Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Lady Boy Rehab Program

So I was back to Manassas VA again, but this time I had to give on the job training to yet another new guy. I’m not really all that good at training others, so I don’t know why they keep sticking me with the task and I really kind of wish that they would cut it out. Not only does it make me uncomfortable, but it makes it virtually impossible for me to get out and about “pretty”, or as pretty as a 47 year old wrinkled up old man can achieve these days anyway.

The job here went just about like my last install here – the customer brought us out before he was truly prepared, and so we sat around spinning our wheels for two days waiting for them to provide all of the gasses and liquids that our system requires to run. Then, when my customer really was ready, I got a call from my manager that apparently we were having a serious problem with some equipment we buy from another vendor for cooling one of our systems, and the very company that I was currently working at was mad as hell and screaming that they wanted someone from my company there this very moment so that they could yell at ‘em. So guess who got to go get screamed at and then had the pleasure of inspecting all of the systems they had purchased that used that chiller? Grrrrrr. . .
Well, as with most bad things, it did eventually come to an end, and I had the system I was there to install all setup and running, and also had the customer reasonably satisfied that we were doing our best to address the quality issue they had been yelling about.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you may recall my telling you about a friend of mine who developed a serious drinking problem and ended up fired for his actions at the very same customer I was now working with. Well, it turns out that his home is only about three hours away and so I had arranged to go and see him Friday.

Considering all of the trouble that he has been in and out of in the last couple of years, I thought that he looked and sounded pretty good. He just completed either his second or third stay in rehab, but this one was mandated by the courts. I guess he got either one or two DWI’s and the judge made it real simple for him – you either complete this three month rehab visit or you go to prison for a couple of years. I suppose that might tend to motivate you . . .
When I arrived he and I shook hands and his wife gave me a warm hug. She and I have traded a lot of emails and phone calls while she has been going through this, and so in some ways I guess that I am actually closer to her than to him now. I offered to take ‘em out to dinner but was out voted in favor of a homemade dinner of pasta in a shrimp and cream sauce! Well, if you have to loose an argument, that’s certainly one of the better ones to loose, because I love pasta in cream sauce!
We spoke about at lot of things that night, with only one or two relatively light hearted comments about his alcoholism. Those comments led to him telling me a story about one of his friends that had a drug abuse problem in Thailand. It seems that this guy had such a serious drug problem that he wound up in the hospital for assorted organ failures. I guess that in Thailand, your family is pretty much responsible for taking care of you while you’re in the hospital – the hospital does not wait on you hand and foot as they do in the US. His girl friend had a job and so could not be there for him, but her brother was unemployed and could and would help. The catch being that he is a “lady boy” – a cross dresser or transsexual. When the guy woke up one day and took stock of where he ws in his life, he realized that his drub abuse had resulted in his being in a hospital, loosing an organ, and being taken care of by a “lady boy”, he decided that it really was time to quit. I was kind of bothered that the “lady boy” brother had stepped up to help and yet was still thought of with derision, but I’d have to admit that the thought of the whole thing did make me grin.

Manassas VA 2011 10 29 011

My friend doesn’t live too very far from the Hershey’s chocolate factory, and so he took me there for a little tour of the joint. It was all right, but I sure wouldn’t go too far out of your way to visit the place if I were you. Where once upon a time you used to actually see the candy being made, these days it is all an amusement park ride with only cheesy simulations of the real factory and production steps.

On the way back to Manassas from PA that afternoon, I drove past a rather large outlet mall, and predictably, my rental car veered into the parking lot all of it’s own accord. I looked through pretty much the entire outlet mall but it wasn’t until I hit the “Dress Barn” that I found anything that I both liked and could afford.
“Hello and welcome to the Dress Barn”, said a young woman standing just inside the door.
“Thank you.” I replied to her.
“Are you looking for someone or for something?” she asked after watching me for a moment.
“Well, I’m just kind of browsing, so I suppose that means I’m looking for something.” I responded, placing the emphasis in the same place that she had.
“Good! I’ve had just about enough of men who are looking for their lost wives, girl friends, or what ever!” she said, managing to sound both playful and irritated at the same time.
“Oh, so that’s the excuse they all use then is it?” I asked her with a laugh, poking fun at these men that I had never met.
“Pretty much! So can I help you find anything? Are you looking for anything in particular?”
“I’m looking for anything that I can afford that will make me look fabulous!” I told her with a wink.
“Well, if your looking for bargains, we have the 40% off rack here, and the 60% off rack in the back. If your looking for dresses, there are some back there but not much in the way of sizes.” She told me with a smile while pointing out the racks as she mentioned them.
“Awesome! Thank you very much!” I told her, and then cruised the 60% off rack but didn’t find anything there. The good news is that when I raided the 40% off rack I found a dark blue dress that I think I will look pretty good in, and it was only $27 on sale!

