Friday, August 27, 2010

The Never Ending Journey

APG 2010 08 16 027                     

I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that this was the longest non-stop trip I’ve ever been on for my company. By the time I finally got around to starting to write my blog, I had to go back and look at the photos I’d taken just to remind myself where my trip had started off at and where I’d been! I have had some good times on this trip, but quite frankly I’m ready to go home.

As y’all know, because I keep telling ya over and over again, I’ve suddenly taken a liking to dresses. The good news is that they appear to flatter me for the first time in my life.
The bad news is, I’ve gone overboard and have been buying them everywhere I can find a good deal on them. I’ve found at least three of them in the last two weeks with price tags well over $100, but on sale for only $20 and $25. Each one, when taken on it’s own merits was a hell of a deal and you would no doubt be inclined to pat me on the back and say “What an awesome shopper you are!”, but when you add them all up, I’ve gone overboard and spent a lot more money recently than I should have.

As I was packing my suitcase, my six year old daughter shoves the bedroom door wide open and waltzes in like she owns the joint, and of course catching me just as I’m packing away a pink nightgown.
“Young’un, aren’t you supposed to knock if the door is closed?!” I asked her, trying to remind her that it was inappropriate to barge through a closed door, but also trying not to freak on her just because she has caught me doing something I’d rather she hadn’t.
“Oh, sorry daddy, I forgot.” She said, trying to look apologetic but failing miserably.
“Sorry my butt! Git on back out the door and knock this time!” I scolded her, while pointing back out to the hallway. With an almost teenager style huff, she spun around and closed the door behind her. In a second I hear the soft sound of little knuckles knocking on the door. By now I have closed the suitcase lid so she wont see any of the other interesting things that I have packed.
“Come in!” I called out to her.
With no hesitation at all, she walks in and immediately she verbally pins me to the wall.
“So why are you taking momma’s pretty night gown with you?” she asks me very calmly, much as she might speak if she were asking me what time it was. This is at least the fourth time my daughter has point blank asked me things like this, and I’m pretty sure that I’m gonna have to have a talk with her soon, but I aint ready just yet.
“Maybe I just want to have something of Momma’s with me when I’m all alone critter!” I told her.
“Oh! Hold on, I’ll be right back!” and off she sprints out the door, returning less than a minute later with one of her favorite stuffed animals.
“Here daddy, now you can have something of mine to cuddle with.” She tells me while holding it out to me. I picked her up and hugged her, and told her she was the sweetest person I know, and that I loved the idea, but that her stuffed animal was way too big for me to take with me. Not to be deterred, she went to her room again and brought back a little critter with pink and white stripes. THIS one would fit in my bag just fine . . .

At least according to the pics on my flickr site, my trip started off with my going to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland to do preventative maintenance on three instruments there. For this flight, I chose one of my newest finds – a very 1970’s sort of hippie dress. I knew the moment that I saw this dress in Goodwill for about $10 that it just had to go home with me. I was sure it would look great on me and I was not disappointed! It occurred to me later though that I should have worn my piece sign ear rings – that would have just really topped off the whole 70’s concept! Oh well, maybe next time!
For shoes, I was wearing some serious platform sandals that I had just purchased a couple of days ago. I had actually been shopping with my wife, daughter, and future daughter-in-law when I found them. The cute thing is, my daughter in law found some that were very similar in appearance, and with a stiletto just as high as mine, so we spent the next couple of days threatening to steal each others shoes. When I was planning my outfits for this trip, she more or less dared me to wear them on the flight, and since I was leaning that way anyway . . .

APG 2010 08 16 016

APG 2010 08 16 019

On the first leg of my flight, I sat in coach. Coach or not, as a frequent flier I get to be one of the first people to board the aircraft, and so I was sitting there reading my book when a woman and her two daughters, toddler and infant, took the seats in front of me. The poor woman was really struggling trying to herd her toddler, carry the infant and their things, and get them all sorted and stored with out dropping anything critical, like, oh, say the baby for instance. I’ve long since become jaded enough that I no longer offer to help women that carry huge carry on bags on the aircraft, but this sort of thing is completely different. This is a woman struggling to do what has to be done to get her and her children from one point to another and not just a woman too silly to pack reasonably and in too big a hurry to check her bags. Anyway, I stood and helped her get her carry on stored away and soon she was seated.
“Thank you SO much!” she almost gasped, trying to turn around and look at me through the gap in the seats.
“Your very welcome! You know, you’re a very brave woman. I’ve traveled with one of my young children before – I just can’t imagine trying it with two of them!” I told her with a grin. She laughed and we spoke a couple of minutes, but of course her attention was soon entirely taken by trying to keep her children seated. About mid way through the boarding process, two older women stopped at the seats the mother and children were sitting in. They kept looking at their tickets, the seat marker, the mother and children, their tickets, over and over. I’d seen this dance enough to know what was coming next.
“Excuse me, but I think your in our seats.” One of the older women tells the mother. Of course this launches a flurry of ticket examinations and comparisons, and in a moment they agree that the mother and her children are in the wrong seats, and were supposed to be on the other side of the isle. Rather than simply agree to sit in each others assigned seats, the mother collects all of her things from under the seats, grabs the baby, herds the toddler, and after five minutes of effort she and her children are now seated in the same row, but on the other side of the isle. She caught me looking at her and shaking my head, and gave me the “what could I do?” shrug. Thing really got comical about 10 minutes later though, when the flight attendant comes up to the mother.
“Ma’am, I’m so sorry, but there aren’t enough oxygen masks on that side of the aircraft for all three of you.” She tells her. Then she looks across the isle at the two older women that had forced the poor woman to move.
“Ladies, I’m sorry but I’m going to have to ask you to please exchange seats with this lady and her children.” Having said this, the flight attendant then started helping them all to shuffle their things. It was all I could do to keep from laughing at the sheer silliness of it all. Just as they closed the door to the aircraft, I reached up and tapped the mother on the shoulder to get her attention.
“They were just kidding – you need to move back to the other side of the isle now!” I told her with a smile. To my surprise, three or four people seated around us busted up laughing – I thought I had spoken only loud enough for her to hear.

On the next leg of my trip, I had received an upgrade to first class, and I was pleased to find myself sitting next to an attractive and friendly woman about my own age. We chatted about everything and about nothing while people boarded the airplane.
“I’m just waiting for my boss to walk by, because boy is he gonna be pissed!” she said with delighted look.
“Oh, let me guess! You got an upgrade and he didn’t?” I asked her.
“Yup!” she said with a laugh.
I had fully intended to pay attention to see the fun as her boss had to walk past her to coach seats, but I got caught up in the movie on my IPOD and forgot all about it. I remembered it though, when the doors were closed and they tell you to turn off your electronics.
“So, did your boss see you?” I asked her with a grin.
“He sure did. I made sure he saw me!”
“And was he pissed?”
“He was, especially when he saw that I was sitting next to a hottie like you!”
I had taken a drink of my coffee as she was speaking, and I literally choked on it when she said this.
“Your sweet . .”  .. ..   “. . but I haven’t been even close to ‘hot’ in a long time.” I sputtered out between coughs and chokes from the coffee that had just filled my nose. Of course, that compliment made her my new best friend and we chatted about places where we had been for most of the flight.

