Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nothing Happened

.. Detroit 2010 02 24 010   

Yet another trip to ....Detroit...., and this one with very little advanced notice. As has been the norm these days, my company booked me on a very early flight to save a few dollars and so yours truly had to get up at 2:45AM. Considering that I hadn’t got to bed until 11PM I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic when the alarm went off. Uggghhh . . . .
.. ..
I had intended to wear a short and multi-colored skirt that I had recently bought, but when I tried the damn thing on I found it was unacceptably tight. It hugged my behind to the point where I looked absurd and so I found myself sneaking back into my bedroom where my wife and daughter were still sound asleep and grabbing an alternative skirt. So I went from short and flirty, to prim and proper. I also decided to wear my new boots, but later came to regret that choice. I hadn’t thought that the heels on the boots were any taller than the heels on my pumps, but I hadn’t even got to the ....Austin.... check in counter before my calf muscles started to complain, and by the time my 10 hour travel day was over, they went from complaining to down right howling.

Detroit 2010 02 24 002
.. ..
Once again I made a trip with very little of any interest happening. No smiles, no grins, no frowns, no reaction at all from anyone. I still haven’t decided if it is cool that everyone is taking me in stride these days or if I’m kind of disappointed. After all, it used to make things interesting to see the way people reacted, and now things a re just kind of boring.
.. ..
In ....Detroit...., the Avis shuttle bus driver was a young woman, probably in her early twenties..
“Are you a preffered member ma’am?” She asked me as I boarded the bus.
“Yes ma’am, I am” I replied
“What’s your last name?” she then asked.
“Huddle,” I replied. OK, OK, I gave her my real last name, but using Huddle here simplifies things. So she gets back to her seat and starts punching keys on her mobile PC and speaking into her radio as she drives off for the lot. As we are driving I can hear her giving names to someone on her radio, and some she has to repeat over and over.
“Huddle, first initial M” I hear her say over and over. Clearly she has pulled me up on a list and knows my name and of course my gender. Still, as we approach the lot she starts to call of names and the parking spaces where our cars can be found. As she gets to my name I wanted to run up and hug her.
“Mrs Huddle, your car is in F20.” She says with a smile on her face and a grin in her eyes.
Such a simple thing on her part made such a huge difference to me. She had considered the ramifications of what I was, made the decision to respect that, and shown me the courtesy and respect of calling me “Mrs” in front of the other passengers. Yup, I damn near hugged that woman on my way off of the bus . . .

Detroit 2010 02 24 007

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Mustang

.. Mustang DS
Well, today I bought a Holly 4 barrel carburetor and installed it on my 1967 Mustang. For the first time in about 6 months, and only the second time in three or four years, my old beauty purred again.
Now the bad news is that there was transmission fluid on the floor and she made not the slightest effort to move when I put her in gear. It was exactly as if she was still in neutral. When we had it out, we did replace the front and rear seals on it, but apparently something some where is still seriously wrong . . .

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Stuck in Buffalo NY

....Buffalo NY 001 


Well, this trip started off with absolutely nothing of interest to write about. It had actually annoyed me that I was going to have to write a blog saying “I took a trip to Buffalo New York and nothing of any interest what so ever occurred. Here’s a couple of pics – have a nice day!”  Well, in the end it became a good deal more interesting. Isn’t there a Chinese curse something along the lines of “May you live in interesting times”?

It started off as so many before it did, with my getting up far too early so that I would have time to get ready, make the 40 minute drive to the airport, and be there two hours before my 7AM flight took off.
I shook things up just a little bit from my normal fashion and wore a fairly short skirt and a floaty and feminine top under my typical sweater. It wasn’t exactly a major departure from my norm, but hey. . .

As my introduction implied, nothing of any interest at all occurred on my flights to Buffalo.  No one made any cute comments, and no one went out of their way to either smile or frown at me.
There had been some fear that the bad weather in the North East might cause me some problems getting there, but that didn’t turn out to be an issue at all. Nope, nothing funny, sad, or bad happened, I just flew to Buffalo, checked in to my hotel, got some exercise, and called it a night – boring.

The next two days were hectic work days. This customer had badly damaged his instrument and was desperate to get it up and running quickly, and in an attempt to help him, my company had sent him a used part from our applications and research department – sort of a loaner to get him up and running while his was being rebuilt. Surprise surprise, the used part had it’s own problems and I wasted an entire day trying to make his instrument work with it, and then troubleshooting to determine that the part we had sent him was at fault. Tired and depressed, I had no urge at all to try and go out, and so just hit up a thrift store or two before calling it a night.
I had started to pack my things away for my flight to Detroit the following morning when I got an automated call from US Airways telling me that my flight was canceled due to the weather. Not delayed, not rebooked, but canceled, so I called the airline and they informed me that there was nothing they could do to get me out of Buffalo for two days! I was just about to just rent a car and make the 6 hour drive to Detroit (through a blizzard) when I got a call that my company was going to send another used part to this customer and so I was asked to go ahead and stay to install and set it up.

