Friday, September 23, 2011

Magic on the Airplane

As usual, I was on the way to Detroit this week, but in an unusual turn of events, I had a direct flight from Austin to Detroit and it didn’t leave until after 2PM. As always, I considered going “pretty” but reached the conclusion that it would be almost insane. There was just no way in hell that I was gonna get up at 4AM and be out of the house by 6AM for a flight that wasn’t even gonna leave until 2PM. Even I am not that crazy!
Still, I packed a few outfits just in case I had free time on my hands on this trip, and then I laid out a boring guy outfit of jeans and your typical casual shirt.

The next morning the alarm went off at 6AM for getting my daughter up and off to school and I laid there in bed for a moment as my wife just about catapulted out of it. I almost giggled at the reversal in rolls, because early on in our 24 year marriage I used to be the one that jetted out of bed and always had to kind of prod her to get her moving. Today I was the one being a slug while it didn’t seem to bother her at all to get up with no delay. What the heck has the world come to anyway?
I laid there in bed watching my wife make her way to her closet and start getting dressed for the day, and I wondered just how feasible it would be to try and sneak in another couple of hours of sleep, but I just couldn’t handle the guilty feeling that was growing at the back of my mind. With a sigh, I gave in to the guilt and dragged my lazy butt outta bed and headed down the stairs to make my wife some coffee. Just as I walked past our two year olds closed door his parent detector went off and he started to holler that he wanted “up”, and by the tone of voice, he wanted “up” by God right this second! Now holding the little Tasmanian devil in my arms I again headed down the steps, got him something to eat, and managed to make the pot of coffee I had planned on. I had a nice domestic morning taking care of the little one, helping to get my daughter ready for school, and reminding my wife that I still loved her by getting her some coffee and toast, and then I killed the rest of the morning chatting with her and surfing the internet. At about 1130 it struck me that I had killed too much time and really needed to get my behind off to the airport before I ended up late, so I grabbed my bags and gave my wife a hug.
“I love you and I will miss you!” I told her as I kissed her forehead.
“I love you too. Have a good trip.” She replied. As I made my way to the door, she surprised me by calling out to me.
“Hey. . . “
Mid way through the door with my huge suitcase towed behind me and a twenty pound backpack slung over my shoulder, I turned to see what she wanted.
“Thanks for sticking around. . . “
For just a moment I started to get that warm and fuzzy feeling, thinking to myself that I was glad I had gotten out of bed to help her with our children. I started to smile and then all the implications of her simple statement struck me.
“Hold it! You are talking about today and not just in general right?” I asked her with a laugh.
“Well yeah, but maybe a little bit of both” she replied with a laugh of her own.
On my drive to the airport I kept thinking about her words.
“Thanks for sticking around . . . “ she had said. Wow, apparently my wife misses me so much that she felt the urge to thank me for spending time with her instead of leaving early in the morning to fly pretty. When it came down to the choice of flying pretty or spending a few extra minutes with my wife and children in the morning, I had chosen my family so rarely that my wife felt compelled to comment on it and to thank me for it.

When I first met my wife, I was at the lowest point in my life. I was suffering almost crippling depression, most definitely deep in the hands of alcohol abuse, and in legal trouble with the US Army for something stupid I had done while drinking. For some reason (and I’ll never know why) she managed to look beyond all of that and to see the person that I might become. Not only to see that person, but to have the patience to wait for me to become that person. This person that had saved me from a life of loneliness and depression, this person that had helped me to become a decent man, husband, and father, had stood in our home and thanked me for spending the morning with her. . .
Clearly I have been doing something horribly wrong . . . 
I admit that sometimes I have come to almost think of myself as female, or at least largely female, but every once in a while something like this jumps up and slaps me in a way that makes it plain that I apparently am still very much a male.
A woman would not have needed this to be pointed out to her and she would not have needed someone to explain this to her. She would have known what it would mean to your spouse to always be choosing the selfish path over her, and she would have known that it was important to sometimes choose to spend a few hours with your spouse over doing something for yourself. I think that a woman would have known. Me, on the other hand, I had to be hit over the head with it.