«««  -----------   »»»

The following day was a long work day, and so all I did after work was to take my customer to dinner. It seems his wife was off visiting her sick mother and so he was also doing the bachelor thing.

«««  -----------   »»»

The next day I was done fairly early and so I got cleaned up and went out to see “The Expendables”. Oh my God . . .  
Talk about graphic and unapologetic violence! They pulled no punches and shied away from showing nothing. Gotta tell the truth though, it was a bit of fun. My only major disappointment was that Arnold played only a cameo roll – he was only on screen for about two minutes. 

APG 2010 08 18 005

Shortly after I got out of the movies I received a call from my manager telling me that one of our major customers in Manassas VA has a problem with a system I installed only a few weeks ago. It has a touch screen on it, and it appears that our system allows the user to calibrate the touch screen so badly that it can’t be used anymore. Brilliant! When you screw it up that bad, you can no longer enter the password that lets you calibrate it again. Oops. Anyway, the factory was sending the parts to the customer and he was gonna install them, but my boss wanted me to change my flights and stay reasonably local just in case I had to head that way and help them out. Well, when I started pricing things out, it turned out that I could save my company almost a thousand dollars by just staying the entire weekend in Philadelphia. You see I had a repair to do there the following week anyway, so I could save them the cost of an entire round trip flight bringing me back to the same area next week. I stayed in Maryland for the next day, just to be a couple of hours closer to Manassas in case I had to head that way. I was immensely relieved when I received notice that the customer had installed the new components and the system was up running. That meant that I got to head North to Philadelphia Friday!

«««  -----------   »»»

Just my luck, Friday morning I awoke to discover that I was sick with a cold. It wasn’t a complete shock as my customer had stated that he had just gotten over one, and his wife was still sick. Still, it just didn’t seem fair! I had plans to meet with my friends Sophie and Jennyand was sort of looking forward to an entire weekend to have fun in Philly as Kim, and now I was gonna spend it sick! I went ahead and made the drive “pretty” though, thinking that if I got any sicker as the days went on, this might be my last chance.

PA 2010 08 20 006

When I got to my hotel in King Of Prussia PA, it was still quite early and so I unpacked and headed across the street to the King of Prussia mall. For those of you that haven’t been there, it is a very nice and very large mall. I had only packed for a three day trip and now it was turning into a week and a half or more, so I looked for a couple of outfits and for some more sensible shoes. I did indeed find a couple of awesome deals on dresses – one at Macy’s and one at JC Penny. Both dresses had tags on them showing that had originally sold for over $100 and I got one for $20 and one for $27 – SCORE!  Next I started looking for some more reasonable shoes. Let’s face it, the 5 inch stilettos I had worn on a lark and a dare were not exactly what I had expected to be stuck wearing for a week and a half. I had brought a couple of other pairs, but they were almost as bad, one with 3.5 inch heels and the other with 4 inch stilettos. I often check the sales racks in Macy’s, but surprisingly, not only did I not find anything I could afford, but I didn’t even see anything I particularly liked, so I made my way through the rest of the mall. At the end of my shopping I entered the 9 West shoe store where I found two drop dead gorgeous young women working in an otherwise empty store. I looked around for a moment and didn’t see anything that I couldn’t live without, so I turned to leave.
“Thank you!” I tossed over my shoulder.
“Hey?!” one of them calls out to me, so I turned to look at her.
“We like your shoes!” she says with a huge grin.
“Thanks! So do I, but they aren’t exactly practical for mall walking huh?” I told them with a laugh.
“Maybe not, but they sure are cute!”
“And looking cute is what it’s all about, isn’t it?” I replied as I continued back out in to the mall with a wave.
I don’t know if it was just me, the fact that I was sick, or maybe the silly shoes I was wearing, but I just didn’t feel confident and felt like everyone was staring at me. Pretty quick, and long before I had explored the entire mall, I decided to call it a day and returned to my room and went back to being a caterpillar. I was just gonna lay around the room but I got a call from Sophie offering to meet for a coffee or a beer, and since there was a Hooters bar more or less in my hotels parking lot, the choice was a no brainer.

You know, most guys really like Hooters, but I’m not a huge fan. Pretty women, and let’s face it, Hooters doesn’t hire unattractive women, have always made me uncomfortable. I blush, I stutter, and I feel embarrassed. When I am in male mode, I have no idea how to relate to them or chat with them comfortably. When I’m presenting as female, I feel fat and ugly when next to pretty women. Oh well . . .
So Sophie and I sat there drinking a beer and chatting when two of the waitresses started hugging each other. Soon I see them both trying to convince the guy next to me to take their picture using their cell phone camera, but apparently it was beyond his skill set and he flubbed it up several times. It drove me nuts hearing them try and explain to this idiot over and over “Point it and push the button” and so I held my hand out for it. In a moment we had a couple of nice pics taken and the camera phone back in her possession.
“They look great! Thank you so much!” she told me with a great smile.
“Your welcome,” I said . . . blushing . . .
I can’t recall if it was Sophie or I, but one of us made a comment that I ought to take fairly good pictures given all of the practice that I get at it!

«««  -----------   »»»

Saturday turned out to be a pretty big day for me! There was going to be a local TG get together called “Angela’s Laptop Lounge” AND it turns out that Sophie and Jenny had bought me a makeover with Amanda Richards! As if that wasn’t enough on my plate, I also got the call from my manager that our customer in Manassas was in trouble again already. The new parts we had sent had fixed their problem, but only for one day! Now I was going to have to complete my repair in Philadelphia Monday and then drive all of the way to Manassas and spend the rest of the week there. My trip had started off to be a three day journey and was now up to two weeks. It sure is a good thing that I always seriously over pack! On the way to the make over at Amanda Richards “True Colors” salon, Sophie was kind enough to give me a guided tour through Valley Forge.

PA 2010 08 21 014

PA 2010 08 21 025

PA 2010 08 21 033

Having been born and raised in Southern California, most US history has seemed kind of like myths to me – things that happened far away and long ago. To actually be standing in the middle of such a historical place as Valley Forge was nothing less than awe inspiring, and had it not been for Sophie, I would have spent days only five minutes away from it and never known.

When we arrived at “True Colors” we were met by Amanda. It feels a little odd to use that name as he was in boy mode, but I have no idea what “his” name is. Sophie got her makeover first, which gave me the chance to walk around exploring things and looking at the wigs Amanda had on display. The first thing that caught my interest was an awesome full length green gown with lots of different layers in the skirts. I was sure that it would look killer on me and kept trying to convince Amanda that it would be ever so much happier in my closet, but she wasn’t having any of it. While we were each getting makeovers, we were all three chatting, laughing, and teasing, and just having a great time. I’d have to say that cutting up and having fun with the two of them was the most fun I had that night.
When it came time for my makeover, I told Amanda to make me look like someone else and she rose to the challenge. I did have a bad moment though when she put a wig cap on me and then started applying tape across the back of my neck. Then she put some above each eye and started tugging on it – hard! More or less, she had given me a face lift using tape! I laughed and asked her if she had any tape tricks for getting rid of the bags under my eyes, and she told me not to tempt or dare her! Having the tape pulling on my face was one of the oddest feelings, at first very uncomfortable, and then fading to a mere irritation. After a lot of work on Amanda’s part, I was all glamorous and it was time to play with wigs! 