Saturday morning it was time to head for the Washington Dulles airport for my flight home, and I was a little worried about the drive to the airport, and about my flights, because my friend in PA had told me that they were expecting four to ten inches of snow! While I might not have too much trouble getting to the airport, snow anywhere on the continent can start a chain reaction that causes flight problems everywhere. Just to be sure that I didn’t end up stuck in Washington rush hour traffic during a snow storm, I got up at 3AM and headed for the airport at 5AM for my 8AM flight. The joke was on me though, because while there was plenty of rain, there was no snow, and virtually no traffic at all.

Manassas VA 2011 10 29 019

I found it kind of interesting going through the Dulles TSA check point right before the metal detectors that the TSA inspector was a small woman, wearing a head scarf, and with a distinctly Middle Eastern look to her. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the idea of treating ALL people from the Middle East, nor all Muslims, as suspect because of the actions of a few, but still there was a part of me that was intrigued by this. In my opinion, the way that the US put its own Japanese descended people in camps during WWII was one of the most shameful things our nation has ever done, so it was nice to see that we apparently aren’t making that mistake again. Oh, and you know what? She was quite nice, wished me a good day, and gave me a genuine smile as she returned my tickets to me.

The lady I sat next to on the flight from Dulles to Atlanta was perfectly comfortable chatting with me. She and I both had Kindle’s and we were both busted by the flight attendant for keeping them on and reading during the take off, so we had a bit of a giggle together. Speaking of the flight attendant, we had an amusing moment when she was making her way through the first class cabin with a passenger manifest in her hand, asking each of the passengers by name what they would like to drink when we were up in the air.
All the way down the isle, she was “Mr this” and “Ms that” until she got to my seat where she took quite a long pause before she finally looked up from the roster.
“. . . and is it ‘Huddle’?” she asked me, not sure how to pronounce my name, and apparently unsure if it should be “Mr” or Ms”. This has happened to me before, but these days it is rarer and rarer when people that I am face to face with don’t realize that I am TG, and so it was kind of gratifying.
“Yes ma’am! You got it just right!” I replied with a grin and a wink, and I was delighted to see a huge smile appear on her face. From there on out, every time that she spoke to me, she gave me a terrific smile.

It’s funny how different people can treat me once they figure out what I am. Some don’t like it all and aren’t real subtle about letting you know it. Others are tickled to death, as if we are both now sharing a fun little secret. It’s usually one extreme or the other, but very few people react by simply treating me just like they would any other person.

As is usual these days with air travel, I hit a couple of snags trying to get from Atlanta back to Austin. First of all, it seemed that there was some sort of delay with the arrival of the plane that was supposed to take my happy ass home. I don’t know what the problem was, but it didn’t arrive until almost an hour after my flight was supposed to leave. That’s pretty much par for the course though, so I just rolled with it. Once the darn thing had landed though, we boarded it and just sat there for another hour or more because of some sort of technical problem. There were two or three guys up in the flight deck wearing bright yellow/green vests saying something along the lines of “Technical Team” on them, and the pilot was standing out in the passenger cabin with a forlorn look on his face with the rest of us. Sooner or later I had to make my way to the bathroom to get rid of all of the caffeine I had drank, and the male flight attendant took one look at me and grinned from ear to ear.
“LOVE the skirt!” he told me.
“Well thank you!” I replied, kind of in a hurry to get into the bathroom as it appeared that the technical guys were about done and the plane would soon be getting ready for taking off. When I came out of the bathroom though, he stopped me and pulled me over to another flight attendant.
“Doesn’t she look awesome?! See the way she matched the purple top with the lavender in the skirt?!” he said/asked the woman.
“Awe thanks! I’m one of the rare people that actually prefers it to be kind of cold out – it let’s me wear my long skirts!” I told him with a laugh.
“Well you look great girlfriend!” he replied with a huge and friendly smile.

Some days I feel like an imposter – a guy trying to force my way into the world of women, but sometimes I actually feel like maybe, just maybe, I belong there.
Strange aint it?!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Secret Agent Man . . .

