Thursday, May 26, 2011

A walk through kimberly's closet on the way to Chicago

I was squeezing my way in and out of my tightly packed closet looking for all of the odds and ends I needed for packing for my three day trip to the Chicago area when it struck me just how wrong most people were regarding my closet and wardrobe. I often get comments along the lines of “You must have a fantastic closet!” and “Wow, your closet must be huge!”. Well, nothing could be farther from the truth as in reality I have a tiny closet that is packed to the point of being ready to go critical and explode. If this baby goes, it’s gonna hurt someone! I often pick on my wife and poke fun at myself when it comes to our respective closets, because when we moved in, I gave her the large walk-in closet.
“Let me get this straight dear! I love beautiful clothing and have to maintain two entire wardrobes, and yet you get the walk in closet? Do you see something wrong with that picture?!” I ask her every so often. Every time I poke her with that stick, she just gives me that innocent look with a couple of slow blinks and says “Why no, no I don’t see anything wrong with that at all!”
My closet is so packed that even I have trouble getting in to it and I am not all that large. My wife wont even try to get in to it anymore to hang my guy clothes after she washes them. When you open the door, the first thing you see is the shoe rack hanging from the inside of the door. It’s not a huge collection, but it’s big enough to restrict your entry into the closet itself. Off on your right is a shelf up high littered with wigs and other odds and ends. Under that shelf is a hanger bar that stretches the entire depth of the closet. This is the small portion dedicated to Matt’s clothing, and I really resent the hell outta his taking up such valuable real-estate that could have gone to things so much prettier. Under that rail is another rail where I have the majority of my tops. Now if you face the back of the closet, you find another shelf up high. This is the “it’s outta season” and “It doesn’t fit but I can’t bear the thought of throwing it out” shelf. Under that is a hanger rail where I keep the dresses and skirts. I’ve had to replace that rail recently because the sheer weight of all of my skirts tore it’s mounting hardware outta the wall, so I had to replace all of that and install a brace in the middle to help support the weight. At first glance, it might not look too overwhelming, but as you take a closer look you may realize that each of the skirt hangers is actually five hangers in one. These hangers have only one hook for the hanger bar, but have five sets of clamps one atop the other, allowing me to hang five skirts in the space normally required for one. I haven’t counted all of my skirts and I don’t think I should, because I don’t want to really know just how far over board I have really gone in collecting them. Until recently, this was all of the hanger space I had, and it just wasn’t cutting it, so I did a little remodeling and installed two more hanger bars on the left side. The one up top I had to attach above the door, so it is fairly high and a bit difficult to use. Due to the empty space of the door, there really wasn’t a good way to put in a brace for a lower bar, so I used steel line to hang a lower bar from the upper one. This turns out to be a good idea, because it is really hard to get in to the closet with these two new hanger bars in place, and having the bottom one hang from the top one allows me to shove it to the side a little to make more room for me to get in and out. So – the next time you see someone comment “Kim, you must have a huge closet!” you will understand why I break out in to hysterical laughter.

This week I was headed off to a town about half an hour north of Chicago. I was going to wear a black with white polka dot “retro” dress I bought a while back, and  instead of a black belt and shoes I wore the last time, I was gonna pair it with red shoes and belt. The thing is, it is fairly long and was sure to get me the personal inspection by the TSA, and I just didn’t feel like the hassle this morning so I went with plan B – a white top, jade green skirt, and white 4.5 inch heels. I was disappointed to find that the photos I took do not do the skirt justice. It is kind of a satin type material, very shiny and pretty, and with embroidered flowers all over it. Unfortunately, I assume due to the flash, the photos just make it look like one big white blur.
The white shoes are a whole story themselves. I bought them years ago at DSW, and as far as what they are worth, they are far and away the most expensive shoes I own. That was some time ago and so I no longer recall the exact price, but the original price was something like $400 and I recall my wife and my shock at finding them on clearance at DSW for something like $30. The heels are a bit taller than I really prefer, but given that they are all leather, they are remarkably comfortable shoes – at least they would be if they fit me. Despite being size 10, they are a bit large on me, and when wearing nylons, my feet slide around in them just enough to make them a problem. So the bad news is I found myself in the lobby area of the airport exchanging them for a pair of black Mary Janes I had in my luggage. Anyone wanna buy a pair of killer white all leather shoes that have only been worn twice? LOL
Chicago 2011 05 23 004