The first one I tried was sort of a page boy, with the sides longer in the front than in the back. Noting how adorable the models looked wearing it, I’d been wanting to see what that style would look like on me for years and now I knew – HORRIBLE!

PA 2010 08 21 039

Next we tried a very long wig that I was actually thinking about buying since she was selling it so cheaply. It had curls upon curls and this of course appeals to me, but in the end I decided that it really wasn’t going to be appropriate on me. Twenty years ago, maybe, but not at 44 years old.

PA 2010 08 21 041

The next one I tried on, I actually thought looked fantastic, but only with this elaborate and glamorous makeup that Amanda had provided. I would have taken it for the night if that had been an option, but I knew darn well it wouldn’t look as good on me with my every day face, so I had to pass on it . . .

PA 2010 08 21 044

The last one that we played with was Amanda’s own wig, because it appeared to be exactly what I was looking for. Just to be sure that it was the right color and cut, Amanda styled it on me for a quick look. Convinced that this was in fact the exact wig I have been searching for, Amanda now knew exactly the make, model, and color and ordered it for me. Not only that, but while it retails for something like $500, she sold it to me for just a touch over $200! With so many places out there ready to take advantage of TG’s, it was kind of heartening to see someone give an honestly awesome deal and bargain.

PA 2010 08 21 046

Done playing with new wigs, Amanda put my own wig in order. Despite my telling her of all the things that I had done wrong with my wig, she took a look at it and told me that it was actually in very good shape, especially given that it was three years old and gets worn so much. It didn’t take her long to make my wig look presentable and there I stood looking in the mirror at her handy work and feeling astounded that the person looking back from the mirror was me!

PA 2010 08 21 085

I made one more failed attempt to get Amanda to sell the green gown to me, which Amanda deftly avoided, making some comment about people that get obsessed over odd things like, oh, say, long green gowns. Knowing that her humor would be a welcome and fun addition to Sophie and my sarcasm, we invited Amanda to join us for the evening, but she declined. Something about her having had a very long day working with a wedding party and then doing our makeovers.

PA 2010 08 21 071

Back in King of Prussia, we made our way to Angela’s Laptop Lounge where we met and socialized with about 20 other TG’s and their guests from all over the area. Angela’s Laptop Lounge is in a pub attached to the mall, and it was kind of weird to see the mall empty of everyone except us and the security guard that kept encouraging us to stay in the area of the pub. I think we drove that poor guy nuts! I met and chatted with far too many people that night to keep all of their names straight so I’m not even gonna try. Suffice it to say that I met a lot of interesting people to talk to and really enjoyed the evening.

«««  -----------   »»»

Sunday rolled around and found me laying in bed until around 11AM. I wasn’t sleeping, but what with the pace I’d been keeping, the cold my first customer on this trip had given me, and the late night, I just didn’t feel like getting up. I was watching something of no consequence on TV when Sophie called me and invited me to breakfast/lunch with her. She was in boy mode, and so was I, and off we went looking for someplace that served brunch. Our search ultimately took us to a pub not far from her home, and as we entered, Sophie just about tripped over one of her life long friends and invited him to join us. We had an awkward couple of moments trying to skip over the issue of how Sophie and I had met each other, but in very little time everyone was chatting freely. After those two launched into several conversations regarding history and politics, I quickly came to realize that I was way out of my league with these two. It was nothing you could really put your finger on, nothing you could point to and say “That’s why”, but I just had the impression that I was sitting with two damned smart people. I began to think that I knew what the village idiot must feel like now, and I later commented to Sophie that I must be her token dumb friend.

When Sophie got me back to my hotel room, it was time to start getting ready for dinner with Captain Jenny! I had met Jenny before, in an airport when we were both in guy mode, but it’s just not the same. Jenny has an easy and infectious smile and constantly gives the impression that she is up to something or in on a joke that you don’t know about yet.

PA 2010 08 22 022

PA 2010 08 22 026

For diner, we went to the “Tavern on Camak” – a piano bar and restaurant that Sophie and I had visited before. We sort of circled the area first, making sure we knew how to find the place, and then we found a parking lot nearby. After a short walk down the alley to where the entrance was located, we made our way inside, where we found some people singing at the piano. The piano player played well, but frankly his singing left something to be desired, and so it was fortunate that several of the patrons were helping him out in that department. We looked around and found no indication at all that there might be a restaurant in the building and so I had to ask the bartender. He pointed out a staircase going down stairs that we had totally missed. I’d seen a blocked stair going up, but hadn’t noticed the open stairs going down. When we got to the bottom of the stairs, we found a couple of people gathered around a wine bar, and a cozy but empty dining area where the waiter seated us. I had my fears, assuming that an empty restaurant may imply a restaurant that people have decided isn’t worth eating at, but I’d have to say that the service was terrific and the food was good as well. Periodically as we ate and chatted, I couldn’t help wincing as I heard the piano player upstairs singing flat note after flat note, but what can you do? I had expected that hanging out with Jenny would be a fun time, and I wasn’t disappointed. As seems to be the agenda every time I meet with another TG, we talked for hours about everything we could think of. Way too soon, dinner was over and we made our way upstairs where we were discussing whether we should stay and listen to the piano player for a while or not. When I saw the tiny woman that had played the piano the last time I was here enter the building and begin getting ready to take her place at the piano, we decided that we would indeed stick around for a while. We stuck around and listened for a couple of hours until we both agreed that our work schedules the following morning really did dictate that the night must end.

PA 2010 08 22 029

On the drive back to King of Prussia, Jenny asked me a question that has kind of stuck with me, almost haunting me.
“How long will you do this? When will you stop cross dressing?”
What an interesting question. . .
“When I look in the mirror and see someone ugly looking back at me. When it no longer seems worth the effort I suppose . . . ” I hesitantly replied after thinking about it for a moment. The thing is, I am telling myself more and more often these days that it’s not worth the effort. I’ve had entire days on the road where I could have and didn’t. I’m making more and more flights in boy mode again because I just don’t feel like the work, effort, and angst of flying cross dressed.
“When will you stop cross dressing?”  I keep hearing that question in my head over and over this last week. Thanks for giving me something to obsess over Jenny!

«««  -----------   »»»

The next day, I completed my service call in the Philly area and then made the drive to Manassas VA, and the traffic going through the Washington DC area was every bit as bad as I had been warned it might be. I didn’t get in until after 7PM, so all I did was go grocery shopping and call it a night.

«««  -----------   »»»

Tuesday was of course dedicated to getting my customers system back up and running. That really didn’t take too terribly long, but given that it had failed twice in three weeks, I wasn’t inclined to go sprinting out the door as soon as it was working. Instead, I spent the day running the customer through how to operate it again, just to reinforce the training I had provided when we installed it a few weeks ago. I then told him that I was going to be staying in the area for a few days just to be sure everything continued to work! We had arrived quickly to resolve his issues, the system was now working well, and I was staying local just in case – the customer was thrilled!