There was no one I recognized at the Delta counter when I checked in and so I sailed through that and the TSA check point with little or no conversation and soon found myself sitting on a large and comfortable airplane. It was quite a nice change of pace from the cramped little planes that I normally get stuck on. As I entered the aircraft I almost, but not quite, stopped in my tracks as I saw the flight attendant, because she had to be one of the prettiest and cutest women I had ever seen. She was a woman of medium height, with long blond hair, and a tiny and perfect waist that was immensely flattered by the Delta airlines uniform skirt and blouse. Her makeup was light and flawless and she wore her hair up in a single pony tail that sort of stood up an inch or two before falling down her back, and all I could think of was that she was a living Barbie Doll. I kept catching myself sneaking looks at her as others were boarding the aircraft, and eventually I reminded myself that since I didn’t care for it when people kept staring at me, I really should stop obsessing about her. Trying to distract myself, I pulled my kindle out of my bag and began to read my latest “society ended and here’s how people survived it” book. I was just starting to get into the story when someone walking by stopped and tapped me on the shoulder.
“Hey” he says to me. Since I really don’t know that many people in the Austin area, this kind of surprised me, and so I probably just about jerked my head up to look at him. With a feeling of shock, I recognized one the few men in my office that I work with quite a bit. The shock wasn’t really at seeing him, but more the thought of what might or could have been. What if I had made the flight dressed? Would he have recognized me? Would it have been the end of my job or would he have just walked by me, never having realized who I was? When I was younger I would have been 90% sure that no one would recognize me, but as I age I am afraid that my “looks” are coming closer together, and the change between Matt and Kim is not as significant as it once was.
“Hey, what brings you to my world?” I said to him with a snort.
“I’ve got a couple of customers in Detroit to visit.” He replied with a short and to the point response.
“Well, good to see ya’!” he added after realizing that he was holding up the line. As he walked by my first class seat on his way to coach, he gave me an odd look and rolled his eyes. The message clearly being that he thought it less than amusing that the lowly service engineer was gonna fly first class, while he, the sales/product expert was headed back to coach. I cant wait to talk to him later to rub that one in!

Apparently determined to make an ass outta myself, I blushed and stammered every single time that the Barbie Doll flight attendant asked if I wanted something to eat or drink. At some point during the flight, I recalled the feeling of joy it gave me when a woman in the Austin airport had just suddenly told me “You are beautiful!” and I resolved to try and screw up the courage to tell Barbie the same. As we left the aircraft after landing, she told most of the first class passengers goodbye on their way out, to include me when my turn came.
“Thank your flying Delta, we appreciate your business!” She told me with a stunning smile.
“Thank you!” I replied, and then with a red face, my heart in my throat, and my pulse rushing in my ears. “You know I have to tell you – you are one of the very prettiest women that I have ever seen.”
“Thank you so much!” she answered with kind of a surprised look on her face and then a huge smile. I didn’t wait to see what else she might say, because I was too busy almost running up the gate ramp, afraid that God might strike me dead for getting up the courage to make such a poor attempt at complimenting such a pretty woman.

As it turns out, my colleague was coming to Detroit to talk to one of the same customers that I was here to work with, and judging by my customers greeting to me, he had clearly been there before me.
“Hey Matt! Glad to see you and thanks for coming on such short notice! Hey, you know your sales guy was here last night right? Yeah, we made sure to tell him how much we liked you and that you are our preferred service guy!” he told me as we shook hands.
“Well hell, that was damn nice of you – thanks! So does that mean I owe you a steak lunch today?” I asked with a laugh.
“Damn right it does!” he replied with a wink and a laugh of his own.
“No worries! You keep lying to my manager and the sales guy, and I’ll keep buying lunch when I come. Deal?!”

I thought I was going to have a short day, because what I had to do there was not that hard to accomplish, but when I was almost done, I received an email from another customer in the Detroit area – Ford. Ford is one of my favorite customers for several reasons. They are of course the creator of my beloved 1967 Mustang, and also of my 2002 F150 – two vehicles that I love. I also happen to really like the woman that I work with there. I was new to infrared mass spec (FTIR) when I first met her, but she was not. She told me how she and her group had pioneered the use of FTIR at Ford many years ago, and how they had started off with a huge bench top systems that required constant alignment and adjustment. They were delighted to move on to our much more compact and reliable system when it became available years later. That first day so many years ago when I was working with her, I knew that she knew more about the thing than I did, and she knew that she knew more about it than I did, and still she was a good and kind person that had patience with me as I worked things out. Of course that was a long time ago and I now feel confident that I can hold my own with her, but she remains one of my very favorite customers to this day. Needless to say, when she sends out an email asking for help, I bend over backwards to take good care of her, and it was enormously good fortune that I just happened to be only an hour or so from her when she needed it. The bad news is that it ruined my chance to have an afternoon to myself, but at least I know that I did what was right between my customer and my company.