I was kind of surprised to find that the airport was packed. Usually you only see that kind of crowd first thing in the morning, but here it was around 10AM and the place was crowded and there was a huge line a the Delta counter. I made my way to the “elite” line reserved for frequent fliers and soon found myself being helped by a customer service rep that I didn’t recognize.
“Welcome back! We haven’t seen you in a little while!” she told me with a huge grin.
“Oh, I dunno, I’ve been flying Delta quite a bit lately!” I replied with a laugh.
“Well then, you must be flying earlier in the morning when I’m not usually here.” She said with a smile.
“That could be it!” I told her with a smile, appreciating the fact that she was trying to make conversation with me.

I was a little nervous going through the TSA security, because this wasn’t a long skirt, but it wasn’t exactly a short skirt either, and being some what full there was a chance they might still send me through the pat down process that I am truly coming to resent. Say - did you know that the Texas legislature recently debated making the TSA pat down a misdemeanor offence and thus against the law in Texas? The cowards backed down at the last moment though when the feds said “Fine – then all flights from Texas will stop as we can not guarantee the safety of air travelers anywhere in the system.”  I was just starting to get my hopes up too. Anyway, they did not send me through the molestation process but the TSA inspector at the metal detector did get in parting shot at me as told me I was free to carry on and get my things.
”Have a nice day bud!” he said. It’s kind of irritating to go to so much effort to be seen as and perceived as a woman just to have someone go out of their way to refer to you as a guy, but he really did say it in an entirely friendly way, and without a trace of sarcasm or meanness. I wonder if he just doesn’t know that that is kind of a rude thing to do? So as I’m sitting there putting my laptop away, and putting shoes back on I can hear the conversation of a group of people that have just gone through the same inspection process. It’s an older couple and a woman about my own age, and they gave me the impression that the couple was probably the womans parents.
“Well did they pat you down this time?” The younger woman asks him.
“I wish!” he replied with laughing eyes and a giggle in his voice. “That’s the closest thing I get to sex these days!”
Believe me, I wasn’t the only one laughing at that one.

I was sitting in the gate area just a few minutes before the flight boarded when the Delta gate representative came over the intercom.
“Ladies and gentlemen, if you will, please have your ID’s out and ready as you approach the gate. Delta does not need to see them, but the TSA is doing random inspections and may ask you for it.”  I literally laughed out loud, thinking to myself that I had evaded the pat down / molestation, just to be caught and inconvenienced right here at the gate. A moment later, they announced that the first class section was welcome to board, and so I joined the line that had already formed there. The TSA did ask a few people for their ID, but much to my own amusement and relief they skipped right over me.
The guy standing in front of me was a huge African American, easily six and a half feet tall and with arms bigger than my thighs. I could hear him talking on his cell phone and was suitably impressed to hear what had to be the deepest voice I have ever heard in my life. I swear this guy could make Barry White sound like a tenor. I was just kind of zoning and thinking about this when he happened to glance back at me. Still chatting on the phone, he stepped to the side, gave me a huge smile, and waved me in front of him! Kind of surprised, I gave him my thanks, and handed my ticket to the gate agent while the gentleman fell back in to place behind me.
“Well hello there! I haven’t seen you in a while! How are you?” the female gate agent said in almost a carbon copy of the conversation I had had with the other woman at the ticket counter a few minutes ago. This time I just let it roll though.
“I just couldn’t be any gooder thanks for asking! How are you?” I asked, and was relieved to hear her laugh at my silly redneck joke.
“Fine, just fine thank you. Enjoy your flight.” She said, and then reached for the ticket of the gentleman behind me.