«««  -----------   »»»

Manassas VA 2010 08 25 002

Wednesday, I checked in with my customer and found everything still working well and him still happy, so I returned to my hotel, got ‘dressed’, and headed for Washington DC to see what I could see! Sophie had warned me to wear “comfortable” shoes if I was going to check out the monuments in the National mall and I had just laughed. First of all, I don’t own a single pair of female flats, and second of all, life is way to short for wearing ugly shoes, so off I went in my cute skirt and high heels.

Manassas VA 2010 08 25 005

I knew everyone said not to drive in, but the very thought of trying to navigate my way through a huge city’s train and bus systems just scares the snot out of a small town desert rat like myself. To all of you that grew up in cities, this may be second nature, but to someone that has never used public transportation, it’s terrifying. Mind you, I am not concerned with my safety – that’s not what stops me. What stops me is having absolutely no clue how to navigate the system to the destination, and then even more important, to find my way back to what ever station I left the car at. I have this vision of being lost somewhere and with no idea how to get back to my car! Anyway, I made my way in to the city and circled the national mall looking at monuments and searching for a parking lot or garage. The Washington monument is of course visible from just about everywhere, and I also slowly drove by the World War II monument and could see Lincolns Monument way off in the distance. Several times I was forced almost entirely out of the city by traffic, one way streets, and streets that switch directions based on the time of the day. Still, I was stubborn and kept returning to the area looking for a parking area. Using my GPS, I did find several parking areas but that did me no good, because they were all full! When I found all of the parking areas more than two miles away from the monuments to be full and closed, I decided that it was time to throw in the towel and admit that driving in had been a bad idea.

«««  -----------   »»»

Thursday I was going to risk getting lost in public transit and return to DC in boy mode, but I just couldn’t find any enthusiasm for it. Just thinking about it I felt overwhelmed and exhausted and so I decided to just go see a movie in drab. I found that “The Other Guys” was playing and so I bought a ticket for it. If your thinking about seeing this movie – don’t. I would put it in the top three worst movies I’ve ever seen. It was boring, pointless, and had nothing I found even marginally redeeming.

«««  -----------   »»»

Friday it was at long last time to make the trip home. While I was gone, my one year old son had taken his first steps not holding on to something or someone, my (almost) seven year old daughter had started first grade, and my twenty one year old had at last called home from navy basic training. I know that most fathers would have missed these things, having to be at the office or job, but somehow it just seemed unfair that all of this had occurred while I was so far from home.
I felt absolutely no interest in flying home pretty. This time it wasn’t even a toss up, there was no inner discussion with myself over it – I just flat didn’t want to.

“When will you stop cross dressing?” Jenny had asked.
 “When I look in the mirror and see someone ugly looking back at me. When it no longer seems worth the effort I suppose . . . ”

Friday, August 13, 2010

I think I need a vacation – BAD!

Current mood:tired
Detroit 2010 08 09 004 

I’m off to Detroit again, and apparently I’m not alone, ‘cause almost every car rental company was sold out. I always use Avis but this time they had to get me a rental car with National – more on that later.

I’m continuing to enjoy my new found appreciation for dresses and wore a new one on this trip. It is kind of a business / office kind of dress and I think looks very professional - unlike the tramp wearing it! When I took a seat in the gate area of the airport, I discovered that there is a bad girl element to the dress you see. While standing, the slit on the side didn’t appear to rise too terribly high, but when I took a seat I discovered that it showed a bit more leg than I was really comfortable with.

Detroit 2010 08 09 010

On my drive to the airport I was listening to the news on the radio and I got a little worried when they started warning everyone that the traffic in Austin, and especially around the airport, was going to go all to hell today. It seems that President Obama was visiting Austin somewhere around noon! How cynical I must have become in my old age, because here the President of the United States of America was coming to our city and my only real concern was the hope that he not mess up my drive to the airport! Fortunately I was arriving at the airport at about 630AM and he wasn’t coming in until around noon, so my drive did not suffer at all. I did have to chuckle a bit when I went through the TSA security process though, because they were all looking sharp, clearly intending to be “inspection ready”.

I got checked in and made my way through the TSA check point, then I pulled all of my things off of the X-ray machine and made my way to a seat where I put my jewelry and shoes back on. When I had all of my things back together I started off for my gate and almost fell flat on my face. The strap on my shoe had broken and it had come half way off of my foot! Limping along on my tip toe, I made my way to a chair, where I took my shoe off and examined it. The strap was supposed to be held on by a button, and the thread holding the button in place had broken. Fortunately the button was still gripping the strap and so I had not lost it. Tucking the strap inside the shoe and under my foot, I made my way through the airport looking for a sewing repair kit, thinking I could probably repair the darn thing myself. Not one of the half a dozen shops in the airport carried a sewing kit, and so I spent the rest of the morning wearing one shoe with a mary jane strap and one shoe without. Talk about a fashion statement!
The good news though, is that the Chicago O’Hare airport has not only a shoe shine place, but a full fledged shoe repair shop! With a lot of grins from the two or three guys working there, they had my shoe repaired in less than 10 minutes and it only cost me $6! The inside of the shoe looks a bit rough now, but the outside still looks flawless. Feeling more than grateful, I gave him a $5 tip on top of that, and headed off for my connection.

When I landed in Detroit, I almost headed to the Avis shuttle bus out of habit, but caught myself as I exited the building. The National shuttle bus driver was real nice, grabbing my bags as I boarded, and then chatting with me as we made the drive to the lot.
“Are you a member of our program?” He asked me.
“Nope. I’ve gotta be honest, I normally use your competition – Avis.” I told him with a laugh.
“Well, once you have used us, you wont go back to them!”
“Confidence AND pride! I like that! And you know, I have to be honest that Avis has sort of pissed me off pretty bad a few times lately anyway!”
“Really?! What did they do that made you mad?” he asked, looking at me through the large mirror as he was driving.
“Well the worst was calling me three weeks after I returned a car in Wisconsin to tell me that I had scratched the hell out of the trunk and they were gonna charge me for it! THREE WEEKS it took them to try and blame it on me.” I told him, getting mad at the very memory of it.
“No WAY? You didn’t pay for it did you?” he asked.
“I told my company not to pay for it under any circumstances and that I’d be willing to go to court over it. It offended my principles that they were blaming me for something I didn’t do. As if I wouldn’t have the moral integrity to admit it if I had scratched a car in the snow and ice that was covering the roads at the time. Still, I think my company IS going to pay for it, just because it’s easier than fighting with them.”
“Well that’s just not right!” he said. “Be sure you walk around and inspect the car before you take it from now on.”
“Oh, no question about that!” I told him with a laugh.

Since I was not a member of their program, I had to go the counter for my rental agreement, and the lady there was just awesome. She made the same claim that I wouldn’t want to go back to Avis after I had used National. After a little bit of chatting and laughing, I had my rental agreement and was told to go to the luxury lot and pick out the car I wanted. Since Ford was going to be one of my customers on this trip, I made it a point to grab one of theirs.