The following day rolled around and I received and installed the replacement used part just to find that it also had a serious but different problem. Of course it took me the entire day of trying to get it to work before I at last threw in the towel and admitted defeat. Once again emotionally exhausted from a day fighting a loosing battle, I had no interest in getting dressed up and heading out in the snow and cold. While I wasn’t about to spend the time and effort to get dressed up, I did decide to at least go shopping at the mall in boy mode. The first thing I had to do was find a bathrobe for my six-year-old daughter. You see on my last trip I had found one for myself and my daughter fell in love with it. She has her own bath robe, but it’s your standard terry cloth material, much like a bath towel. When she felt my robe she fell in love with it because it was so soft, and she’s been trying to steal if from me ever since. So anyway, I decided to try and find the critter a nice soft one that will make her smile, and incidentally, keep her from swiping mine! I found one in JC Penny AND it was on sale for like $8, so it was a win win. Next I headed down the mall to Macy’s, just a little amused that since I was in boy mode, not one kiosk attendant bothered me the entire length of the mall. In Macy’s, I hit up the shoe sales rack and was browsing through it when a gentleman took a pair of ladies shoes up to the SA. I can’t hear the entire conversation, but I do hear bits.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” the SA asks him. I can’t hear his response but I then hear her very softly ask another question, no doubt thinking that I can’t hear them.
“Are they for you?” she asks. Again I can’t hear his side of the conversation, but I can still hear hers.
“Well, you never know . . . no, I really didn’t think they were for you . . . just thought I’d ask to see if I can help” her side of the conversation goes on. Soon they are laughing and he leaves, and she and I are the only ones with in 50 feet or so.
“You know, that wasn’t as stupid a question as he might think!” I told her with a grin. “And yes, I am looking for boots for me.”  She gave me a great laugh and we sat and joked for a good five minutes before she started walking me around and showing me my options. Eventually we came across a pair that I really liked AND she had them in my size. I told her that I had been having a lot of trouble finding a pair that fit even when they are supposedly my size, and she just gave me a grin.
“Honey, you feel free to sit right here and try them on!” she told me with a smile from ear to ear, and you know what, I did! In the middle of Macy’s sat a tired bald guy trying on a pair of womens boots with 3.5 inch heels. That must have been a hell of a sight for anyone that noticed!