I was getting situated on the airplane by getting out my IPOD and my book, when the flight attendant started to make her rounds of the first class section before the general boarding started. She stopped next to a gentleman sitting across the isle from me.
“Can I get you something to drink Mr . . .” she paused while consulting a print out in her hand “Jones?”
 She then moved on to the man sitting next to me.
“And how about for you Mr . . . Smith?” (No, I don’t recall their real names)
Of course I know that my number is up next, and since she is looking at the passenger printout, she will clearly be well aware of what I am and so it should be interesting to see how she handles it.
“And for you Ms Huddle . . . “ she started, then got a confused look on her face.
“Well hold on a sec, that’s not you!” she said with a laugh, clearly having noted that the “Huddle” on her manifest was a “Mr” with the first name of “Matt”
“Umm, yep, it is me” I told her with a grin, and then batted my eyes at her just for the giggle factor. She looked confused for just a second more and then you could see it click.
“Well, what would you like to drink then Ms Huddle?” she said with playful grin.

Once we landed in the Chicago O’Hare airport , I was making my way to the baggage claim area and I found myself on a tall escalator standing behind four young men. One of them was facing backwards toward me and talking to the others, and it was all I could do to not laugh out loud when he took a look at me and then leaned forward to whisper to the others. Watching those three guys trying to find some excuse to turn around and look at me, without looking like they were looking at me, was just about the funniest thing I have seen since the Three Stooges. I briefly contemplated saying something cute like “Subtle guys, real subtle . . . “ but I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. They might have laughed, but they might not have . . .

As I stepped out of the airport, I was delighted to be greeted by the relatively cool air, such a relief after the heat in Austin Texas. I was not delighted however to find that once again Avis did not have my contract and keys ready, and so I found myself in a line of about ten other people who were in the same boat I was. All of us were freely chatting back and forth, most of the conversation poking fun at Avis for never getting it quite right.
“I think they need to try a LOT harder!” one of them quipped, making fun of their advertising campaign. I was gratified that those in line were perfectly willing to have a conversation with me, and never once batted an eye.

There were several other minor interactions that occurred that day that really did wonders for my confidence. None of them were really unique, significant, or blog worthy, but just nice person to person interactions. All in all, I was having a wonderful day, at least I was until I heard about the Tornado that destroyed Joplin Missouri. Joplin is less than ten miles from Quapaw Oklahoma where I have traveled to twice just recently. I was in fact in Joplin only a week ago, and so it broke my heart to think of that pretty town and its people being decimated. . .

The next day was a bust work wise, but I’ll have to tell you a little bit about infrared mass spectrometers for you to understand why. Bear with me – I promise that the lesson wont last long. When you are going to use Infrared (IR) to examine a gas, you have to have an assortment of windows. Some for the operation of the instrument and manipulation of the IR itself, and some windows to keep the nasty gas you are testing away from the expensive components that you don’t want damaged by it, while still allowing the IR to pass through the gas you are studying. Now the bad news is that your normal glass windows block IR and so glass can’t be used. Not to worry though, because those clever little chemists came up with a way around that – they make windows out of a sodium material called KBR. More or less you can think of it as clear and polished salt that looks and works exactly like glass except that it does NOT block IR. Another way that it is different from a glass window is the crux of our problem here though – it can not tolerate moisture, not even the typical humidity that you find in the very air around you. There is a simple way to keep this from being a problem though – you make sure that the KBR windows have a constant flow of dry nitrogen gas around them to keep the moist air away from them. As long as you spend a little money on nitrogen gas, you can avoid spending a fortune having your instrument repaired and all of its KBR windows replaced. Well, someone at this customers company apparently didn’t read the memo and decided to use the instrument long term in a humid environment without providing it with nitrogen purge gas, and every single KBR component in it was destroyed. This includes some windows with special coatings and requiring extremely precise alignments that have to be performed at the factory. In thirty minutes I had determined that his instrument was beyond being repaired in the field and would have to be returned to the factory for a major overhaul. So it took about half an hour to tear the instrument apart and show the customer everything that had been damaged and explain why it had to be repaired at the factory, and then another half an hour to put it all back together for him. Tack in about two more hours of emails and paper work when I got back to the hotel and then I was free for the rest of the day!