Detroit 2011 10 17 004

Once again I started a  trip out afraid that I was gonna have nothing at all interesting to write about. The folks in the Austin airport are so used to me by now that it’s just business as usual and there are very few amusing or interesting events to write about that happen there anymore. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing though? On the one hand, I sort of miss the fun that I used to have by catching people by surprise on almost every trip, but on the other hand, it would seem that I have accomplished something that I am proud of – I’ve shown an entire airport full of people that cross dressers are people much like themselves and I’d like to think that I’ve helped to get them used to the idea of seeing and interacting with one. So, I guess it’s all good!

I keep asking the lady that sets up my travel to try not to put me on flights that leave before 9AM because it means that I will have to get up at 2:30 or 3 AM if my flight is at 6 or 7. It’s an hour drive to the airport and I stick to the airlines recommendation to be there two hours before a flight, and so that makes for a damned early morning. This time I almost paid a high price for getting up at 2:30AM for a 7 AM flight – I fell asleep twice while making the twenty minute drive from the Detroit airport to the hotel. Once was about mid way and without much traffic around me, but the second time was a close call. Of all places, I was on the off ramp of the exit to my hotel and apparently dozed off, waking just in time to avoid rear ending the traffic that was parked at the intersection ahead of me. Scary stuff there boy! Needless to say, my day was pretty much over at that point, and so I did nothing of interest that evening.

The next day was purely a work day, where pretty much all I did was my job, hit up a couple of department stores looking for good deals, and then had dinner at “Bob Evans”. For those of you not familiar with Bob Evans, it’s kind of like a Denny’s or a Cracker Barrel, but I think a step or two above them in quality. Anyway, I was sitting there eating my dinner and reading my book when an older couple entered. The man was stooped and using a walker and his wife slowly walked along side of him with her hand on his arm. You could tell that it was a gesture of love and not that she was helping to hold him up or anything. Y’all know me by now – I couldn’t help noticing that he was wearing a “US Air Force” cap and so I nodded as they walked by.
About mid way through my dinner the waitress came up and started asking me a lot of questions about my Kindle E-book reader. It seems that she was thinking about getting one for her daughter, and so we probably spoke about it for a good five or ten minutes, with my telling her the good and bad attributes of it. When I finished my dinner, she brought me my ticket and gave a laugh as she handed it to me.
“Well, today is your lucky day dear! I accidentally gave your bill to a couple that has already paid for it and left, so you only have to pay for their meal!”
I took a brief look at the $8 ticket that didn’t come anywhere near paying for the mushroom appetizers and the chicken and noodles I’d had, before I looked back up at her.
“I tell ya what – let’s spread the love huh? You see the older couple sitting two tables behind me? The gentleman with the walker?” She looked a little confused, but looked behind me and then nodded.
“I don’t want you to say anything to them, because I don’t want to make them uncomfortable, and frankly I don’t want to be uncomfortable either, but why don’t you go ahead and add their bill to mine?”
“OH! You know Harold?! I’ve known him for years!” she said with a smile, and her expression now clear of the confusion it had held a moment ago now that she understood that I must know Harold..
“No ma’am, I’ve never met him.” I told her with a wink, and then watched her expression falter again..
“But. . . then why are you picking up his bill?” she said with a surprised look once again on her face.
“Did you see the “US Air Force” hat that he’s wearing?” I asked her, and she nodded in the affirmative.
“Well, I figure that means that he either served or retired from the Air Force – either way I figure that he did his part for our country. I kind of figure that deserves at least a dinner, ya know?”
I kid you not, the waitress actually teared up. She didn’t cry, don’t get me wrong, but her eyes definitely got glassy.
“Well look at you!” she said softly. “You know, people just don’t do that kind thing anymore. Thank you.”
You know for the low low price of $25 I got to feel great for the next two days just thinking about it. Besides, I figure I need all of the good Karma I can get.

Fortunately my flight back home from Detroit to Austin was no where near as early as my flight out had been, and so I didn’t have to get up until about mid day (5:45AM) to start getting ready. This time I was wearing a black and white dress that is no great departure from my normal outfit. I figure that a little black and white dress is just about as flattering as a little black dress, so I have more than my fair share of ‘em.