I got my bags put away in the trunk, my GPS programmed for the hotel, and then grabbed my contract and drivers license so I’d have them available for the gate guard. At least that had been my plan, because I couldn’t find my damned drivers license! I went through my wallet and purse at least half a dozen times – not there. I dumped every thing out of my backpack twice – not there. I pulled my bags back out of the trunk to be sure I hadn’t dropped it there when I was loading them – no drivers license. I had just had it not five minutes ago when I was at the counter, so I returned there and asked the young lady behind the counter – nope, not there either! By now I’ve been bouncing around inside the car, walking around it, and walking to the counter and back for about 15 minutes, so two National employees walked up and asked if I needed help.
“Thanks, but I don’t think there’s much you can do! Being the brilliant person that I am, somehow I’ve managed to loose my drivers license between here (I pointed at the car) and there (I pointed at the office).”
“Well, let us know if we can help!” they told me, both laughing as they walked off.
Just as I was getting ready to really get upset and blow a gasket, I found it where it had slid down between the seat and center console, standing straight up on edge so that the edge was all you could see.

As I pointed out in the title of this post, I think I need a vacation or something, because I am always exhausted these days. I don’t mean just tired, I mean the kind of worn out where you sit in your car or your room for a couple of moments trying to convince yourself that you really don’t have any reason in the world to feel like crying. To add to the worn out feeling, I have this wonderful condition called Erythema Nodosum. Ironically enough, according to the many doctors I’ve seen through the years, its an almost exclusively female condition. Anyway, the end result is that I have these large and very painful bruises and bumps all over my rear, my thighs, and my calves. This is a particularly bad flare up and so I pretty much hurt every where from the waist down. It hurts when I walk, hurts when I stand, and hurts when I sit, so I pretty much can’t win.
Suffice it to say that by the time I got to my hotel room, I was really tired, hurt everywhere, and so I just called it a night.

The following day I worked until 730PM trying to get both of my customers back up and running. To be honest, part of my motivation was also the hope that I could just get both repairs done that day and catch an early flight home the next, but it wasn’t to be. After staying so late, we ran into a serious problem that was going to take me a couple of hours to address, and so we agreed to return to the issue in the morning. Once in my hotel room I started checking my emails and found one from Victoria, a local Tgirl that I had met once before. She’s a real sweetheart and we keep threatening to meet up again but never seem to get our schedules together. Anyway, she wrote that she might be able to meet me that night if I was free. I sat there feeling worn out, with my legs hurting and throbbing, empty stomach growling, and looking at my hands and clothes that were filthy from the days work. I wrote her back and told her not today, but that I’d be happy to meet with her tomorrow. She wrote back to say that she wasn’t going to get off of work until 11PM tomorrow, so it looks like we miss each other yet again.

The next day I returned to my customer to resolve the remaining issues. As I parked, I reached for my cell phone to call them and let them know that I was there. The only problem being that I couldn’t find my cell phone. Once again I dumped my backpack just as I had when I was looking for my drivers license the day before, but no cell phone. Eventually I gave up and just headed for the lobby where I used their phone to call my contact. The good news is that I was able to resolve the remaining issues in a few hours, and was then free for the rest of the afternoon.

Detroit 2010 08 10 004

Despite the dark bruises all over my legs, I decided to wear a relatively short skirt because it was just too darn hot for anything else. Once I got dressed, I had the usual dilemma – what to do?! I decided to continue looking for new hair, and even realized that the Detroit area would be a perfect place to find a wig shop I can build a relationship with. I’m there so often, it would make a perfect place to find a shop that I could return to over and over if I wanted to.

I searched the internet for “wigs near Detroit” and while it came up with a lot of hits, I didn’t find a single one that had a web page I could browse, so I headed for the car, setup my GPS and searched for “Wig”. It offered me quite a few options and so off I headed to the closest one where I found an Asian woman helping an elderly lady. While she was helping the older woman I browsed around but didn’t see anything comparable to my favorite hair. All of hers were by a manufacturer that I’d ever heard of, and frankly struck me as cheap, and sure as heck didn’t approach the quality of the one I had, so I thanked her and left. The next shop I visited had gone out of business and was closed up tight. The third shop I went clearly catered almost exclusively to African Americans because every piece she had was either very dark black or brown, or exotic (Orange, red, purple, etc). I decided to head to Ferndale because I’d been told several times that they have a large GLBT community there, and so I thought that maybe their wig stores would have a better selection, but it wasn’t to be. The first one I visited there still had the lights on and everything, but had the closed sign up despite it’s being just 445PM, and the next store I found had also gone out of business. Apparently owning a wig store in the Detroit area isn’t a real good idea . . .

I’d had enough disappointment for the day and decided I’d give up for now and just go have dinner, and so I made my way to Maria’s Italian restaurant. I had found this place a couple of years ago, because it’s right next door to the “SoHo” bar / club where I used to go for karaoke all of the time. The food is good and the owner and wait staff have always been really friendly with me, so I’ve made it a point to try and eat there when I can. When I entered, I was greeted by the one waitress working at the time. She is a pretty woman with mid length brown hair, and I’d guess that she is probably in her early thirties.
“Just one?” she asks me with a smile.
“Yup, just me – the lone ranger.” I replied.
“Hey, I remember you, you’re the karaoke . . . person.”  There was a ever so short pause between “Karaoke” and “Person” and I busted up laughing.
“Go on, you can say it! We both know you were gonna say “Karaoke Queen” before you decided it might not be the best way to phrase it, huh?!”  We both laughed as she seated me.
“Uh, no, not at all! I’d never say anything like that!” she said with a shit-eating-grin that made it clear that this was exactly what she had been thinking. A little later in the evening, I could hear her softly singing to the Dean Martin music playing on the intercom as she was cleaning things up at another table.
“I see that I’m not the only one here that likes to sing.” I told her with a wink when she brought me my check.
“Just when I’m alone or in the shower, but NEVER karaoke!” she laughed. As she took away the check and my credit card, the owner approached my table. He is very tall, well over six feet, and has very short hair, almost a military cut. He has taken the time to talk to me every single time I’ve been there.
“So I see that your back in town.” He says, and then continues after a short pause. “I’m a master of the obvious, aren’t I?”.
“That’s OK,” I told him with a laugh. “I always make it a point to eat here when I can.”
“I’m glad to hear that. So how was your dinner?” he asked.
“It was awesome, thank you. Of course, that’s why I make it a point to come here!” I replied.
“Well I guess that makes sense, so then once again I’ve stated the obvious !” he said with a laugh, and then he retreated as I filled out the credit card slip and handed it to the waitress. I had to walk right by him again where he was sitting at the wine bar on my way out the door, and he spoke as I went by.
“Hey! You do know it’s not karaoke night tonight right?!” he asked, picking on me by implying that I had chosen the wrong night to be there.
“Actually, according to their web page it IS karaoke night tonight, but it doesn’t really matter. I’ve got a flight to catch in the morning, and they don’t start the karaoke until too late for me to hang around. I don’t do late nights followed by early mornings much anymore!”
“Well, I hope you have a good night anyway and we hope to see you next time you are in town.” He told me with a smile.

