Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Detroit and Almost Busted in Blacksburg VA

So this week I will be spending entirely on the road, to include traveling on Saturday as a result of my customer insisting that Friday is the only day he has open for training. Six months ago this would have resulted in a short conversation where I’d have told him as politely as possible “Blow it out your ass, it either happens Tuesday to Thursday or it doesn’t happen.” With the economy the way it is, my company needing all the income we can get, and knowing that 50% of my company is now unemployed, I instead told him “Yes sir, I’ll be there!”

I’ve got a few new outfits this trip, odds and ends I’ve been finding at Goodwill. Nothing real special or terribly different from my norm, but hey . . .

As usual, I had a very early start to my travel day, getting up at 3AM so I would have time to get ready and out of the house before my daughter wakes up. This night I didn’t get much sleep though. My 20 year old son (who does know about me) poked his head into the room about midnight to warn me that a girl friend of his (who does NOT know about me) was going to be coming over at around 2AM. She’s a good girl, but has screwed up parents who threw her out of the house when she refused to be in by 10PM. She literally has no place to go so my wife and I have told my son that she is welcome to call our home her own. We could use the good karma and it may not be that long before WE are looking for a place to stay. Well, I found it hard to sleep worrying about what time she would arrive, would I still be able to fly pretty, was I running too big a risk getting ready with her in the house, etc. Finally she arrived at exactly 3AM (when my own alarm went off), but fortunately she must have been exhausted and headed directly to bed, so I had the downstairs to myself to get ready. J

Detroit 200904 001
Detroit 200904 003

This was my first chance to use my new ID with my “pretty” picture on it and I pulled that puppy out every chance I got! I imagine most people had no idea why I was grinning like an idiot every time I was asked for ID!

I’ve been flying femme for about a year now and this was the very first time that a male sitting next to me chose to strike up a conversation! He went out of his way to speak with me, asked about my job, my company, where I lived, etc. Not a huge thing, but a pleasant thing none the less.

I flew on US Airways and connected in Charlotte NC. I managed to snap a pic or two from the air on the way in.

Charlotte, North Carolina from the Air 200904 008

As I was boarding my connecting flight, the flight attendant at the rear of the airplane where I was sitting gave me a huge smile.
“How are you this morning?” she asked.
“I just couldn’t be gooder, thank you!” I replied, giving her my best smile. “And how are you”?
“Oh, I couldn’t be any gooder either!” she laughed while swiping my favorite phrase. As I was getting settled in to my seat she walked up and started speaking to me. It was at about this point that I noticed she was really quite pretty and had terrific eyes! Sorry, but despite the fact that they wouldn’t claim me, I am a guy and do notice these things!
“I’m fine but had a lot of trouble sleeping last night.” She tells me in a confidential tone.
Considering I’d only had about 4 hours of sleep myself, I sort of laughed and told her I know exactly how that feels!
Kind of tired when I got in to Detroit so all I did was get some exercise and channel surf.

The next day I fixed the customers instrument very quickly. Including a great deal of time spent on the phone with another customer, and time waiting for everything to stabilize, I was done in about 2 hours. Since I had set this trip up to go directly from Detroit to my next customer in Roanoke VA the following day, this gave me an entire afternoon to fart around. Once upon a time this would have made me deliriously happy, but I now I just felt guilty that I had not set up my flights to leave today instead and saved my company tonight’s hotel expense. Well, I had no way to know things would go so well, so may as well enjoy it. Got to the hotel and cleaned up, and headed shopping!
Detroit 200904 010

