Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Huntsville Alabama

This week I had been stuck working in the office with no service calls planned, and that’s both good and bad. Good because you need a chance to catch your breath and be with your family every once in a while. Bad because it’s not good for my continued employment to be sitting idle at my desk. So it was that I had mixed feelings when a customer in Huntsville Alabama called and was almost frantic that they needed their instrument serviced, and they needed it now.

My first scheduled flight was at 1145 to Memphis, but the night before the flight, I got a call from Delta that this flight had been canceled and I had been booked on a flight through Atlanta at 1:05. I couldn’t stand the thought of getting up at 4AM for a flight that didn’t leave until 1PM, so I asked my wife if she would be all right with my getting ready and leaving after my daughter was off to school. She wasn’t thrilled with the idea but did say that she didn’t mind – wow did that turn out to be a good thing for me later on!

 Huntsville AL 2010 12 15 001

This time I was wearing kind of a retro dress that was reminiscent of the 50’s or 60’s. I was given the TSA “Pat Down” on my last flight for wearing a long skirt, and I wasn’t entirely sure if this dress was going to get the same treatment or not. Sure enough, they selected me for additional screening again.
“Ma’am, if you will just step over here and wait for a moment please?” he says to me while pointing at a sigh that says “Wait Here”.
“Female Assist!” he turns and yells at no one in particular and goes back to watching the other people coming through the metal detector. I stood there, and stood there, and stood there . . .  About five minutes later he notices that I am still there and he starts yelling again.
I took a look around and couldn’t help noticing that there were two or three female TSA agents walking around doing nothing much, and each of them was doing their level best to not look in my direction. You can only ignore your job for so long though and so after another moment or two a young lady approached me.
“Are these your things?” she asked while pointing at my stuff that’s been sitting on the X-ray belt.
“Yes ma’am!” I told her and then watched her as she picked up my laptop, bag, and shoes.
“OK, I know you have been through this before so . . . “ she let the statement hang as she pointed toward the mat with the shoe prints painted on it. I’d have to admit that my heart sank a little. I had of course suspected that the TSA agents in Austin might be amused by their frequent flying cross dresser and I could handle that. The problem now is that due to the new guidelines that result in them searching me every trip, the female TSA agents appear to resent me. I don’t know why this bothers me so much but it does. The last thing in the world that I wasn’t is for the female TSA agents to resent me or be angry each time I travel.
“So what was it that set off the personal treatment this time?” I asked her with a smile as she was frisking me.
“It was your dress.” She told me.
“Well, last time my skirt was too long. I thought that this would be better.” I replied.
“Well, it’s mostly because it is loose and poofs out at the bottom.”
“So in other words, as long as I wear skirts and dresses that are obscenely short or tight, I’m good-to-go and wont need to go through the pat down?” I asked with a laugh.
“Yes!” she very quickly replied with a grin of her own. I’m still trying to decide if it would be funny or not to wear my one and only mini-skirt on my next trip. I might get a giggle by doing it, but wearing miniskirts and the like draws far too much attention and I think labels me clearly as a cross dresser. Still, it would be a giggle!

A few minutes later I was sitting in the gate area surfing the internet when a woman about my own age approached me. To be honest, the reason I first noticed her was because she was wearing killer pumps and a dress of just about the same length and volume as my own, and I found myself wondering if she had got the pat down treatment or not.
“So is this a hot spot?” she asked me while pointing at the row of seats I was in.
“Sure!” I said with a laugh, thinking she meant ‘a neat place to be’ and only a moment later realizing that she meant a place where she could connect to the internet. Fortunately I did realize this only a second or so after speaking.
“I’m pretty sure that the entire airport has wireless but it’s kind of pricey for my budget.”
“Oh! Well I thought I saw a sign saying that it was free?” she asked with a puzzled look on her face.
“No, they make you pay about $10 for it, and considering I’m only going to be here a couple of hours, I can’t see paying that much for it.”
“Oh. Well darn!” she said with a disappointed look and tone. Still, she chose to sit down next to me, and after we had chatted for a moment or two, I had a thought.
“Hey! You know it might be free for the holidays! I don’t know if Austin does that or not, but I do know that a lot of airports do that.”
Sure enough, she powered up her PC and was happily cruising the internet while I was still debating if I should ask her if she had to go through the TSA pat down because of her dress.