Detroit 2011 10 20 003

As I dropped my car off at the Avis lot, the young man that checked it in was the same kid that literally backed away from me when he saw on my contract that I was a guy the last time I had been there. He wasn’t a whole lot more eager to get anywhere near me this time, but at least he didn’t have that panicked look. While I was getting my receipt from him, one of the bus drivers called out to me.
“Which airline ma’am?”
“US Airways” I told him, and before I knew it, there were TWO bus drivers reaching for my bags. They both stopped, looked at each other, and then looked back at me.
“I’m sorry, which airline?” he asked again.
“US Airways please.”
“See, I told you she was on my bus!” He told the other driver with a laugh, and then grabbed my bag out of the other mans hand and headed off with it. The driver that had just surrendered my bag to the other looked at me and laughed.
“Just follow your bags ma’am, just follow your bags! I wouldn’t let him out of sight with them if I were you!”
“Thanks – I think I’ll do just that!” I replied with a laugh of my own.

The man behind the counter at the US Airways ticket counter surprised me a little bit. I've always found most US Airways folks to be just a little bit cool toward me, but not this time.
“Well hello and welcome back! I haven’t seen you here in a while!” He said with a huge smile.
“Oh I’ve been here, but probably flying your competition. They put me on what ever airline and flight is cheapest, so I’m Gold with you guys and platinum with Delta.”
“Yeah, I recall your being Gold from the last time I took care of you. OK, so let’s see – they have you set for a long day don’t they?!” he said as he pulled up my itinerary and looked at it. “Wow! They have you sitting in Charlotte for four hours! Let’s see if we can get something better for you, shall we?” he said with a genuine smile, and then he started punching a bunch of keys on his terminal. Every couple of moments he would “tsk tsk” or say “nope, not that one”, and eventually he looked up at me with regret in his eyes.
“You know, I’m sorry, but there really are no other options. All of the other flights are booked solid!”
“That’s all right, I appreciate your trying for me. Besides, I just remind myself that I am getting paid to sit in the nice comfortable airport!” I told him.
“I guess you have a point at that!” he laughed.
“Yeah, it could be a lot worse! I could be busting my butt off outside in the cold rain for a living."
“Oh no, we don’t want that!!” he quipped.

Going through Detroit’s TSA checkpoint always makes me a little nervous because they use those full body scanners. You know, those marvels of science and engineering that make it real clear to who ever is looking at the monitor that I am most definitely a guy? Before you get to that scanner though, you have to show your tickets and ID to a TSA inspector. The young man, maybe in his mid twenties, took my documents and looked at me.
“Hello . . . Matthew . . . “ he said loudly enough for everyone around us to hear. I didn’t know if he was just thoughtless, or if he was trying to be rude, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
“Good morning!” I told him with a smile. He kept looking at my documents and said something I couldn’t hear, so I asked him to repeat it.
“For fun?” he said again.
“I’m sorry?” I asked him. I was pretty sure that I heard him this time, but I had absolutely no idea what he meant.
“Are you doing this just for fun?” he clarified. Ah! Now I get it! He wanted to know if I was cross dressing for fun.
“Well, it’s not quite that simple, but I guess you could say that.” I told him, and still he kept looking at my documents.
“Let’s just say that I’m not running or hiding from anyone if that’s what you mean!” I told him with a laugh that he didn't return. At last he glanced up at me again, stamped my ticket, and passed me through.
Oh – the body scanner? Yeah, they made me wait and then frisked my chest again. You know, patting down my chest when I go through those things is so popular that I’m thinking about either putting a mouse trap in my bra or charging admission. . .

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"But its MY air!"

Well my customer in Albany finally said that they were ready for me to come install some of the systems they bought from my company. This trip was supposed to take place over a month ago but my customer just kept pushing the date back over and over. The bad news is that they were wrong – they weren’t ready and so the entire trip was pretty much a waste. Oh well . . .

A couple of weeks ago I bought my first pair of Palazzo pants and gave them a whirl on this trip. Quite honestly, I loved the way they looked and felt! I think they looked really classy and I just felt like I was pretty in them, so it doesn’t get any gooder than that! I paired it up with a pretty purple top that I have had in my closet for two or three years. The funny thing is, I almost got rid of this top a month or so ago having despaired of ever finding the right skirt to go with it. I sure am glad that I kept it though, because I think that these two together make a perfect outfit.

Albany NY 2011 09 29 007

Albany NY 2011 09 29 009
Just before the flight started boarding, the customer service rep called a few people up to the counter to exchange their coach seats for upgraded seats in first class.
“So does this mean that I get to fly in style today?!” I asked her with a smile while handing her my ticket for exchange.
“No dear, you are already flying in style, but now you get to fly in comfort too!” She replied with a grin and a wink.