When I was seated in my rental car, I checked my makeup and was shocked to see a fairly large spot on my chin was 100% clear of foundation. I have no idea what part of my dinner I had managed to get on my chin that cleaned foundation off, but there was a spot about the size of a dime that was glaringly obvious. Embarrassed, I wondered how much of the evening I had spent that way. Still, even though I have never had to use it until now, I always carry foundation and powder with me just in case, and so in short order I had it repaired. It was only 630PM and so I decided ‘what the heck, let’s hit up Macy’s and JC Penny’s and see if we can find a new pair of shoes.’ I checked out JC Penny but didn’t find anything I liked there, so I headed to Macy’s. As I was browsing through their shoe section, I noticed a young woman, probably still in her teens, wearing a scarf over her hair, neck, and shoulders. I assume this is a Middle Eastern or Muslim thing but wouldn’t claim to know enough their culture to be sure. She is cute, and despite the very conservative scarf over her hair and shoulders, she is wearing a colorful and cute dress with pants under it. I noticed her because of her bright outfit, and because she apparently worked in the shoe section. I’d have to admit that I was a little nervous to approach her for help because I wasn’t sure how someone of her culture might feel about someone like me. Still, I told myself I was being silly for making assumptions, and besides, it was her job, and so I did approach her with one pair that I liked.
“Can I help you?” she asked with a professional smile that I thought might be just a little on the cold side.
“Sure! Do you have these in nine and a half and tens? I’d bring both sizes if you have them, because it might save you trip.” I asked, handing her the shoe I had picked out. She punched a lot of keys on her PC and then responded.
“I have both. If you will wait here, I’ll go get them!” she told me. She seemed a little friendlier, and despite her clearly middle Eastern features and scarf, her English had absolutely no trace of an accent, making it pretty clear that she was probably born in the US just like I was. As she walked off, I was feeling guilty for having had my reservations about dealing with her, and I was kind of contemplating the less than flattering things that my earlier assumption implied about me, when another young girl spoke to me over her shoulder as she walked by me from behind. I was caught by surprise and deep in thought and didn’t catch what she said.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?” I asked her. She was almost a carbon copy of the young lady that was now in the warehouse looking for the shoes I wanted. She was also probably in her late teens, cute as a button, and wearing a long scarf over her long hair and shoulders.
“I’m going to scare her when she comes out. Let me know when she’s at the door!” she told me with a huge grin, and clearly not willing to even entertain the thought that I might not want to be an accomplice.
“Hmmm . . . I dunno . . . . “ I told her.
“She’s my friend – it will be funny!” she told me.
“Well I sure hope so! I’d hate to think you were gonna scare the heck outta a complete stranger!” I told her and we both laughed.
“Just put your thumb up or something to let me know when she’s coming out, OK?”
“OK, but she might be a while you know. I sent her after two pairs.” I replied, and then moved to a position at the counter where I thought I’d get more warning as she was approaching the door. So there we stood, me at the counter getting ready to warn her when her friend was going to exit the door, and her beside the door and waiting to jump out. We kept glancing at each other while we waited for her friend, and then without warning, she said something to me that absolutely floored me.
“You are SO cute!”
I think my jaw literally dropped and it was right then that her friend walked out of the warehouse carrying two boxes of shoes . . . using a completely different door. . . .
Of course this caught her friend and I completely by surprise, but still the one girl tried to scare the other by running the ten or so feet to the other door and yelling “Boo!” at her. We all had a good laugh at what had turned out to be a pathetic attempt at scaring someone. The bad news? The shoes looked good but were far too uncomfortable for someone that does as much walking as I do.
As I left the store, it was with a mixture of feelings. I was very pleased that a young lady had been so willing to speak with me, include me in her fun, and even to tell me that I was cute, but I also felt ashamed that I had made assumptions about her because of her attire and presumed culture. Those who live in glass houses really shouldn’t be throwing stones you know!

The following morning was my trip home, and once again my legs hurt and I felt emotionally and physically worn out, so I made the trip in boy mode. Oh – do you remember that I told you I had rented a car from national? Yeah, I tried to turn it in at the Enterprise lot, and I swear I’m not kidding.

Did I mention that I need a vacation?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Apparently I spell "BWI" as "Dulles"

Manassas VA 2010 08 01 011

This week I’m off to Manassas VA for a few days where I have an installation to take care of. I wasn’t all that happy to travel on a Sunday at all, and it was even worse than that because my son leaves for the Navy today. Instead of seeing him off to Basic, I’m on airplanes. . .

Since I had a flight that leaves fairly late in the morning, and I prefer to be out of the house before sunrise to avoid being seen by the neighbors, I once again decided to stop at Denny’s by the Austin airport and eat a nice and leisurely breakfast. I got the usual smiles and grins from the waitresses and the patrons as I was led to a table. I kind of took my time eating, read my book, sucked down some coffee, and then caught my flight!

Manassas VA 2010 08 01 009

I had kind of a giggle moment on the flight. I was in a window seat and debating asking the woman on the aisle to let me up to use the restroom, when she simplified things by getting up to use it herself. As she came out of the bathroom, she opened the door pretty quickly and caught the flight attendant as she was going by and darn near knocked her down. As long as she was out of the seat and no longer blocking my way, I made my own way to the bathroom. When I returned to my seat I thanked her for getting up for me.
“Thank you! I thought I’d take advantage of your being up to go to the bathroom my darn self!” I told her with a grin.
“Oh no problem at all.” She replied with a smile.
“Of course I didn’t get to knock the flight attendant down. . . “ I told her with a wink and a smile. She turned bright red and quickly started to insist that it had been an accident, as if I’d had any doubt.
On the next leg of my flight, I sat next to a retired Lieutenant Colonel and he was one of the nicest folks I’ve sat next to. Everyone I’ve ever sat next to has been willing to chat with me, but I often get the feeling that they are either tickled about what I am or else tolerating me. Very few give absolutely no sign at all that I am not your average traveler, but this gentleman did. He neither went out of his way to make an exaggerated attempt to treat me as a lady, nor did he give any signs that he was either amused or irritated by what I was. He treated me exactly like anyone would treat me were I not cross dressed. It was kind of refreshing. So we were chatting off and on as people were boarding and I made the comment that I had missed getting upgraded to first class by only one spot on the list. The plane was at the end of the boarding process and he and I were laughing about the differences in flying first class versus sardine class when the flight attendant approached our seats. She looked at all of us in the entire row, looked confused and then spoke hesitantly to everyone in the area.
“Matthew Huddle??” she asked us all in a very timid voice and looking from face to face for some sign of recognition. I grimaced at the use of my full name as she had just essentially outted me to everyone in ear shot, but I figured I didn’t know any of them anyway, so I waved at her and smiled.
“That’s me.”
“Would you like to ride up front instead?” She asked with a smile that made it clear she knew what the answer was going to be.
“Hmm, let’s see . . . “ I paused for effect. “You betcha I do!”
I traded grins with the guy I had been chatting with as I grabbed my bag and headed up the aisle toward First Class. As I grabbed my stuff, I could see another flight attendant having the same conversation with another woman, and she was also grabbing her things and moving up. The other woman and I had just got our bags put away and were sitting down when another flight attendant walked up to us.
..”I am SO sorry, but you’re both going to have to go back to your original seats. It turns out that the passengers assigned to these seats DID make it after all and are on their way down the jet bridge.” She told us with an apologetic tone of voice.
“Danm them!” I replied with a laugh so that she would know I was just kidding.
“I know!” she told me quietly as she helped me by grabbing my bags. “And the woman assigned to that seat is pissed, because she has to check her carry on because that’s a bulkhead seat.”
“That’s ok, I suspect that she will get over it.” I told her.
As I got back to my seat, I see that the guy I had been chatting with has moved from the center seat to mine.
“I’m sorry about this, but it looks like we both got unlucky this time. They took one good look at me and threw me out of first class!” I told him with a grin. I was surprised to hear a number of people sitting around me start to laugh, though I’m not sure if it was with me or at me.