That night after I completed repairs for both customers, it just felt too late for doing anything pretty, but not necessarily too late to go shopping in boy mode, and so off I went to the mall! At JC Penny’s I found three dresses on clearance sale, grabbed them, and took them to the mens fitting room where I tried them on. While I could get them all on, one of the dresses was too tight, the other just didn’t flatter my figure, and the third was . . . well, it was perfect! It had a red and black pattern that I knew were good colors on me, and I was delighted to see that while it had originally sold for $80, it was now selling for only $15! It just doesn’t get any gooder than that! Delighted, I made my way to the cash register. Just as I approached the empty register a young man and woman stepped up just in front of me, and so I got in line behind them. After a a few minutes, the folks in front of me were done and I started to step up for my turn.
“I’m sorry, but the line forms over there.” The sale associate told me while pointing to the other side of the counter where two people had formed a line after I had arrived.
“You know I see that now, but I was here long before those folks formed a line.” I told her, feeling just a bit offended.
“I’m sorry, but you will need to wait in the line.” She replied.
“No ma’am, I don’t. I’d rather give you the dress back than get in the end of a line that formed after I was waiting here.” I told her, placed the dress on the counter, and turned to walk away.
“Hold on dear!” called out the first woman in the newly formed line. “You were here first – you go right ahead!”
“Are you sure?” I asked her, looking in her eyes to try and tell if she was doing what she thought of as the right thing, or if she thought that she was just humoring the asshole. With a kind smile, she waved me forward again, and so with a quick look at the sales associate, I again stepped up to the counter. Dress in hand, I thanked the woman that had waved me forward and then made my way to Macy’s.

Once in Macy’s, I made my way to their sales racks, looking for another good deal, and my eye was drawn to a red dress. It was not the caliber of the red dress that I had found in Dillards a couple of weeks ago, but it was pretty nice, and so I pulled it off of the rack to get a look at it and at it’s tag. As I was holding it up to look at it, a Macy’s sales associate walked by.
“Just your size!” She quipped with a grin.
“You know, it just might be!” I replied with a laugh while looking at the size 12 tag.
“I’m just teasing you. Can I help you?” she asked.
“No ma’am, I’m well beyond help but thanks!” I replied with one of my favorite jokes.
“Well, that puts you at least one step ahead of most people! At least you know your beyond help!” she laughed.
“Well, let me know if you need anything!” she told me and then moved off.

I usually wear size 14, but I have found a lot of 12’s and a lot of 16’s fit me perfectly as well, so there was a bit of hope. I looked at the price tag and saw that it was priced at over $80 after a number of mark downs, but after doing a little math in my head I figured that the price tag still said it was more than the 50% off rack said it should be, and so I took it to the counter where I found the same sales associate was now standing. She took one look at me.
“So you DID find your size!” she said with a giggle.
“You joke, but you never do know these days!” I told her with a laugh, and while seriously contemplating showing her my pic on my cell phone. Fighting the urge to get a giggle with the shock tactic, I just handed her the dress.
“The rack it was on said 50% off, but it’s current price is a bit more than that. Can you tell me what it really costs?”
“$70” she told me after scanning the tag.
“You know, it may be worth that much, but it’s more than I wanna pay. Thank you anyway!”
“No problem, and thanks for letting me play with you!” she replied to me. I again seriously considered pulling out my photo just to show her that kidding or not, she had hit the nail on the head, but I decided that I’d leave it alone.

I headed back to my hotel with my new dress in hand, and started to get my stuff together for flying home the next morning. Once again I had the back and forth decision making process where I tried to decide if I should fly pretty or drab, and eventually I decided to go pretty. Now the next bit of nerve wracking was about WHAT to wear! I had brought a few outfits with me and I had also just bought the cute little red, black, and white dress – so what to wear?! At last I settled on the new dress and started packing everything else away and getting the odds and ends ready that I would need for the following days trip. I had most of my things put away and most of my outfit picked out when I ran into a serious snag – I had forgotten to bring even a single bra with me! What kind of cross dresser leaves the house without a single bra for goodness sakes? In self disgust, I packed away my pretty things and took my male outfit back out, now resigned to flying home drab. The thing is, the following morning I decided that really wanted to fly pretty, and it had been so long since I’d felt a strong desire to do that, that I decided to make the effort to make it happen. At 8AM yours truly was shopping at the local Walmart for a pretty white bra, and by 11AM I was dressed and headed for the airport, sporting my pretty new dress!