This turned out to be a terrible day to travel due to bad weather out East somewhere. In Austin Texas it was 78 degrees and clear skies though, and so I completely forgot to take my coat out of my bag before I checked it with the airline. I spent a good deal of time worrying about that as I went through a series of canceled, delayed, and missed flights as the evening progressed. First my flight out of Austin to Memphis was canceled and I was moved to a flight that left a couple of hours later to Atlanta. When I at last got to Atlanta I found that my connection was delayed by almost four hours, and so I went to the Delta skyclub to get some snacks and wait in comfort. Once I logged on to the Internet, I brought up the Delta webpage for checking the status of flights and I continued to refresh it as I was waiting. After several hours, their web page showed that it’s status had not been changed, and so half an hour early I left the club and made my way to the gate. Imagine my joy when I find that the flight has already boarded and the doors are closed! More than a little confused, and a lot less than happy, I approached the CSR at the counter.
“Has that flight already boarded?” I asked her in shock.
“Boarded and pushing back!” she replied.
“I don’t understand. I’ve been sitting in your skyclub and checking the status online, and according to your web page, that flight doesn’t even start boarding for another five minutes!”
“It was a delayed flight – you should have waited in the gate area.” She said with a complete lack of concern.
“I should have waited in the gate area for four hours?! Your own web page still shows that this flight hasn’t started boarding!” I replied with more than a little irritation.
“Let me see your ticket.” She said. I actually hoped that she might bother to get me on the plane that was still sitting at the gate, but no – that was not to be. She hits a few keys, prints out a ticket and hands it to me.
“Here’s your new ticket. The next flight to Huntsville leaves at 8:10.” She tells me and gives me the gate number.
“How about my baggage? Which flight will it be on?” I asked her.
“It probably went on this one.”
“Great! Just wonderful.”
I got to the new gate at about 7PM and was delighted to see that it had been delayed too, and was now leaving at 8:45. As you could probably have guessed, I spent those two hours sitting in the gate area and wondering if my baggage and coat were gonna be there when I arrived. One canceled flight, one missed flight, and several delays. What were the odds that my baggage, and more importantly, the coat in my baggage, was going to be at Huntsville where it was currently 30 degrees?

When the plane landed I first stopped at the Avis counter to get my car. As seems to happen less and less often these days, the woman behind the counter was clearly confused when I handed her my male drivers license. For just a moment you could see the frown lines as she was trying to figure out why the woman in front of her was handing her some guys license. You could tell the very second that she figured things out because her frown turned to a huge smile, and suddenly she became a lot friendlier and talkative. While she got my things together, I shared with her my miserable travel day, and we both had a good laugh at my expense. Once I had my car contract in hand, I went look for the Delta baggage center with my heart in my throat. I was already forming plans for a quick shopping trip to buy male clothes if my things weren’t there, but I sure wasn’t looking forward to the expense or freezing while I did it. As I approached the counter there were three CSR’s standing there and one spoke up.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“Yes please. I missed my flight and was told . . . “ I started to speak, but then stopped as I saw my bags beside the counter. “Huh, I’ll be damned! Thank you, but never mind! I think I’ve found what I was looking for!”
By the time I got to my hotel, it had been a 16 hour day in airports and airplanes on four inch stiletto heels. Do you know my calves actually hurt the next day? Clearly I’m outta shape and need to do more walking in stilettos . . .

Friday, December 3, 2010

Detroit, Detroit, Detroit . . .

Detroit, Detroit, Detroit – always going to Detroit these days!