When the flight attendants made their rounds later to offer the passengers drinks, I told her I just wanted some water.
“Would you prefer a drink or beer for the first class mix up?” she asked me, looking terribly embarrassed.
“Nah . . . well . . . on second thought – sure! I’ll take a screw driver please!”
“I am so sorry about that! I hate it when that happens!” she told me as she gathered the things together.
“It’s absolutely not a problem! You tried to take good care of me and offer me a better seat as a courtesy and a perk. I very much appreciate the thought!” I told her as I accepted my drink.
After landing at BWI, I gathered my things and got my car rental car to make the hour and half drive to my hotel in Manassas.  As I was pulling out of the rental car lot, I saved the location to my GPS as “Airport BWI” so there would be no confusion finding it when it was time to go home.

The following day was all about work of course. It was a little more hectic than normal because this was not product line that I work on often. To add to the anxiety, it was an entirely new configuration AND it was with the same customer that my friend was fired for abandoning in the past. In other words, they were already angry with my company, looking for any sign of incompetence or our being unprofessional, AND it was a new configuration that I was not terribly familiar with. It was nerve wracking, but in the end we found and resolved a number of issues on our customers end, and were able to start a 12 hour long safety test before calling it a night. The other engineer from my company that was working with me had brought his wife with him to Manassas and they were in a different hotel, so I would have been free and clear to spend the evening as Kim. Instead, I chose to go to dinner with my wife’s aunt and uncle who live only minutes away from Manassas. He had come from a very humble beginning as had I, but he had managed to go quite a bit farther than I had. He had retired from the Air Force, where he had obtained at least one masters degree, and I think possibly more. While I admire the way that he has educated and made something of himself, that’s not really what impresses me the most about him or his wife. What really impresses me is the outlook and humor they have in their life. Like my wife and I, they have seen much of the world while they were in the service and even after they got out. They saw humor and brought humor to every place and everyone they visited. It is so hard to describe – I think that you would have to spend time talking to them to understand why I like them so much.

The following day we returned to the customer to find that our system and the customers semiconductor tool it was a part of, had both passed their 12 hour testing proving it was at least safe to operate them. In about three hours we had everything up and running, the customer satisfied, and we were free to do what we wanted for the rest of the afternoon.

I had seriously considered going to see some of the monuments in the nation’s capital, but I wouldn’t have time to do it as Kim. If I’d taken the time to get ready, it would have been too late in the afternoon and put me right in the middle of some of the worst rush hour traffic in the entire continent. On the other hand, I really had my heart set on being pretty, so I had a decision to make – be pretty or see the monuments? In the end I did what most cross dressers would do, and chose wearing a skirt and heels over seeing some of our nations most precious monuments and memorials. For the record, I consider this clear and obvious proof that I am screwed up in the head. . .
When I took my blond hair out of the box I carry it in, I had to laugh at it’s condition. In fact I thought that it looked so amusing I decided to share a picture of it. By the way, I never did get this to look decent enough to wear it out.

Manassas VA 2010 08 01 015

Once I got cleaned up and ready, I started looking for something to do that wouldn’t involve three hours stuck in traffic. There were no movies out that I wanted to see but hadn’t already seen, and my bank account has told me that I’ve done quite enough clothes shopping lately, thank you very much! In the end, I decided to go looking for a wig shop and see if I can find a replacement for my favorite wig, or at least a pro who could tell me exactly what the model is so I can look online. The first wig shop I stopped at was in Manassas itself, but they had very little that I had any interest in, and sure as heck didn’t have anything like the one I have.

Next I went south to Fairfax where I found a nice place called the “Hair Boutique”  ( In it, I found a cute young lady who took my entry into her shop entirely in her stride.

Manassas VA 2010 08 01 024

“Hi! How can I help you?” She asked with a genuine smile.
“I’m looking for this!” I said, while pointing my finger at my wig. “It’s getting old and so I’m trying to find a replacement before it gets worn out.”
“That is beautiful . . .” She said matter of factually while she continued to look it over. “It’s clearly never been heat damaged either. How old is it?”
“Well thank you! Oh yeah, I learned the hard way a long time ago that heat and synthetic wigs don’t mix. I think it’s about two or three years old.”
”Well it looks amazing, especially considering that synthetics are only supposed to last six months to a year.”
“Well thanks! Even more impressive, this one gets washed at least twice a week so you would kind of expect it to degrade even faster.” I told her.
“Do you style it?” she asked, and then after a pause “Did you buy that here?”
“I hairspray and brush the snot out of it on a regular basis,” I replied with a grin. “And no, I bought it at the Southern Comfort Conference?”  I waited a moment to see if she had any idea what that conference is, and she shook head “no” indicating she was clueless.
“Well, it’s pretty much the world’s largest conference or gathering of transgendered people.” She still looked clueless. “More or less, Cross dressers like me.” I told her with a wink, and was rewarded with a smile indicating that she now had the concept.

As we were browsing the wigs that she had on display, I noticed a large photo with three beautiful women in it, and then grinned when I realized that the woman in the middle was none other than Raquel Welch herself. I was amused because the wig I was trying to find was in fact a Raquel Welch.
“Speaking of the devil!” I said to the lady while pointing at the picture. She got a serious look on her face and told me that one of the other women in the picture was in fact her co-worker (or maybe the owner of the shop?) and that at one point she had been the top seller for Raquel Welch wigs. She showed me lots of things but didn’t have exactly what I was looking for. Either they were long but kind of straight and flat, or they were full and too light or dark in color. She assured me that they could order something like it, but given that I was on a plane the following morning, that wasn’t going to be an option. I didn’t get what I wanted, but still I was impressed with the friendly service and also with the way she was so comfortable dealing with me. If you live in the area, I’d sure give them a shot were I you!