.. ..
The following day I got up at 3AM to get ready for my 7AM flight from Buffalo to Detroit I get my car all turned in and approach the US Airways counter where I can here the CSR telling the people in front of me that they have no options for flying today and should just go back home for a couple of days. Having heard that, it was with more than a little trepidation that I approached the counter when my turn came.
“Where does your first flight go hun?” she asked.
“To Philadelphia..” I replied, and she started shaking her head.
“And do you stop there, or are you going on somewhere?” she asked, her tone making it clear that I’m in trouble.
“I’m going on to Detroit.” I replied. Once again she shakes her head ‘no’.
“Not today your not. You need to just go home for a couple of days. We have nothing going out of here to Philly and all other destinations are already full.” She tells me with an awkward smile on her face, waiting for me to leave the counter and “go home”.
“Ma’am, I’d love to go home, but New York isn’t it and I can’t get home until your planes start flying! Your sure nothing is leaving today and I have no other options?” I asked.
“Well, your flight MIGHT leave today, but if it does, it’s going to be real late.” She said.
“Fine, I’ll take it. Please book me through then. I don’t care how late it gets there, I have to be in ....Detroit.... for a customer tomorrow” I told her. She kept shaking her head but did issue the ticket and sent me through.
.. ..
I was supposed to meet a few other TG’s in the Detroit area for dinner, so I sent them my third or fourth email of the last two days concerning my chances of making it there. The emails went something like this over the two day period:
“Yes, I’ll be there”
“My flights are canceled, I wont be there”
“Screw that, I’m renting a car and driving, so I will be there”
“My manager nixed that Idea, so I probably wont be there”
“Have a flight out in the morning and should make it!”
“Flights delayed – don’t know now”
Then I get an email from the others, more than likely irritated with my on again, off again situation:
“Dinner is canceled!”
.. ..
As the counter agent had predicted, my 7AM flight was seriously delayed. First to 8AM, then 830, 9, 930 and then 10AM when it finally boarded. Once sitting on the airplane, the pilot comes on and tells us that the Philly airport is still closed so we are going to have to wait another half hour . . . then another . . .  After more than an hour they pull the jet bridge back up and tell everyone that they can get off if they need to. I wasn’t about to risk that and remained seated, more or less taking a nap, and I was feeling pleasantly relaxed when they came over the intercom.
“If you are catching a connecting flight to Detroit, please grab your belongings and exit the air craft to see the gate agent about rebooking”. More than a little bummed out, I grabbed my things and went to see the agent at the gate, just to be told that I have to exit the secure area and go to the main counter. I fly a lot and know that this is bullshit, he CAN set us up with flight, but he just doesn’t want to deal with us, but what can you do? I headed out of the secured area, got in line at the front counter again, and wound up talking to the same lady I had spoken to that morning. She took one look at me and just started shaking her head again.
.. ..
“Hon, I don’t think there’s anything I can do to get you there today. Hold on just a second and I’ll take a look.” She is clearly overwhelmed and yet still trying to do her job. At this point, I’ve absolutely had it with the situation, and place a call to the lady that sets up my travel. While the US Airways CSR is shaking her head and looking for alternative flights, I get this young lady on the phone.
.. ..
“Hey, air travel is still all screwed up because of the storms and they can’t get me to Detroit for at least one and maybe two more days. Would you check and see if Avis has any rentals available that I can just drive there?” I asked her while looking at the US Airways CSR who is still punching keys and still shaking her head. From my phone I get an answer.
“Yeah, I can get you a car and it’s not that unreasonable either, just a bit more than the car in Detroit was going to cost you anyway.” She tells me.
“Well, by the time the airlines get me there, it’s going to be far too late to get the job done so why don’t you go ahead . . .” I start saying before I’m interrupted by the shouting CSR behind the counter.
“THEY TOLD YOU TO GET OFF THAT PLANE??!!” She practically yells at me, making it sort of an exclamation and a question all rolled in to one.
“Yes ma’am, they did.” I told her, trying to figure out why she was suddenly so excited.
“Well they were wrong! There IS a flight to Detroit from Philly and it leaves at 2PM. You need to get back on that plane!” I swear I’m not making this up, but just as she stopped speaking, I hear the announcement over the airport PA
“Flight 1845 for Philadelphia is ready for immediate departure.”
Guess what flight I was supposed to be on, had in fact been on and was told to leave, and that this CSR is now insisting I need to get back on even though I’m now on the wrong side of the security check point? You guessed it, that’s my flight already boarded and about ready to leave.
“Ma’am, are you SURE?” I asked her. This woman had been dealing with all of the travel nightmares resulting from all of the huge storms in the region, and clearly she was also at the end of her rope, and so was a bit blunter than she might normally have been.
“Honey, you need to get your ass on that airplane, and in a hurry!” She told me with a grin.
“Thank you!” I shouted to her, “Cancel the car!” I shouted in to my phone as I threw it in my purse, and off I ran for the security checkpoint. There was no real line to speak of, just a couple of older women at one xray machine and a couple of young women at the other. I can see that the older women already have their things on the belt, and the young ladies are still messing with their things, so I jumped behind the older ladies, which of course turned out to be the wrong thing to do. Even though their things were already on the belt, they weren’t moving. I don’t know if they were looking for documents, separating their liquids, or what, but they weren’t moving. I grabbed a bin, tore my laptop out if its case, threw my jewelry and coat into another bin, and took it to the other line where the young girls were.
“Ladies, my plane is already boarded and about to take off. Would you mind if I jump in front of you?” I pleaded with them.
“No problem, go right ahead!” they both laughed and waved me forward. I threw my stuff on the belt and quickly went through metal detector, and was shocked when it alarmed. You see, in my rush to get to the gate, I had completely forgotten that I was wearing a chain belt. The TSA guard just shook his head and waved me back out, where I removed the belt and sent it through the machine alone. This time I made it through the metal detector without incident, and fill my arms with my belongings without taking the time to put them away or put them on. In my arms I have my backpack, my laptop, my heels, a bag with my liquids, my jewelry, my tickets, my paper back, and then my chain belt, and I ran like hell to the gate in my stockings. They are literally closing the door as I get there, and open it to wave me through. When I got all of the way down the jet bridge and to the door of the plane itself, I stopped long enough to drop it all on the floor, get my shoes on, and put the laptop away, and then stumble on to the plane still holding a fistful of my belongings. Much to the amusement of those seated around me, I reclaim my seat and collapse. I look across the aisle where there are two young ladies in their 20’s both looking at me and grinning, so I smiled back at them.
“Get on the plane, get off the plane, get on the plane!” I said in an exaggerated tone while rolling my eyes. They both busted out laughing and we chatted more or less the rest of the way to Detroit. As the plane landed and was pulling up to the gate, I was joking with them about what the odds were that my bags had made it through that fiasco to Detroit with me.
“Oh my God! My bags better make it damn it!” one of them said, the idea apparently never having occurred to her that they may not have. Soon after the plane parked at the gate, the young woman next to the window looks at the woman next to her.
“I just saw your bag!” She says to the other, clearly delighted. I was standing in the isle waiting my turn to exit the plane and glanced out the window and at the conveyor belt, and what do you know – there went my tool box!
.. ..
I had just a short wait outside for the Avis shuttle to pull up, and when it did, the driver got out and insisted that I leave my bags for him to load. This caught me just a little off guard, because these folks all know me by now – they know my name and they damn sure know my gender, and yet he was being chivalrous. Once he got my bags loaded I gave him a small tip for his consideration and was surprised again when he didn’t bother to wait too long for anyone else, and left for the car lot with me as his only passenger. Along the way we spoke about this and that, and among other things, I told him how much I had appreciated the friendly attitude of the Avis folks at the Detroit airport. They have always greeted me with a smile, and it’s not just the smile of someone tolerating diversity, but the honest smile of good people doing a good job. In the end I asked him for his managers contact info so I could let them know how impressed I am with the service there. At the exit checkpoint, the guard once again smiled as he checked my contract.
“I know you don’t need no map! You have a good evening!” he said with a grin as he waved me through.

