Saturday, May 30, 2009

Suckered in to returning to Detroit

First of all, let me say thank you again for all of you that expressed concern for my wife and I. She is still having contractions, but they are coming infrequently and are no where near as intense as those that triggered our two night stay in the hospital. The Docs still aren't sure WHY they started, but apparently it's not unheard of for women to have contractions for weeks or months before the baby is due. So - we are fine, she is fine, and our unborn little critter is fine and now we just have to keep it brewing in Mommy's tummy for another 7 weeks or so :-)

so I was just in Detroit a couple of weeks ago where I repaired one instrument and evaluated another for the same customer. The repair was a bit tricky because it was an intermittent fault, a problem that comes and goes. Repairs like this leave you a little less than confident that you have resolved the issue when you leave, because you have to ask yourself "Did I fix it, or has it just not reared it's head yet?". I evaluated another instrument while I was there because they complained it wasn't accurate. When I tested it, I found it to be accurate to less than 10 PPM. In technical jargon, that equals "Holy shit! That's not just accurate, it's damned accurate!"

Well, a little over a week later this customer calls me to ask what kind of warranty he gets on repairs, because the instrument I repaired is acting up again. I asked him for the serial number and confirmed it was the instrument I had repaired, and so I told him I would set up a trip to return and look at it again. I wasn't completely shocked, because like I said, it was an intermittent fault and I wasn't 100% confident I'd permanently fixed it when I left. So, I set up the trip - flights, hotel, rental car, etc!

So you see the white leather skirt in the pics below? Easily a $100 skirt but I got it at Goodwill for $4! It was wrinkled all to hell, but still had the huge manufacturers tag on it describing how to properly clean and take care of it. It was brand new and all I had to do was knock the wrinkles out of it!  Ya gotta love Goodwill! 
My wife told me I was insane to where that much white - it was like daring the world to make a mess of it, but I kind of liked the idea. I'm glad I did because I think it looked terrific.
Detroit 2009 05 26 001

Once again I had a few extra minutes on my hands and so stopped on the way to the Airport to take some pics in the great out doors. Obviously I'm not too concerned about people seeing me as I am spending better than 12 hours on airplanes and in airports, but still I would feel a little silly if cars drive by and see me out there taking pictures, so I do tend to pull a ways off the highway on smaller roads that will likely be free of traffic long enough to snap a few pics.

Detroit 2009 05 26 003

Detroit 2009 05 26 004

Nothing of the slightest bit of interest happened on the flight from Austin to Charlotte, or from Charlotte to Detroit. Sometimes I think this is a good thing. Nothing interesting happening sort of means that either I passed or I was treated well anyway. On the other hand, it makes for a boring story to tell! The women that sat next to me chatted with me a bit. We spoke of nothing special, just the usual one traveler to another kind of comments, but they both smiled and were clearly comfortable speaking to me, so that's cool.

As I was exiting the rental car shuttle bus at the Avis lot, I was totting my usual load - a back pack with my laptop and cables, a 50lb tool box, and a 50lb suitcase. You really do have to try this sometime while wearing a skirt and 4 inch stiletto heels! So an Avis employee reaches out to grab my tool box for me. I don't cross dress to get guys to do my heavy lifting for me, and always feel a bit uncomfortable taking advantage of mens chivalry this way, so I told him "No, thank you! I got it!"
This gentleman was African American, probably late 50's or early 60's, and he got pretty insistent.
"That's all right, I'll help you out!" he insisted.
"Nah, I have lots of practice at this, I'll get it. Thank you though!" I replied with a smile. So he gives me this hurt look.
"What's the matter? I'm your friend. Don't you have friends?" he asks, with the smile asking it clear he's yanking my chain.
"Yeah, I've got one or two." I said as he ignored me and took my suitcase to the car anyway. He put my bag in the back seat and I took the toolbox to the trunk, but I couldn't open the trunk. he had the keys and there was no manual latch. He walked to the back of the car, realized that there was no remote for the trunk on the keys, and so he handed me the keys and went to front of the car to look for a lever. I could hear him making little comments like "Well, where the heck is it?" and so just used the old fashioned method to open the trunk - I slid the key in to the lock and turned it. Imagine that - key, lock, trunk opens. We are so used to our toys and buttons that everyone forgets that they can actually do a few things manually. I was just putting the box in the trunk when he gets to the back of the car.
"Hey now!  That thing is heavy, I don't know if I could have lifted that myself! What are you stronger than I am?" he says with a huge smile on his face. You can't tell it just by the text I've written, but if you had seen the look on his face, and the tone of his voice, you would know this guy was clearly giving me hell, so I smiled right back at him.
"Awe come on, what, is this the pick on the drag queen day?!" I asked him.
"I'm just saying!" He replied, with a little laugh. "Well, you have a great night!" he said with a wink and a grin.
That has probably got to be oddest exchange I've had with anyone yet. still kind of scratching my head, I made the short drive to my hotel in Allen Park. When I got to the Holiday Inn there, the young lady behind the counter looks up.
"Ah! Your back again!" she said with a warm smile.
"Yes ma'am, I'm like a cockroach - you cant get rid of me!" I told her, trying to put as much "Texas" in to it as I could. She laughed, and chatted with me as she got my keys and paper work together.