Chicago 2011 05 24 006

I raided two Goodwills and found nothing worth buying at either of them and so I moved on to the Woodfield mall that my friend Phyllis Brown had told me about. I went through DSW, Macy’s, and JC Penny without finding a single thing that I just had to have and could afford. I did find a brown dress on clearance at Macy’s that I liked, but even on clearance they wanted $80 for it and so I sadly left it behind.
That evening I met with Phyllis and her friend Erica for dinner at a fairly nice steak house. With the three of us together, and Erica being a fairly tall post-op TS, it was a real giggle when the hostess seated us. There was a young girl I’d guess to be in her twenties at the table next to us, and she just couldn’t help looking our way over and over again with a grin from ear to ear.
Phyllis I’ve mentioned before. She and I have been online friends, trading emails and chats for probably more than five years and we finally got around to meeting each other a month or so ago in Peoria IL. Her friend Erica I had never met before, and I quite liked her. She was a very upbeat, confident, and energetic person to talk to, and chatting with the two of them made for a more than pleasant evening.

Chicago 2011 05 24 021

You know, for some reason I have been less than confident and kind of unhappy about myself for the last six months or so, but these last two days were different. For the first time in quite a while I felt confident and happy, and actually enjoyed my “Kimberly” time quite a lot. It’s not that I felt like I was passing, that had nothing to do with it. It was more that I just felt comfortable and happy with who and what I am. It’s amazing how big a difference your attitude can make. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Not a high heel kind of job

Manassas VA 2011 05 09 014

So over the weekend, my wife told me that she wanted to go shopping at Whole Foods. For those of you not in the know, it’s kind of a grocery store for organic and health food nuts. In my opinion, it’s kind of pricey and I wouldn’t spend my money there, but it pleases my wife, and so I hold my tongue. I used to hate going there with her until the day I noticed that there was a Nordstroms Rack department store in the same parking lot. Since that happy day, I’m all for it because my wife goes to one store, and I shop the other! This time my big treasure find was a black and white dress with a pattern that helps give the illusion that I have a waist. Not only that, but it was on clearance, so I got the $150 dress for only $35! YAY!

Manassas VA 2011 05 09 001

As is becoming my habit these days, I started this trip off by having breakfast at Denny’s. It’s not far from the airport and so it’s a convenient place to kill some time eating and sucking down caffeine while waiting for my flights. The hostess greeted me in much the same manner that the folks at the Delta counter do these days – very friendly and clearly remembering me.
“Hey, good morning and welcome back!” she said, and then as she guided me to the table “Coffee and a large milk?” she asked, somehow remembering my preferences from my last visit.
“Sure!” I told her with a grin. “I’ve got time to kill before my flight and so I thought I’d come irritate you again.”
“Oh your no bother at all!” she said with a cheerful laugh. You know, there are worse ways to start your morning than with the laughter of a pretty young lady. . .

After breakfast I headed just a short way down the street where there was an office building up for rent. There is no one at this huge building, but they are still maintaining the landscaping because they are trying to entice renters. This makes it pretty much the perfect place for taking some pictures out in the sunshine without a bunch of people looking and wondering why in the hell that woman is taking so many pictures of herself.

Manassas VA 2011 05 09 006

My new camera has one of those functions where it can detect your smile and take the photo when it does. Sounds a little better than it is though, because you have to be pretty darn close to the thing for it to work. I guess I was standing a bit too far away, because I couldn’t get it to take the photo. looking for that perfect distance where it would function, I kept edging closer, grin like an idiot, edge closer, idiot grin, closer, idiot, closer, idiot . . .  
You know the way these things work - I was leaning in to be sure the camera could see my face an had just given up when the camera flash went off twice. After I stopped laughing, I took a look at the silly pics and decided that I really liked them!

Manassas VA 2011 05 09 005

On the way to the airport I saw a unique car that just defies description, so I’m not even gonna try. You just have to see this one:

Manassas VA 2011 05 09 010

Oh, and now I know where dying rental cars are supposed to go:
Manassas VA 2011 05 09 016

Since I was wearing a short dress, the TSA didn’t molest me this time. Speaking of the TSA molesting me, I think that maybe the next time I wear a long skirt, I’m gonna hide a mouse trap under it just to “amuse” the person that frisks me. But again I digress . . .   After I went through the TSA check point, I was sitting on a bench putting my shoes and sparklies back on when a woman I’d guess to be in her early fifties walked up to use the same bench for the same purpose.
“That is a wonderful outfit.” She quietly said after taking a look at my dress and shoes. She wasn’t gushing and she didn’t appear to be terribly excited about it, she was just calling it the way she saw it.
“Well thank you! I just got it Saturday and have to admit that I think I love it.” I replied. “So did they frisk you for having the audacity to wear a long skirt?” I added after a look at her relatively long blue jean skirt.
“Not this time, but I have been through that before, and didn’t care at all for it!” she said with a loud laugh.