Detroit 2010 02 004
.. ..
The following day, Friday, I finished my work with one of my customers in the Detroit area. It was a mixed day as I’d managed to repair one of their instruments, but failed on another. I take it very personally when I can’t get a customer up and running and so it pretty much depressed the hell out of me. Still, at some point I had to throw in the towel and admitted at around 430PM that I didn’t have the foggiest idea why I couldn’t get it to run, and so it would have to be returned to the factory. One major component can not be aligned in the field as it requires a bench top alignment fixture, and I assumed this was the problem, but have no real way to prove it. So, bummed out and depressed, I headed for the hotel, where I got ready for dinner with Jenny, a TG friend in Detroit. All of the other folks that had been willing to join us for dinner the night before could not make it tonight, so it would just be the two of us at Gratzi in Ann Arbor. Due to my working so late trying to fix the one instrument, by the time I got cleaned up and to Ann Arbor, it was 730 and I was half an hour late and I was a basket case. I got the car parked in a garage and headed off  walking down main street looking for the restaurant but am not sure where it is. I was running late, starting to feel lost and over whelmed, and feeling more than a tad anxious, when two teenage girls walk up to me.
“Excuse me? Can you donate a little to help?” She asks very politely. Lost in my own worries I almost ignored the girl, but something in her tone got my attention, so I stopped and took a deep breath.
“Donate to what?” I asked her. They told me of their schools efforts to help some of the local people and of an upcoming trip that they had to pay their own way for. It sounded good to me and so I gave them a five dollar bill to many thanks, and turned to leave, but at the last second I turned back.
“Hey, you don’t where Gratzi’s is do you?” I asked them.
“Sure!” they both laughed and one pointed directly across the street at it. I was literally going to walk right on by it if I hadn’t stopped to talk to them. Hmmmm . . . karma . . . it works!
.. ..
I got as far as the door to the place, and that was where all forward progress stopped. The area inside and outside the door was absolutely packed to the point where it would have required a machete to get through it, and given the week and day I’d had, I would have seriously considered the option if I’d had one. I waited for a moment until it became obvious that no path was going to open up, and then started asking people to let me through as I was meeting someone that was already there and seated. In a few moments I was upstairs, sitting at a table across from Jenny, and I was a complete and utter nervous wreck. One of the things that I couldn’t help noticing as we talked was that every single woman that walked by us was a beauty, and I do mean a 10. They were all perfect, flawless, and gorgeous, and Jenny and I were not the best dressed women there by far. So, if you want to see gorgeous and well dressed women, go to Gratzi’s in Ann Arbor on a Friday night. Of course you might have to fight your way past their hulking boyfriends to talk to them, but hey . . .
.. ..
Jenny and I sat and talked for about two hours before calling it a night and heading for the stairs back down to the first floor. I have no idea why, it’s not like I tripped on anything, and I’d only had one drink, but I more or less started to loose my balance heading down the stairs. I had to sort of run down three or four of them to keep from falling down all of them on my backside. I looked back up at Jenny who was behind me and I laughed.
“Well, that was just the height of feminine grace and beauty wasn’t it?” I asked. I have no idea what she replied, if she replied at all, because I was mentally just too far gone and made a beeline for the parking garage and made my way back to my hotel. Once safely back to my hotel, I chose to hit up their pub for a drink and found the place almost as packed as Gratzi’s had been. The only seat left was right up under a TV with a basketball game playing, so I pulled up a chair and sat down. Shortly a young man walks up to me and points at the TV.
“I was supposed to be there!” he says, clearly unhappy that it didn’t happen. I glanced up at the TV and then looked back at him.
“You mean in Dallas or at the game?” I asked.
“Both!” he told me, “but I can’t get there because of the weather!”
“Yeah, I know the feeling, I was more or less stranded for two days myself.” I replied.
This led to a few minutes conversation about the weather, the airlines, and how much we both wished we were in Texas!
.. ..
Here’s the funny thing! I had to stay the weekend to take care of my other customer in Detroit and so I had Saturday and Sunday to do with as I pleased. I could have done anything I wanted in ....Detroit.... but just couldn’t gather any enthusiasm, and so spent my entire weekend doing nothing and going no where.

