'm not sure I've ever seen an African American blush before. LOL Embarrassed or not, he grew accustomed to the concept and treated me well. He was never rude, just kind of embarrassed.
I got a call from my manager asking if I had completed the install. My manager never checks up on me, so I knew something was up. Turns out that the same customer that had taken me to Vernal Utah,
was now in Durango Colorado with his mobile system, one of components appears to be bad, and he is extremely angry. Unlike the last time, this sounds like the fault really is with our system, and is not his fault, so instead of heading home, I'm now headed for Durango! That's OK with me though, because my job gets safer every time I'm called on. It;s gonna suck to loose my Saturday for traveling home, but I'll take the job security that comes with it. Don't know if I'll have the time or chance to have any fun in Durango - we'll see!