I made my way to my gate where I began to realize that there was a flaw with my time killing plan of swilling cup after cup of coffee at Dennys – I had to use the bathroom, and I had to use it BAD! The awkward thing was, the janitor was working in the “Special Needs” bathroom, and she appeared to be prepared to make a career out of cleaning that one small room. I waited, and I waited, and I waited, and after half an hour my eyeballs were starting to float. I recall reading a news story about a transgender woman in Houston being arrested for using the Women’s Bathroom, and so I have always avoided doing that in the Austin airport. Normally it’s not a problem, because they have the special needs bathroom, but the darn janitor had now been working on it for half an hour, my flight was about to board, and I had to go bad, and so in I went. Yeah I know – someone out there is saying “OMG – is she really blogging about going to the bathroom?!” but I’m telling ya, it’s pretty scary when you know that someone else has been arrested for doing that very thing. So there I sat with my heart in my throat the entire time, waiting to find out if the Austin airport security folks have been waiting for me to do this so that they could nab me! The good news is that they apparently didn’t have any axes to grind with me, and so I went on about my merry way.

When I arrived at the Baltimore-Washington International airport, I was starting to drag my tail behind me a bit, and so my 50 pound suitcase and 50 pound tool box both felt like they had gained an awful lot of weight when it came time to pick them up and get them on to the rental car shuttle bus. I guess it showed, because a gentleman behind me spoke up with a laugh.
“Would you like a hand with that? It really doesn’t look like a high heels kind of job!”
“Thank you, but I think that I’ve got it.” I replied like an idiot. I say ‘like an idiot’ because I damn near killed myself trying to get the suitcase up on the rack. Fortunately the fellow behind me ignored me and stepped up to help me lift it on the top rack – the only space available. The tool box I left in the middle of the floor because there just wasn’t any other place to put it. When the shuttle bus arrived at the lot, I waited for everyone else to get their bags and then more or less threw my tool box off of the bus, and then got my bag down. As I stepped off of the bus with my suitcase and bent down to extend my tool boxes handle, I found a different man standing there and waiting for me.

“Miss, would you like a hand with those?” he asked me, with a sincere and kind tone of voice. There was something about the way he asked, I don’t know if it was his tone or his eyes, or what, but I just got the impression that he knew very well what I am and was still sincerely offering to help me.
“No thank you.” I answered with a smile that I hope made it clear that I really did appreciate the offer.
“Are you sure?”
“I very much appreciate the offer, but I drag these things all over the country. They have probably seen more miles than most flight attendants.” I replied with a laugh.
He gave a small laugh and wished me a good night, and off I went to find my rental car.

When you are part of their “preferred” program, Avis is supposed to have your car ready for you when you arrive, but more and more lately they appear to be unable to get it right, and today was more of the same. I wasn’t at all surprised to find that my name and space was not on their board, and so I had to go to the counter. I found a pretty young African American woman sitting inside the booth, told her my last name and that I had a reservation but my car wasn’t on her board.
“And what’s your first name please?” she asked me.
“Matthew” I told her, and almost bust out laughing when her head all but jerked up to look at me.
“Yeah, I know, not exactly the name you might have expected huh?”
She didn’t say anything, just grinned and waved her hand in a “It’s of no importance to me” fashion. In a moment, I had my rental car and was headed south toward Manassas  VA where my customer and my hotel were.
Not as much as you might think, but I was a little worried on the hour and a half drive there. You see, I was going to be working with a colleague on this service call, and he was not only staying at the same hotel I was, but I knew he was already there. I knew he was already there because I had two or three text messages asking if I had landed or not. I thought about it for a while and decided that my best bet was to ignore his text messages until after I had arrived at the hotel and gotten cleaned up. I didn’t really want him to know what time to expect me. After all, it just wouldn’t do to have him getting clever and waiting to meet me in the hotel lobby. I didn’t really think there was much worry about running into him as I checked in, because I’ve stayed at this hotel many times and know that it has a small lobby area with no seating, and so there wouldn’t be much reason for him to be loitering there. It was a bit of a gamble, but I turned out to be right. I did have a bad moment though when I entered the lobby to find that there was a man at the counter checking in. For just an instant I had feared that it might be him. He had just finished checking in and had his keys in his hand, but he stood at the counter for a second staring at me as I checked in. I just looked at him and grinned and he hastily gathered his things and scurried off to the elevator.