Detroit 2010 02 017

Monday rolled around and I head off to work with my second customer for the ....Detroit.... leg of this trip. This one was sort of responsible for much of the confusion on this trip because we had set it up to fix ONE machine. That’s how much time I had allocated, and how many components I had brought. Then after my trip had started he called to tell me that he had FOUR he wanted worked on. Hence my being forced to stay the weekend so that I would have all day Monday with him. Good news - things started going my way and I got all four rebuilt, to include one that they had completely torn apart trying to fix it for themselves. Talk about a nightmare, but I got it done and was back at the hotel before 5PM.

Detroit 2010 02 023

I considered shopping, but have no more money and need no more shoes (I know, I know! But if I keep telling myself that . . . )  In the end, I chose to go to the Motor City Casino and donate $20 to their video poker machines. As I was sitting there slowly watching my credits disappear, an older Asian woman takes the seat next to me, and soon her phone rings.
“Herro?” she says, with a VERY heavy Asian accent, though I can’t place it. Having spent time in Korea, Taiwan, and Japan there was a fair chance I might, but I didn’t.
“Who?” she says to the phone, and then again and louder “WHO?”
“No, no, you have the wrong numba. I’m orientar!” she said hanging up the phone and laughing like hell. She looks at me, still laughing.
“Did you hear? I told her I was orientar!” and that set off a whole new bout of laughter at her own cleverness. I laughed with her, because what I can say, it DID strike me as amusing.
“Where are you from?” I asked her in a moment.
“I am from ....Vietnam...., but I don’t tell people that. I just tell them that I am orientar.”
With that, she returned to her machine, and I returned to throwing my money away in mine.

Detroit 2010 02 024

Tuesday morning, I was at long last headed for home, after more than a week on the road and countless flight cancellations and delays. The good news is that my flights didn’t leave until 10AM so at least I didn’t have to race the sun out of bed. So it’s 6AM and I am standing in front of the bathroom mirror trying to decide if I should go male or female. Honestly, I had no enthusiasm for the time and effort required to go female, but I knew from experience that if I didn’t, I would spend the entire day feeling bummed about it. Still, the decision was so touch and go for me that I stood there staring in the mirror for at least five minutes before grabbing my makeup.
At the Avis lot, the driver was the same guy that months ago had sort of teased me about how heavy my tool box and bag were, and he took the opportunity to do it again this morning as I tossed one of them onto the bus.
“Wow that thing is heavy!” he said with a grin on his face. “So where have you been? We haven’t seen much of you!”
“I’ve been working!” I told him. “Just not in Detroit!”
“Well it’s a good thing you’ve been working anyway.” He agreed.
.. ..
Headed through the TSA check point on the way to my gate, one of the agents was standing at the “First class / Premium Passenger” line. I wasn’t going to bother using that line as the other wasn’t long, but he called to me as I walked by.
“Come on gorgeous, I’ll take care of you!” I didn’t know if I should be tickled or offended. Let’s face it, it’s highly unlikely that he would speak to a genetic woman that way, too unprofessional and far too high a chance of his getting in a world of shit over it. Still, I grinned and entered his line just the same.
Pretty much par for the course on this trip, my flight was delayed by about an hour, but soon I was in Chicago’s O’Hare airport waiting for my next and last flight to get me home. I started the day off not entirely sure if I wanted to make the trip as female or not, and the feeling of anxiety just kept growing through the day. At last, I finally decided that I’d had enough and made up my mind to find a “special needs / family restroom” to clean up and change clothes in. The joke was on me though, because I couldn’t find a private bathroom to change in. I’m sure that in the huge Chicago airport there must have been a private bathroom somewhere, but it wasn’t on my concourse and I didn’t have time to tour the airport hoping to find one. Nothing to be done about it, so I sucked it up and went to the gate to wait for my flight. As I was waiting, there were four soldiers also waiting, only a few feet away, and they keep glancing at me, whispering to each other, and laughing. Normally this wouldn’t have bothered me too much, but my confidence was already low, so it did kind of bum me out. As they were scanning the tickets of the passengers entering the jet bridge to the plane, the CSR looked at me and smiled, and started off kind of a confusing little conversation.
“Wow, your real and not just a Barbie doll! You look so cute!” he said as he was scanning my ticket. The machine couldn’t read it so I had to wait for him to move over to the keyboard and start punching in the numbers. I don’t recall if I said anything back to him or not I was so caught off guard by his comment. He hits the enter key, the computer beeps, and he hands me my ticket back.
“I knew something was up when all of the girls started talking about your cute shoes!” he said with a smile. “Have a nice flight!”
I swear I was in shock as I headed down the jet bridge and trying to make sense out of the brief exchange. I wasn’t sure if he was honestly complimenting me, teasing me, or what.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Erie Pennsylvania 2010 02