I hit up Macy’s because they were supposed to have a huge shoe sale, but I honestly didn’t care for much that I saw there. Certainly nothing I was going to spend my money on anyway.
I’m walking through JC Penny when an older woman starts to talk to me as I walked by. She’s holding a small blue jean coat up to show me.
“This is normally $65 and it’s on sale for $7! Can you believe that??!!” I took a look at it.
“Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.” I replied with a smile, trying to speak softly so I don’t blow it. She looks me straight in the eyes, which is a little unnerving as despite her age, she has very clear, bright, and piercing eyes.
“Honey, you look terrific. You look just great.” She paused long enough for me to get in a blush and a “thank you!”
“So,” she says, again holding the little coat up, “What do you think about it? How would it look?” she asks.
“Umm, to be honest, I don’t think its ‘me’” I said. She sort of rolled her eyes,
“On ME dear! How would it look on ME?” Once again I blushed, because her intent should have been fairly obvious. Instead I was all about “me me me” – kind of egocentric huh? (My wife will laugh herself sick if she reads this. I can just hear her “Well duh!!”)
“I think it might look pretty cute on you, and we both know you will be mad if you don’t get it.” I told her.
“You know what? Your right – I WOULD be angry later! I think I’ll get it. Besides, I’m 80 years old and I’ll wear what ever I want to wear!” she said, still with those bright blue eyes just beaming away. Being as how I am a male dressed as female, the irony of her statement was not at all lost on me. She was so cute, it was all I could do to keep from hugging her
“There ya go!” I said “Besides, growing up is over rated!” We traded a few more comments and then went our own ways. I was just struck that she had clearly gone out of her way to be sociable with me. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that maybe she has known or even loved a Transgender before. She was just so comfortable speaking with me. The more I think about, the more I wish I had hugged her.

Didn’t find anything I liked well enough to buy, so I headed to the Motor City Casino. They have a big sign saying “We ID anyone 30 and younger”. Yeah, they didn’t even hesitate when I approached! L It’s been a LONG time since anyone thought I was 30 or younger.
So I started with $20 and played video poker. On my third hand I got 4 of a kind, and in two more hands I got 4 of a kind again! I cashed out and had something like $49. I figured what the hell, and went to a dollar slot machine and thought I’d spend the $9 and walk out with $40 even. On my first spin I bet $1, but by accident, instead of hitting the “Spin Reels” button, I hit the bet max . . . and hit two bars with a “Double” symbol! Now I had turned my $20 into $80 and even though I’d been there only 15 minutes I called it a night! No way in hell I was gonna give them the chance to take their money back from me!

Detroit 200904 013

The following morning I was flying from Detroit to Roanoke VA through Philadelphia. Another 3AM morning, but hey I’m getting used to them. As usual, I arrived at the airport about two hours early and had time to take a look around the airport. I was walking by this little gizmo shop where two women were speaking to each other, and I thought I heard one of them say something about “Isn’t that cute?!” but I wasn’t sure. I continued on to the book store where I found that every book on the Science Fiction shelf was in fact fantasy and not Sci Fi. Call me a Sci Fi snob if you like, but this always irritates the hell out of me. Fantasy is NOT science fiction and it bugs the hell out of me when book stores don’t know the difference. I gave up on finding a book I’d like and so headed back to the gate. I again passed the two chatting women in the gadget shop, but this time one of the women spoke up as I walked by.
“We love your outfit!” she gushed. The other woman agreed and added “That skirt is SO cute!” I thanked them both and considered telling them I had bought the skirt at Goodwill, but why ruin the illusion? I spoke to them for half a minute or so, long enough to know that they really did like the outfit and weren’t just picking on the old drag queen.