Fortunately the Holiday Inn is more efficient than Avis, because she did have my keys and contract waiting for me. In just a few moments I was on my way to the elevator where I found myself sharing it with yet another guy who kept staring at me. Sometimes I feel like “the” entertainment when I am out and about.
I let out a little laugh as I approached the door of the hotel room I had been assigned because it seems that the room was intended for the handicapped. I wonder I they were trying to tell me something when they assigned that room to me? Mentally handicapped maybe?

Manassas VA 2011 05 09 018

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Watch what you wish for . . .

Detroit 2011 05 05 017

You know, for someone used to traveling and being on the road as much as I am, it’s almost painful to be stuck behind a desk inside a gray little cubicle. Painful or not, that is where I found myself for the first half of this week. On my male facebook account, I posted about being bored all to hell, and how I wished that one of my customers would break something so that I could get out of the office and go earn my paycheck. Well, one should be careful what you wish for, because less than half an hour later one of my favorite customers commented on my facebook post that he had five dead instruments and desperately wanted a service call to repair them. With most of my customers this would have started a whole long process of providing a quote and waiting for the customer to produce a purchase order before making travel arrangements, but this customer has always been awesome about very quickly paying us after service calls. My manager actually tried to talk me out of going so late in the week and with so many instruments to repair in only one day, but I convinced him that I could get it done, and so off I went! I later decided that I should have listened to him. . .

I have to be out of the house pretty early in the morning so that I’m gone before my daughter gets up for school, but my flights didn’t leave until late morning, and so I started off by going to Denny’s for breakfast before catching my flight. The waitress there was a cute little “hottie” with a perfect figure that made me feel guilty for eating, but she was a real sweetheart and good at her job. Everything was “Sweetie”  this, and “Sweetie” that, which actually grew a bit annoying, but in the end she kept my coffee cup full for a couple of hours and did it without constantly interrupting the novel I was reading. That’s a real art by the way – taking good care of your customer without becoming a pain in the butt. I have no doubt at all that I would make a terrible waitress. I can work hard all day, or I can be nice and smile all day, but don’t ask me to do both at the same time.

A few years ago I was looking at one of only half a dozen photos I had of me as Kim, and thinking to myself “Gee, you were cute back then. Why didn’t you take more pictures to have something to remember the days before you got old by?!”  Right about there a monster was born. I bought my first digital camera, and started taking loads of pictures every time I had the chance, and in only a couple of years I went from having only six ten year old photos, to having over a thousand. I was so caught up in it that I didn’t even realize how crazy it had gotten until my wife and daughter-in-law both started laughing at me about it. I hadn’t realized it, but since they are both connected to my yahoo account, they both get a notification every single time I uploaded a photo to flickr, and let’s face it, I upload a LOT of pictures. I guess a lot of cross dressers do this, and so in the cross dressing community this wasn’t terribly out of place, but when my wife and daughter-in-law started commenting each time I posted pics, I realized that in the “normal” world, I had become a pretty narcissistic obsessive individual. I figure I’ll stop taking the pics the day I decide I’m too damned old and ugly to bother with them, but until then, I will settle for just being a bit more reasonable in the number I take. Maybe. I think.

Detroit 2011 05 05 006

Even after taking my time, slurping a lot of coffee and reading my book, I still had several hours to kill after I finished my breakfast, and so I went looking for someplace pretty to take my usual “this is what I wore today” photographs. I had fully intended to wear a floaty green and white polka-dot summer dress, but I chickened out at the last moment. I’m not sure why, but I just didn’t feel confident in it, and so I put it back on the hanger and chose to wear one of my all time favorite outfits instead. In the end, I was glad that I did, because I felt confident and happy, and I think it showed. I’ve mentioned it before, but you really have to see this skirt in motion to appreciate it. It’s made of very light material and swirls and floats around your legs as you walk, almost as if clouds were dancing around your feet.