Detroit 2009 05 26 007
Detroit 2009 05 26 006

Well, the next day I had a job to do, so I headed out to get it done. Shortly after I got there and started to evaluate the instrument, I discovered that my customer had either made a mistake or had lied to me. This was NOT the instrument that I had worked on, and it was not the serial number he had given me by phone when I set the trip up. So, he had suckered me into returning with out providing a purchase order first. Grrrr !!!
The good news of course is that this is NOT a warranty, so I've just gone from costing my company money to making money for it. Got the repair done, looked at a few other instruments for them, and headed for the hotel around 4PM.

I honestly considered not going anywhere, but I had discovered that a small pub Called SOhO in Ferndale was doing Karaoke that night, and so I decided to give it a shot. Apparently I'm developing "a thing" for leather, because I wore another leather skirt. This one is very soft and a little shorter and tighter than the White one I had worn the day before. To be honest, it just feels sexy as hell!

Detroit 2009 05 27 004

So when I got there the place was almost empty, maybe half a dozen people there, and they were all intently watching a hockey game.  I sat at the bar for two or three minutes before the bartender managed to pull his eyes away from the game long enough to ask me what I wanted. It turns out it was some sort of playoff and these guys were all WAY into the game. I got a couple of laughs asking stupid questions about the game, like "Which side is Detroit?" but they all answered with good spirits.

Detroit 2009 05 27 007

In about half an hour, the place started to fill up and you could tell things were gong to be interesting. The karaoke was supposed to have started some time ago but no one was willing to turn the game off. I sure as hell wasn't gonna put in a request slip 'cause I was pretty sure they would lynch me if I interrupted the game. Eventually the karaoke started. The girl running the karaoke sang first and did quite a good job. The next guy looked about 15 to me and so I was pleasantly surprised when he started to sing Paul Anka "Diana", and he did a great job! Right there I knew I was gonna have a good time.

I think the name of the guy below was "Scott" and he went way out of his way to make me feel like I was among friends. People like this can make such a huge difference in how a night is going to turn out. He introduced himself, then he introduced me to his daughters, who also chatted off and on with me all night. They took what might have been a "ehh" night, and turned it into a great one, and I am so grateful! One of his daughters is in a all girl band called "Jane of Arc". I haven't listened to any of their stuff yet, but I have found them on Myspace for you.

Detroit 2009 05 27 005

By the time I got up to sing, the place had filled up, and I was more than a little nervous. I used to do this all of the time, but it's been a long time since I sang in front of people so my confidence has suffered. I was more than a little gratified when I noticed part way through my song that most people had actually stopped talking to listen so I must not have sucked TOO bad! I know I often catch people by surprise. When they see me, they expect me to either sound like a woman, or like a guy trying to sound like a woman. When I just start singing in a normal male voice they are surprised, and then they are surprised again when they realize that I don't exactly suck at it either. So, listened to a lot of people sing, sang a few times myself, and had a good night talking with nice people - it doesn't get much gooder than that!
Detroit 2009 05 27 006

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