Once again I started my trip off with a stop at Austin’s “Top This” to pick up my new wig that I was having trimmed there. Bonnie, the manager, took care of me personally and I’ve got to tell you that I really like that lady. She is very friendly, a nice lady, and cute too with sort of blue highlights in her hair. Now my only problem is that I’m not sure I like the darn wig itself. I just can’t get it to look good on my own, and the thing is MUCH hotter than my favorite wig that I am trying to replace. I was reasonably pleased with the way Bonnie got it to look, but I didn’t have much luck in replicating her results on my own later on. I’m hoping that it is just a question of my learning how to work with this wig and that I haven’t wasted yet another $200. Sigh . . .

Old hair:
Detroit 2010 11 29 010 

New Hair:
Detroit 2010 11 29 012

Making my way to the Delta airlines counter to check in, I was feeling hot and less than confident in the new wig. While it has a much softer feel than my old wig, it has a lot more hair, and so it is much hotter. Add to that the fact that the bangs kept poking me in the eyes, and you have a recipe for my feeling a complete lack of confidence as I approached the counter. I hadn’t even sat my bags down when my favorite Delta service rep waved me forward.
“Good morning Matt, how are you?” She asked with a genuine smile.
“I’m fine thanks! How are you doing?”
“I’m well, thank you. So did you have a good holiday?”
“Sure, except that I ate far too much Turkey and stuff!” I told her.
“Well, this year I just had Chicken.” She told me with a disappointed tone of voice.
“Well that sucks!”
“I know! I went to Luby’s for dinner and it was just terrible. Normally I like Luby’s, but this time it was awful.” She told me.
“You know, you would think that if there was one day a restaurant should get it right, it would be Thanksgiving!” I commiserated with her.
“By the way, y’all have got my name down pat. Do you mind giving me yours?” I asked. She smiled and pointed to her name tag, then realized that it had been covered up.
“Mona,” she said. “Ramona really, but everyone calls me Mona.”
“Well thanks! I was just kind of wondering, because since the start you have been one of the nicest folks that I’ve dealt with.” I told her with a smile.

I placed my things on the xray belt and had just turned to face the metal detector when the TSA inspector gives me one look and turns to call out behind him.
‘What the hell?’ I was thinking to myself. I haven’t set off any alarms and they didn’t flag me for a random inspection. Why the hell is he calling for someone to inspect me? Since they were gonna inspect me anyway, I didn’t bother taking out my ear rings, so as I headed through the metal detector, he and the alarm sounded off at the same time.
“Miss, if you will just step over here . . .”  “BEEP” goes the metal detector. . . “ and wait a moment, someone will be right with you.”
In less than a minute, a young lady in a TSA uniform steps up to me.
“Have you been through the new screening process yet?” she asks me with a professional smile.
“Yup, a couple of times now.”
“OK then! If you will stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and your arms out to your side . . . “
She then proceeded to run her hands down the outside of my legs, all over my chest area, and then even patted down my wig.
“Ok, if you will now place one foot out in front of you, I’m going to run my hands up the inside of your legs until I meet resistance.” I couldn’t help myself and started to laugh.
“ ‘Meet resistance’ huh?” I said with a giggle. “That’s a cute way of saying it.”
“I’m sorry?” she asked, apparently not getting my sarcasm. Then I made things worse.
“You know, I don’t care what they told you, I didn’t do it. Honest!” I told her with a grin. She still didn’t get the fact that I was trying to be funny and make her smile.
“Would you prefer to be screened in private?” she asked me nicely, completely skipping over my failed attempt at humor.
“No, I’m fine if your fine.” I replied, and stuck my leg out as she had requested. She had not exaggerated – she did run her hands up the inside of my leg until she ‘met resistance’ and by the time she was done, I was blushing from head to toe.
“So what prompted my personal inspection?” I asked her as she was handing me my things.
“It was your long skirt. We have to be sure that there is nothing hidden under it.” She replied.
“Hmmm. So it’s short skirts from now on?” I laughed.
“That or pants!” She said with a grin.
Yeah, like THAT’S gonna happen . . .
As I walked away from the check point, I couldn’t help but think of all the innuendos that could be applied.
“Jeeze, I need a cigarette. . .”
“Do you think she’ll call me, or was I just a fling for her?”
“I wonder if it was as good for her as it was for me? Probably not, after all, I just kind of stood there . . . “
Bad Kim, BAD Kim!