I think that Mona, my favorite customer service representative at the Delta Airlines counter, must stand by the window waiting for me to arrive, because she seems to walk out of the back office and help me every time I am waiting in line. I was in line maybe two minutes when she walked out and quickly looked my way and waved me up to the counter.

Detroit 2011 05 05 025
“Good morning Matthew! It’s kind of strange to see you here so late in the week. You usually leave out of here on Mondays.” She said with a smile.
“Yeah, and usually MUCH earlier in the morning too, huh?!” I answered. “The lady that usually makes my travel arrangements is out of the office this week, so I got to make my own flights. Today, I’m flying at a reasonable hour!”
“So where are you going today dear?” she asked. Would you believe I had to pause and think for a moment because I couldn’t remember?
“That’s a real good question! Where the hell am I going?!” I said out loud. I travel so much these days that it all kind of blurs together, but after a moment it came to me.
“Detroit!” I blurted out, embarrassed that it had taken me so long to recall something so critical to what I was doing. She was still laughing as I fished out my ID to hand it to her.
“Oh no, I don’t need to see your ID. I’ve got your name memorized.” She said with a grin.
“So what are you saying? That I’m a little unique and maybe even memorable around here?” I asked with laugh.
“Yeah, pretty much!” she answered with a laugh of her own.

On my last flight through Austin, I had worn a fairly long skirt and they had not sent me through the whole personal inspection process for it, so I thought that maybe they had lightened up on that particular policy. I was wrong . . .   Just as I walked through the metal detector, a TSA inspector walks up to me with a big grin on his face.
“Lucky you! You have been selected for additional screening. Please step right this way and we’ll be right with you!” He was so cheerful about it all that I wanted to kick him in the shins. It was hard to get too angry though, because at least they were being consistent and not just singling me out. I found myself standing right behind another woman who had also worn a long skirt. In no time a all a female TSA agent stepped forward and took the woman in front of me, and there I stood next in line. Waiting. . . and waiting . . . and waiting . . .   At the end of the inspection area there is always a desk with several TSA inspectors presumably supervising the process, and around it stood two or three female TSA inspectors. They were all chatting each other up and having a good time for several minutes before one of them glanced my way. When she noticed I was waiting she took two or three steps my way, and then seemed to realize what I was and spun around on her heel and walked back to her friends. I sat there starting to fume as they all started grinning and laughing. In a few seconds, I see one of them mouth “I’ll take care of this”  and then turn and head my way. I have no idea what they think my motivation is, or if they are irritated that I wear long skirts knowing that it may cause an inspection, but for me it is simple. I spent more than a decade serving my country and doing my part to earn the freedoms that we enjoy, and it has taken me the better part of forty years to build the courage to wear what I wanted to wear - I will be damned if I’ll let terrorists or the TSA force me out of them. So if they want to inspect a frequent flier that they all know and recognize by now for wearing a long skirt, then I figure that is their own stupidity and they can deal with it.


Right or wrong, hesitant or not, when they decide to do a personal inspection, they do a very personal inspection. By the time this woman was done frisking me, I was blushing and more than a little embarrassed. Blushing and embarrassed, I grabbed my back pack, shoes, and laptop, and made my way to my gate. I was sitting there and getting myself back together by putting in my earrings and putting on my bracelets, when I noticed a pretty young woman sitting across from me. She was probably in her early twenties, pretty, with long dark hair, and she was reading a book with her feet propped up on her bag. Several days later I’m still not sure why, but something about her just kind of captivated me. Sure she was pretty, and sure she was wearing a nice pair of heels that I of course noticed, but that wasn’t it. I think that what captivated me about her was just the fact that she was so damned comfortable with who and what she was. There I sat, all uptight and nervous, stressing over what I was wearing, how I was being perceived, and what people thought of me. In contrast, there she sat – perfectly comfortable with being herself, with her feet comfortably propped up on her bags in what might be considered a less than lady-like fashion.
She was not worried at all about what people thought of her.
She was not worried at all about behaving like a lady.
She was not worried at all . . .