Detroit 2011 09 22 028

As I approached the TSA check point in the Detroit airport, there were two large, African American, female TSA agents chatting with each other, and they both looked up at about the same time and with the same look that I long ago learned to recognize – the “Wow, that really is a cross dresser standing in front of me” look.
“Good morning!” I said to both of them as I handed my ID and ticket over.
“Good morning to you!” one of them replied. “And how are you today?”
“Oh hell, I just couldn’t be any gooder, thank you for asking. And how are you?”
“Fine thank you!” she replied with a huge grin.
“That dress is adorable!” the other woman injected.
“Awe thanks! I just got it yesterday!” then I leaned in like I was gonna tell her a secret. “Ya know, JC Penny’s rocks!”
They both laughed, inspected my documents, and then passed me through.

Most of the time you will find yourself going through the full body scanner at the Detroit airport, and this time was no exception. This always makes me a bit nervous because more often than not they decide to frisk me as a result of my breast forms. This time they surprised me though.
“Wait here a moment please.” Said the female TSA agent at the outlet of the scanner, clearly waiting to hear over her headsets if I needed additional screening or not.
“OK, I’m gonna have to pat down the back of your neck if that’s all right?” she asked.
I just nodded and then she patted the back of my neck briefly.
“All right – you’re free to go!” She said with a smile.
I was grabbing my stuff off of the Xray belt when a male TSA rep looked at me with a look of regret as if he was personally sorry that I had been inconvenienced.
“I guess they just liked your hair.” He told me with an apologetic grin.
“Oh it’s no problem, I’ve been through worse” I assured him, thinking of the many times I had been forced to stand there with someone patting down my chest or legs.
After putting my shoes and sparklies back on, I made my way to the Delta Skyclub to kill the three hours before my flight.

As I took my seat in the first class section, the gentleman in the seat next to me looked up.
“We are in for a treat on this flight!” he told me. There were a number of thoughts that went through my mind at this comment, most of it along the lines of “Oh great, he’s being sarcastic, hates the thought of sitting next to a cross dresser, and is about to say something really mean.”
Much to my relief though, his comment had nothing to do with little ol’ me.
“Really? How so?” I asked him
“Do you see the cute flight attendant?” He asked, pointing at an adorable flight attendant with red hair standing at the door and greeting people.
“Uh huh” I replied
“She’s a magician! I’ve been on a couple of flights with her before and she will actually do some magic for you! She is really good at it too!” he told me.
“I’ll be darned! I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a magician before, so that would be really neat!”
As the plane taxied to the runway, I was disappointed to see the cute young and presumably magical flight attendant head to the back of the plane, and so I feared that I wasn’t gonna get to see any magic after all, but I shouldn’t have worried. Apparently the guy sitting next to me was one of those freaks of nature (someone who actually flies more often than I do) and the magic flight attendant made her way to our row part way through the flight just to see him.

“So would you like to see some magic?!” she asked him.
“Would you mind being my assistant?” She asked, looking at me with a huge smile.
“What the heck. You betcha!” I told her.
“OK, I have four cards – two red queens and two black aces.” She said and showed us all four of the cards.
“Hold out your hands for me” she told me, and then she showed me the two red cards and placed them face down in my palms.
“Wah la!” she said (or something along those lines). “Take a look!”
I turned the cards in my hands over to look at them and sure enough they were both now the Aces.
“Awesome!” we both told her.
“OK, now I have a couple of washers. Here, you hold this one.” She said to the guy next to me and placed a typical large washer into his hand and closed his hand around it.
“I have the other washer here.” She said, showing us the twin to the washer she had earlier placed in his hand.
“I’m going to go ahead and move the hole in the washer.” She said, and then placed her thumb and finger over the hole, then slowly started pulling them across the washer. Suddenly the hole in the washer was no longer in the center. Since she had her finger and thumb on the washer it wasn’t yet clear if she was “moving” the hole or if the hole was gone.
“You know, I’ve changed my mind. I’m just gonna move the hole onto your washer instead!” she said with a grin while showing us that there was no longer a hole in her washer at all. She then pointed at his hand indicating that he should open it, which he slowly did to reveal that his washer did indeed now have two holes!
“Hey you’re pretty good at that! Do you mind if I take your photo for my blog?” I asked her.
“Not at all – go ahead!” She said with a grin. “I’m already on youtube!”