      Erie PA 2010 02 001
This time I was off to someplace I’ve never been before – Erie Pennsylvania.
The more I think about it, the more I am thinking that I may have to stop flying pretty from home unless my flights leave very early in the morning. It’s just too much stress and risk.
Stress in that my wife has started a new hobby of taking pot shots at me as I’m leaving that make me feel terrible about myself as I head for the airport.
Risk in that there is a big difference between getting in my car at 5AM when it’s dark and no one is going to work yet, and trying to do the same thing at 10AM in broad daylight and with people coming and going.
This morning was sort of a happy medium as I had to leave at about 520AM. It was still dark and before most people are leaving for work, and I was out of the house before my wife got up, so I avoided the guilt trip. Still, I was a bit concerned about the chance that one of my neighbors might be leaving for work, so I was a bit apprehensive as I made my way out to the truck.
As I was standing in line at the Delta check in counter, waiting my turn for the self check-in kiosk, one of the male Delta customer service folks walks up to me.
"Ma’am, since your elite, you can go right up to the counter if you like?" he said
"That’s OK, I’m perfectly comfortable with the kiosk" I replied to him. He nodded and said "It’s entirely up to you," with a smile. It struck me that even though I hadn’t recognized him, he must have recognized me, or else he wouldn’t have known that I am gold elite on Delta.
Late morning and afternoon in the Austin airports, you will find very little in the way of long lines going through security. Let’s face it, the airport is not as big as a major hub or anything like that, but in the early morning, you can find some fairly long lines. I suppose it’s all the folks commuting to Dallas or Houston or what ever for their jobs. Fortunately, in the last few months the airport has come to recognize that the lines are long in the morning and have put in special lanes for "premium passengers" – those flying first class or who are frequent flier elite with the airlines. And so it was that yours truly went waltzing past a hundred people all waiting in line and walked directly up to the TSA inspector. As I did, I could hear an assortment of grumblings from the long line.
"I wonder what you have to do to be considered a ‘premium’ passenger?" I hear one anonymous voice quipping with a sarcastic emphasis on the word ‘premium’. For just a moment I fantasized about answering him with "Why cross dress of course!" It was a cute thought, but there was never really any danger of my saying it. Still, the thought put a smile on my face as I handed my ID and ticket over to the TSA agent. In a moment I’m sitting at the gate and realize that as a result of my policy of getting to the airport two hours before my flight, I am literally the only person at the gate. ‘What the heck’ I thought, ‘I can get a picture of me someplace besides a parking lot or my stairwell,’ and so I quickly setup the camera and snapped off a pic or two.

Erie PA 2010 02 005

Not five minutes later, four TSA agents come walking down the empty concourse and stop to chat in front of my empty gate. Every one of them is sneaking glances my way every few seconds, and after a moment they turn around and walk back the way they came, still turning and looking back at me off and on as they walk off. Considering that this is almost exactly what happened last week when I flew from Austin, I’m starting to feel like I am the TSA’s entertainment there. Finally it comes time to board the airplane and I am handing my ticket to the female agent at the gate.
"Hey! We haven’t seen you for a while!" she said with a huge grin.
"Yeah I know. I like Delta but my company keeps booking me on your competition!" I said with a pout and while sticking out my lower lip to make a "boo boo" face. That earned me a great laugh from her, just as I had hoped.
"I kind of figured you were probably flying with ‘them’ at the other end of the concourse" she replied, emphasizing the word ‘them’ in a way that clearly meant ‘the enemy’.