Boarded the plane and we got headed for the runway. I say ‘headed for the runway’ because we didn’t make it. They pulled off and parked the plane, then the captain came over the PA with an Australian accent.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we do apologize for the delay, but Philadelphia has sort of a air traffic jam going on and we’ve been told to hold here for about 40 minutes.” And there we DID sit for a little over 40 minutes.
Uggggghhhh . . . .
At last they fired up the engines and we started out again . . . in a big circle and then came right back and parked at the same place.
“Folks, I’m terribly sorry, but right after they cleared us for travel, they have closed the Philadelphia airport. This normally doesn’t last but about an hour. If it takes much longer than that, we may pull back in to the gate and cancel the flight.” And I got up at 3AM for this??
Hmm . . .cancel the flight. Let’s think about this a second. I’m femme, all my male clothes are in my checked bag, my female coat is in my checked bag because I was too lazy to carry it around with me, and I don’t have all of the makeup it would take to do my face if I’m stranded over night. This could end up being very interesting. Isn’t that a Chinese curse? “May you live in interesting times”.
About an hour later, they start the engines but no announcement yet, so you know it’s not good. After we are moving, one of the flight attendants came on the PA, very clearly irritated.
“Folks we were cleared to travel but now we have to return to the gate to drop off ONE passenger!” That was HER emphasis on the word “one”, not mine.
“Again, we are returning for ONE passenger. If you do not care to continue on with us, you may leave the aircraft, otherwise please stay on board and we will depart as soon as the passenger leaves and we get the door closed”.
I’ve been traveling a LOT by airplane for 8 years, and I’ve NEVER heard of them returning to the gate for a single passenger. For that matter, I’ve never heard of them doing ANYTHING to accommodate a single passenger – no holding the plane, not even opening the door if someone arrives as it is closed. I still don’t know the story, but have to wonder . . .
While we were parked at the gate waiting for the people that chose to abandon the plane to get off, I started making calls to see what my options were going to be now that I was going miss my connection. Here I am on the plane speaking to US Airways, and I don’t have a very femme voice, so little doubt I outted myself to everyone around me (assuming I might have fooled any of them to start with). Turns out that we have a lot of flights for options and it was no big deal to move me over to another one, so presumably life is good. It’s just going to be another very long day. Of course I suppose I deserve it given how well everything went, and how early I was done yesterday. Aint Karma a bitch sometimes?

So if you thought my day was bad so far, wait till you hear the rest! In my company we have about 6 field service engineers like myself scattered clear across the US. Half are in the west coast (San Jose) and half are in the Eastern part of the US (Boston, PA), and yours truly is dead center in Austin Texas. We VERY rarely meet, usually only when attending some sort of training together and only after a great deal of preparation and planning. Even in my wildest flights of fancy, it would have never occurred to me that I needed to be concerned about traveling femme because I might encounter one of these gentlemen. It was therefore a GREAT shock for me to get a voice mail when I got off of the airplane in Roanoke.
"Hey Matt, I just finished doing some calibrations a few hours from where your going to be working so I talked to the manager and we agreed I should come get some OJT from you! Call me when you land and let me know where your staying. I know you mentioned Roanoke, so that's where I'm headed."
All I could think of was 'Holy smokes, this can't be happening! What are the freaking odds?'
Well, I thought I might outsmart him a little bit, because while I was flying in to the Roanoke airport, the customer and my hotel were actually in Blacksburg, about 40 miles away. I figured I'd let him continue toward Roanoke, and when I got close to the hotel, I'd call him and tell him where I was. That would give me time to get in, washed up, and 100% male before I saw him. The joke was on me though, because rather than wait on me to call him back, he called the lady that makes our travel arrangements and got the address from her! When I called him while was 5 minutes from the hotel, he told me he was 10 minutes from it! Oh . . . My . . .God. . .! I swear I would have done the Dukes of Hazard proud the way I hit the Holiday Inn parking lot with the tires screaming. I'm not sure the car had come to a complete stop before I'd slammed it into park and was running for the check in counter. Have you ever seen a woman run in a long flowing skirt that likes to wrap around your ankles every step? I must have been a hell of a sight sprinting across the parking lot in my long skirt and 3 inch heels! I swear I'd been in my room less than five minutes, frantically tearing clothes off, stuffing them in my bag, and heading for the shower when he called to tell me he was entering his room! It was so close I'm pretty sure he must have been standing at the counter before I'd even entered my room. I told him I'd had a long miserable day and needed a shower and so I'd see him in 10 minutes. By the time he got to my room I was clean and dry and had everything stuffed in my bag, but I was still nervous as we sat in my room talking. I kept looking around hoping like hell I hadn't over looked anything in my rush - like a bracelet, a shoe, a bra . . .
I haven't had a close call like that in better than 20 years. I think I'm getting too old for this stuff . . .

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