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Not traveling transgendered

Well, it has been a busy couple of weeks for me, but I haven’t made any trips “pretty”.

A bit over a week ago, my wife got the message that her mother was in the ICU in Missoula Montana. She had gone in for what was supposed to be a relatively simple procedure to have a heart valve repaired/replaced. It was supposed to be one of those deals where they make a small incision, snake a bunch of fancy equipment and cameras up through that small hole, and do the whole thing without really having to cause major trauma to her. Well, so much for that plan, because apparently the area around that heart valve was deteriorated to the point where they had to crack her chest wide open to work on it. After that, my mother in law has just flat failed to recover – her heart is unstable, and she can’t breath on her own. The one night that they removed the breathing tube from her throat she required twenty minutes of CPR to bring her back, and it’s all been down hill since then. Having expected this to be a simple in and out thing, no one had prepared to be there with her, and so now she was in a life or death situation, alone in an ICU, and the better part of a thousand miles away from us. I arranged to fly my wife and then her sister up to be with their mom for a week or so, and so one fine morning I found myself escorting my wife up to the Delta airlines counter. Talk about weird! I had to grin when Mona, my favorite Delta customer service representative approached us.
“Hi Mona, this is my wife Dawn. Dawn, this is the lady I was telling you about who has always been so very nice to me.” I introduced them to each other.
“Oh, so your Mrs Matthew then?” Mona replied with a laugh.
“Yeah, that’s me!” My wife laughed.
As she started to process the boarding passes, Mona gave me a confused look.
“So you’re not going with her?” She asked.
“Nah, I’ve had enough of this traveling stuff. I’ve decided that from now on, I’m shipping the wife out instead!”
THAT got a real laugh from both of them.

I walked my wife up to the TSA security point just to be with her and to give her some moral support, and when I was allowed to go no further I just stood there and watched her make her way through the process. Ya know she never once looked back at me?
Well, I made my way back home where my children and I were facing the next five days on our own. It hadn’t actually occurred to me until that point, but in all of these years, I have never been left alone with, and completely responsible for, my own children for more than a few hours at a time. This was gonna be a learning experience for all involved! Just to make things a bit more interesting, my two year old decided to choose that very morning to get sick. . .
Well my wife made it all right, my children and I survived our week together, but my mother in law has made very little improvement. Unfortunately we cant afford to pay for hotels, rental cars, and food indefinitely, and so my poor wife did have to leave her mother in her sister and uncles care, and return home. That was about a week ago, and my mother in law STILL hasn’t made any progress recovering. . .

This week I went to Detroit again, but I was flat out exhausted from the prior week with my mother in law’s situation and so I didn’t take a single pretty thing with me. Much to my surprise though, the young lady behind the counter at the Holiday Inn recognized me from one of my previous stays. This kind of surprised me as I had always checked in as Kimberly and wasn’t sure if she really knew what I looked like as a male. I had no trouble at all recognizing her though, as we had had quite a pleasant chat on one of my previous visits. Her name is Sheryl and she has greeted me every single time with a smile and a friendly word and this time was no different. After she got me all checked in, there was no one waiting for her help so we chatted for just a minute, and I told her about my mother in law, spending the week with my children, and that quite honestly I was looking forward to a quiet evening to collapse.
“So, do you go to work like ‘that’?” she asked.
“Oh no, that would be a real quick way for me to go unemployed! I just travel and spend my off hours this way.” I replied.
“So what does your wife think about this?”
“She is OK with it. She doesn’t really like it, but she doesn’t hate it, and as long as it makes me happy she seems willing to put up with it.”
“So does she see you like that much?” she asked.
“No, not often. I usually try to get ready and be out of the house before she or the children get up.”
At this she just kind of smiled for a moment, and then she really surprised me.
“I am SO proud of you!” she said.
“Oh my God, why?!” I asked her.
“Well, because you manage to live your life and still be respectful to those that love you!”
That one left me speechless for a moment.
“Well thank you . . . I think . . . “ I replied and we both laughed.
“You know, I’ve got to tell you, you look pretty darn good!”
“Thank you! Not too bad for a tired, ugly, old man huh?”
“Well, I think you look sexy as hell like that!” she told me with a wink, and then turned to greet the customer that had come in behind me.
Oh – I took a customer survey form from her and filled it out, making sure to mention her by name.  :)