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When the flight landed in Detroit, I made my way to the gate for the Erie flight and spent an hour or so surfing the internet. About a half an hour before the flight was scheduled to leave, I packed up my laptop and other gear and went to stand near the door to wait for the boarding to start. I was standing there waiting when a beautiful woman about my own age, maybe a little older, starts walking toward me. She has long, dark brown hair, with curls falling mid way down her back, and is wearing a dark blue skirt suit – she is everything I wish that I were. I was standing next to a trash can, and I figured that she was probably going to throw something away, and so I moved a little off to the side to get out of her way. Much to my surprise, she altered her path to stop directly in front of me, and even in three inch heels, she probably didn’t clear five foot tall. Considering my own height while wearing four inch heels, this was probably a hell of a sight to anyone looking.
"That is an awesome skirt!" she tells me, with an oddly intense look on her face. It was almost a defiant or proud look, as though she had said to herself and the world ‘I damned well will talk to her and I don’t care what the world thinks about it’, and was then proud of herself for doing it.
"Thank you SO much, it’s one of my favorites!" I told her with a wink, feeling so grateful for her act of kindness and for the courage it probably required of her. In all honesty, I know that the skirt is a bit over the top, but it’s so adorable I just have to wear it once in a while. You know, I spent the rest of the day feeling oddly pleased with life as a result of this woman’s comment.
When I got to the Holiday Inn, I was treated well, as I always am in any of their locations. I seem to recall reading once that the Holiday Inn had run a series of commercials years ago trying to attract the GLBT crowd, but eventually had to discontinue them because they were loosing too much high dollar business from conservatives. Advertising it or not, the Holiday Inn chain clearly is very friendly and respectful of all and I highly recommend them. A quick search on the internet and I discovered that there is a movie theater a couple of miles away, and there were a couple of movies that I was interested in seeing. It was a toss up between "Legion" and "The book of Eli" and since "The book of Eli" started soon, that’s the one I chose. It passed the time, but I’m afraid that I really can’t recommend it. It was mostly about thinly veiled excuses for impressive fight scenes, and a bit light on plot. As I left the theater, a light snow started to fall, and it continued to fall pretty much through the entire next day.

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The repair I was here to do didn’t require long, maybe four hours the next morning, and a good hunk of that time was spent waiting on my customer to find liquid nitrogen. Still, I was back in the car and headed for the hotel shortly after noon. I flirted with the thought of trying to get a flight out today, but I still had 30 minutes of driving to get back to the hotel, and I hadn’t packed my things. I would end up paying for the day anyway AND a $100 for changing my flights, assuming that there were flights to be had. In other words, it would have actually cost my company more for me to fly home today than it would for me to wait for tomorrows scheduled flight. Having justified staying to myself, I got ready and went shopping, to the movies again, and to dinner.