I was sitting there kind of confused over my own reaction and brief obsession with this young lady, when a woman came and sat down in the same row, and just one seat down from me. It took me a second to realize that this was just a little bit odd. It was still more than an hour and a half before the flight and so the gate area was fairly empty. With the seating of an entire gate area open to her, she had chosen to come and sit next to me. With my curiosity aroused, I glanced up to take a better look at her, and found myself looking directly into the eyes of the pretty young woman with short blond hair. The moment our eyes met, her face lit up in a brilliant smile and she leaned toward me.
“You are beautiful!” she told me, and then sat back into her chair.
‘Did she really say that?! Did I hear her right?!’ I was asking myself over and over.
Pretty woman . . . complimented me . . . thinks I’m pretty . . . no way!
Absolutely shocked, I sat there staring at her like an idiot for at least five or ten seconds while my brain processed that completely unexpected comment. Finally the gears and belts in my brain stopped slipping and smoking and my brain started to work again.
“Thank you!” I blurted out. “You just made my day. In fact, you just made my entire week and month!”
“Your welcome and I’m happy that I made your day!” she said with a friendly smile. I sat there for a second, not sure about the social implications of my returning the compliment. I wasn’t quite sure if it was ‘appropriate’ for one woman to tell another woman that she didn’t even know, that she was pretty, but I figured that she had done it first.
“You know, you’re more than a little cute yourself!” I told her hesitantly, kind of treading on unfamiliar ground for me. I’ve never been terribly confident when it came to complimenting women, and I’d certainly never done it while I was trying to present as one.
She and I talked off and on for the next half an hour or so until her flight left. It turns out that she was going home to visit family that she hadn’t seen in years. It was kind of a triumphant homecoming for her, certainly more than just your average person going home. It seems that many years ago she had been literally run over by a drunk driver. She had died something like four times on the way to the hospital and had spent years learning how to walk again. Now she was making her way home to show her family that she had “made it”. She had overcome great adversity, had become a confident and happy person, and was going home to show her family that she was going to be her own person. I got the impression that there was much more to the story, but you can only say so much to a stranger in thirty minutes.

After I got my luggage and boarded the rental car shuttle bus in Detroit, the driver asked me if I was “Avis Preferred” or not. I assured him that I was, gave him my last name, and then took an empty seat in the rear of the bus. He took his seat and started pushing buttons on his touch screen, and then shouts all of the way through the bus to me.
“What is your first name please?”
I sat there looking at him for a second, more than a little reluctant to shout “Matthew” across a bus full of people, so he repeated the question. It’s silly, because unlike the name Huddle that I use here, my real last name is highly unique in the US, and there is zero chance that there might be any ambiguity that would require him to have my first name to verify if it was me or not. Less than amused, I got up and started to make my way to the front of the bus to reply a bit more discreetly when he looks up at me with a smile.
“Oh! Never mind – I’ve got you.”
You might think that I had ducked that embarrassing little bullet, but you would be wrong. As the entire bus load of people was exiting the bus at the lot, a woman was standing at the door, holding a contract and keys, and loudly calling my name.
“Matthew Huddle? Matthew Huddle?!”
At the top of the steps and waiting for the crowd to clear out of the way, I raised my hand to her, hoping to get her attention, but apparently she didn’t see it and continued to call out.
Disgusted and a little irritated, I gave up the entire concept of being discrete.
“YES?! That’s me.” I replied, trying not to sound as irritated as I felt. Still, I couldn’t help but grin when half a dozen people looked up at me in surprise, apparently not having realized what I was.

So do you remember at the start of this little story, I mentioned that I had been bored and wished that someone would break something so I could go to work? Yeah, well, you gotta be careful what you wish for, because I started working at my customers facility at 7AM Friday morning and didn’t get out of there until after 9PM. It was a long and miserable day, so I was sort of bummed that here I was with a Friday night in the Detroit area, and I was too tired and it was too late to go out and have fun.
I’m really gonna have to watch what I wish for from now on . . .