Manassas VA 2010 08 01 031

Having failed to find a perfect replacement for my wig, I headed back to Manassas where I hit up the Manassas mall. I browsed the sales racks and looked at shoes in Macy’s but didn’t see anything that I couldn’t live without, so I headed to JC Pennys where I found an awesome retro skirt on closeout for $5! Pleased with the great deal on the skirt, I headed for my car, where I found two women and a child standing in front of the car next to me. They all had an apprehensive look on their faces, as if their car had broken down or something. I got into my own car and tried to decide if I should ask them if they needed help or not. I sat there for a moment and watched them making phone calls and looking nervous, so I rolled down my window to ask if they were all right. As soon as my window started down, one of the women approached me.
“Excuse me miss?” she said with a huge smile making it fairly clear that the “miss” was probably a courtesy. “We are looking for the Bank of America. We thought there was an ATM in the mall but we couldn’t find it. Do you have any idea where B of A is?”
“No,” I told her as I reached up and took my GPS off the windshield. “But I’ll bet that this does!”
It took a moment to make the search and bring up a map that showed her the route, but soon I had it displayed and showed it to her through the open window. She looked at the map for a moment and then looked up at me and shrugged, clearly still confused about how to find it. I glanced at the map and thought to myself that there is just no way to make it any clearer, so I just told her to follow me and I’d take her there. As I’m talking to her, the little boy, maybe seven or eight years old, points right at me and laughs as he whispers in the other woman’s ear. She quickly pushed his hand down and gave me a quick and mortified look, apparently stunned that a child would do something rude. I just winked at her to let her know that it was OK and not a big deal – after all, you can’t really blame the boy for noticing that I’m different and she did her job by teaching him it was rude to point. In moments they were loaded into their van and followed me less than a mile to the bank where I waved good bye and then went to dinner at the Olive Garden close by.

Manassas VA 2010 08 01 035

The following morning I had the usual debate with myself – pretty or drab? Sleep an extra hour and a half and go as Matt, or get up early and go as Kim? Also as usual, I decided to go as Kim, and so it was up at 6AM for the drive to BWI and my 1230PM flight.
Checking out of the hotel, the clerk was a young man who was clearly fairly new to the job, and he was a nervous wreck. I don’t know if he was nervous because he was new, or because he was dealing with a cross dresser, so I just smiled and tried to be patient. As he was checking me out and getting my receipt, I recalled that I had lost the receipt from one of my other stays with their chain.
“Hey, can y’all print me out a receipt for a stay I had at one of your other hotels a couple of weeks ago? I called them twice asking them to send me one, but they never did.”
“Uh, I don’t know!” he said. He then turned and called to a woman seated in the office behind him. She came out and joined us, and he repeated to her what I had asked for.
“I’m so sorry, but we have no way to do that.” She told me. “We don’t have access to their database or anything like that.” 
“OK, no worries! I figured as much but thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask!” I told her with a smile. I guess she had noticed how nervous her young coworker was because she let out a short laugh.
“Relax and smile Tony!” she told him with a huge grin on her face. I just couldn’t resist it and spoke up.
“Yeah, don’t panic Tony, your doing just fine!” I told him to everyone’s laughter.

Manassas VA 2010 08 01 047

In a moment I had all of my bags in the rental car and was ready to head out for the airport, so I grabbed my GPS and looked in my “favorites” where I quickly found and selected “Airport BWI”. I made the selection on the GPS and then scoffed at its asking me to “Please fasten your seatbelt.”

As I turned in the rental car at Avis, you could see the moment that the man figured out that I was a guy, and it was all hands off after that. Regardless of whether I’m in male or female mode, they will often offer to help when they see all of the bags and stuff I’m traveling with. Not this guy though, because he backed up and clearly wanted nothing to do with me. I fumbled with my luggage, tool box, and my purse, and then made my way to the shuttle bus where the driver did go out of his way to help and so I tipped him a couple of dollars.

Checking in at the Delta kiosk, the machine told me that I had to see a representative, and so I dragged all of my stuff over to the “First Class / Elite” line where I waited my turn. Behind me I can hear two women talking, and one is being asked to repeat herself over and over.
“Where IS your hearing aid?!” she finally asked the other woman.
“I didn’t bring it and I don’t give a damn!” the other woman replied. At this point I had to turn around and see this pair. One woman in her 60’s was pushing the other and older woman in a wheel chair. Both were clearly Caucasian, but were wearing turbans. Struck by the contrast (Caucasian but wearing a turban) I looked at them in more detail and noticed that they weren’t wearing any of the other garb I would typically associate with a woman from the middle east. I decided to take the plunge.
“No one is going to say anything you want to hear here anyway right?” I asked the older woman in the wheel chair. They both just laughed and agreed but I had to cut the conversation off as the Delta rep was calling me forward. I approached, wished him a good morning, and handed him my ID. He punched a few keys, then a few more, then looked up at me with a confused look.
“Where are you flying to dear?” he asked.
“Honestly, I didn’t pay any attention to where it connected at, but I’m going to Austin Texas.” I told him. He hit a few more keys then looked up at me again.
“Your reservation is with this airport right?” he asked. He actually set me back a step with that question. I mean the very idea that I was too stupid to go to the correct airport was kind of offensive.
“Yes,” I laughed, “from this airport. This is BWI right?” I asked, in a heavily sarcastic tone. The joke was on me though because he started shaking his head ‘no’.
“Dear, this is Dulles – NOT BWI” he tells me.
I just stood there looking at him for a second with my mind reeling, trying to think of all of the implications. How in the hell had I managed to go to the wrong damned airport? All I can figure is that at some time in the past I had flown in to Dulles and saved the airports location in my GPS as “Airport BWI” by mistake. Turning dark red with embarrassment, I began to consider my options. It would cost several hundred dollars to rent a car to drive one way from Dulles to BWI. I looked at the time and discovered that I couldn’t make it in time for my scheduled flight anyway, so it would be several hundred for the car, and at least $100 to change flights, and quite possibly I’d have to purchase all new tickets for a hell of a lot more.
“So how much would it cost to change my flights to leave out of here?” I asked him sheepishly.
“We don’t have anything flying coach until late tonight.” He said after doing a lot of typing on his computer. “That would be an additional $750.”
I choked when he told me the cost of my little screw up. While I was standing there in shock and trying to figure out what I should do, he was still typing away.
“Well, if you want to buy a first class ticket I can get you out of here at noon. That would cost you $900.” He tells me.
“Fine, I’ll take it. . . “ I finally told him, still kind of in shock that I had done something so very stupid that was going to cost my company so much. I glanced behind me and saw that both of the older women behind me were looking irritated as hell over how long it was taking me. I shrugged and mouthed “I’m so sorry.”
“Are you going to be much longer?!” the one standing behind the wheelchair asked me in a highly irritated tone. Clearly this woman in the expensive clothing and turban was not used to having to wait for others.
“No, we are almost done.” I told her as I handed the man behind the counter my credit card. I turned to leave after he handed me my tickets and receipt, and the older woman in the wheelchair practically shouts in a very snotty tone “Well! It’s about time!” 
I just smiled and walked off, now day dreaming about pushing her wheel chair down the “up” escalator. . .

On the flight home, the flight attendant was a real sweetheart, full of smiles and always calling me “Miss”. As I was stepping off of the plane in Austin she leaned in close.
“You look fantastic!” she said softly in my ear.
“Awe, thank you, and thank you for calling me ‘miss’ too!” I told her with a grin.
“It was my pleasure!” She said with laugh and a pat on my back.