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As it had now been lightly snowing for well over 12 hours, the roads were slippery as hell, and so were the parking lots. I’m telling you, high heel pumps might as well be ice skates when your walking in that kind of stuff. This of course inspired me to take up my search for a pair of boots that I like, and so I started off at DSW Shoe Warehouse. As I entered the store, I see two sales attendants (SA’s) chatting, and the one facing me speaks up loudly.
"Hello and welcome to DSW!" she says.
"Thank you!" I said, trying to speak reasonably softly so that I wont be announcing my gender to everyone in the store with my voice. Still, as I walk in I can see her out of the corner of my eye tapping the other SA on the shoulder and nodding my direction. Soon both of them are looking my way, and I am once again wondering what it is about me that seems to broadcast that I am a male. I don’t walk like a quarterback nor do I exaggerate the female mannerisms. I’ve looked in enough mirrors that I know I don’t have a neon sign on my head or backside, so I just don’t get it. I did find a pair of boots that I liked, and they even had them in size 10 – my size. Still, I tried them on and found that they were too tight and hurt my toes. That is of course the reason that I long ago decided to never buy shoes with out trying them on. Sizes with female shoes are far too inconsistent and you just can’t assume that it will fit just because it claims to be your size. Disappointed, I left DSW and took a short drive to the mall near the movie theater. As I was walking through it, one of the ladies at a kiosk tries to stop me.
"Excuse me ma’am, have you got a moment?" she asks. I’ve long since lost all patience with this sort of thing, but still I replied nicely.
"No thank you, I’m not interested".
"OK, can I ask you a question?" she presses on. It astounds me. They must send all of the people that work in these kiosks, in all of the malls across the entire country, to the very same training course, because they ALL use this line.
"No, thank you." I again told her and continued walking. If you think I’m exaggerating about how annoying these people are, just ask your wife or girlfriend. These people don’t bother men, but they always put the hard press on women, and it gets to be a major inconvenience to be stopped and harassed every five or ten feet.
I managed to find a paper back book that looked interesting and proceeded to pay for it with the credit card I use for all of my travel related expenses. The clerk takes a look at the card, and then pauses for a moment as if unsure.
"I’m sorry, but do you have an ID for the credit card?" she asks. I used to hate showing my ID when femme, but since I got a state ID with my femme picture on it I actually get a kick out of it. It still shows my legal name and gender, but has my femme picture on it. Anyone looking at it still knows that I am transgendered, but at least I don’t have to show them my ugly pic.
Walking back down the same hallway to return to my car, I can see the kiosk woman that had stopped me earlier talking to another woman, and soon they both turn to watch me approach. As I get close, she steps out to meet me again, this time holding a tube of lotion.
"Did you change your mind?" she asks with a happy little grin, making it clear that she is kidding.
"Nope, still not interested!" I told her with a laugh.
"Listen, can I ask you a question? Honestly, it’s got nothing to do with this stuff," she said, waving a hand at her kiosk. Considering that she said it had nothing to do with her goods, and thinking that maybe she was sincere and perhaps interested in asking about my being trans, I actually stopped, and she started in as soon as I did.
"You polish your nails sometimes right?" she asked. At this point I can see the box of nail buffing products she is holding and start to seethe that she had misled me into stopping. I’ve had the whole nail buffing sales pitch before and wasn’t at all interested in spending $40 to buy the same stuff I could get at Target for $10.
"No thanks" I interrupted, and turned and walked away.
Next, I headed for the movie theater where I watched "Legion". It had some intense moments, but once again it was not a movie I’d go out of my way to see if I were you. It was more or less a horror flick with lots of blood, guts, and gore. That’s the sort of movie that I might get on DVD, but would rarely pay to see at the theater.
Trying to save money, both my own and my companies, I have been eating a lot of inexpensive fast food the last couple of months, and I’ve reached the point where I’ll scream if I have to eat one more burger. Tonight we eat at the Red Lobster! As they are at most restaurants, the hostess was drop dead gorgeous, and led me to a table in the corner and sat me facing away from most of the customers. I would have thought she was trying to keep me out of sight, either as a courtesy to me or to her other patrons, but she sat me right next to a family of about eight people. There is a young girl, maybe eight or nine facing me, and she is fidgeting a lot as do most children of this age. She keeps looking at me, but doesn’t look alarmed, or excited, so I wasn’t sure if she had "read" me or not. Finally I returned her look and smiled and winked at her. She gave me back a huge smile and returned to fidgeting. As they are finishing their dinner, I hear part of the conversation.
"It sure is going to be a long flight," she said, sounding exasperated. "It says we arrive at 2:30, but I don’t know if that is our time or theirs. Don’t we go through three or four time zones? If that is their time, it’s a real long flight!"
"I don’t know if it’s our time or theirs Momma," I hear a younger woman respond, and then hear a number of the others agreeing that they also had no idea. As I just about live on airplanes, I know that the arrival time is always given in the time of the place you are landing, but I hesitate to insert myself in to their conversation. After a few more comments about the topic, all expressing uncertainty and anxiety, I decide to speak up.
"Ma’am? The arrival time on your ticket will be the local time where you are landing." I told her
"Really? Have you been there?" she asked me nicely and with a note of excitement. At this point I had no idea where they were going – I hadn’t heard that.
"No, but it really doesn’t matter where you are going – they will always give the arrival time in the local time. Trust me, I fly a lot!" I told her with a grin.
"Well thank you then, I appreciate that!" she said.
"Your most welcome." I replied. "So where are you going? Someplace warm I hope?" I asked and was greeted with laughs around the table.
"We are going on vacation to Hawaii!" She said, looking around the table at her family, where all were clearly excited and delighted to be heading out on this adventure.
"You know that is one of the few places that I haven’t been to yet. Can I come with y’all?" I asked while batting my eyes, and was once again rewarded with laughter from around the table.
"Sure you can. We leave from the airport at 530AM tomorrow morning!" she said, playing along.
"I’ll be there!" I assured her, and I was there, but I accidentally went to Austin instead of Hawaii . . .