This was one of the few times I’ve had a flight attendant with Delta airlines that made it fairly clear that she didn’t care for me at all. She spoke to me as little as possible, only to ask me what I needed. She never once smiled at me and she never replied to me when I thanked her for odds and ends. I’ve received that kind of attitude on the more conservative US Airways before, but never on Delta. Bummer . . .

I had a couple of hours to kill in the Atlanta airport while I waited for my connecting flight, and so I went to the Delta Sky Club lounge where I grabbed a coke and a plate full of rabbit food (carrots and celery). I was sitting there crunching away on my snack and reading my book when a couple sat down next to me. I noticed the woman giving my outfit the once over and then she leaned my way.

“You know, your outfit is absolutely flawless and I love your shoes” she told me.
“Well thank you! I have kind of a thing for cute shoes!” I replied with a laugh.
“Oh, it’s not just the shoes, your whole outfit is terrific.” She assured me.
“Thank you. I was actually a little worried that maybe it was a bit too much.”

When I took my seat in the airplane from Atlanta to Albany, the man in the seat next to me was having an argument with the little air vent above his seat. It turned out that both or our air vents were broken – I couldn’t turn mine on and he couldn’t turn his off. He started to kind of fuss sarcastically at the flight attendant about it, clearly irritated that he was going to have the cool air blowing on him for the whole trip. Since I get pretty warm while wearing hip pads, nylons, makeup, and a wig, it seemed like a no brainer to offer to change seats with him.
“I’d be happy to change seats with you if you like?” I offered.
“You don’t mind the air?” he asked me with a doubtful look on his face.
“I don’t mind it at all – I’m actually hot and wouldn’t mind the cool air at all.” I replied.
He thought about it for a second and then got a playful look on his face.
“Yeah, but it’s my air!” he said with a laugh, making it clear that he was yanking my chain.
“And you are more than welcome to it too.” I laughed back.
“Yeah, let’s do it then!”

After checking in at the hotel, I stepped into the elevator to make my way up to the fifth floor where my room was, and a man jumped on just before the elevator door closed. Since he was going to the same floor I was, and the elevator was fairly slow, he decided to strike up a conversation.
“So what brings you here?” he asked pleasantly.
“Work. They’re putting in a new semiconductor factory just north of here and I’m installing some equipment that they purchased from my company.” I replied.
“Really? What company do you work for?” I always hesitate at this question, concerned about what might happen if he is in our industry and actually knows my company. Still, there’s no graceful and polite way past the question and so I told him.
“Neat! So semiconductors – that sounds familiar – what is a semiconductor?”
“Computer chips and that sort of thing.” I told him. A major simplification but I doubted that he really wanted an entire class on the subject.
“Ah – now I get it. By the way, my name is Trevor. Yours?” he asked while sticking his hand out. (for the record, I can’t recall what his name really was)
“Kim,” I said, shaking his hand. “Very nice to meet you.”
“So how long are you going to be here Kim?”
“That’s a real good question!” I replied with a laugh. “It’s going to depend on how prepared my customer really is and on how well things go. Probably two or three weeks though. And you?”
“Oh, I’ll be here about a week.” He said, and then as the elevator door opened and we both headed out “I hope we get the chance to talk again Kim.”
Then it struck me - was he actually flirting with me?!

Well, as I said at the start of this little story, it turns out that my customer was not really ready for us. The bad part is, it was my companies fault. They had asked our factory if they had to plumb a drain line or not, and our factory got their wires crossed and told them that it was not needed. This is no small deal as we are talking about something like twenty systems that all need this drain line installed now. Not only that, but since it will be transporting a hazardous chemical, great care and thought has to go in to it – it is not something where you just go buy some PVC at Home Depot and run your own lines. From my perspective, the worst part about it is that the customer is pissed now, and he was quite free in taking it out on yours truly even though I had absolutely nothing to do with the foul up. I couldn’t bring our systems up and into operation without the missing drain lines, but I there were still a lot of odds and ends I could get done, and so I managed to stay pretty busy until Friday.

Friday morning started with my having to do some laundry if I wanted to have clean clothes to wear. The hotel had exactly one washer and one dryer, but since I was there pretty early in the morning, it was wide open. I did a bachelor load - chucking my dirty work clothes, socks, and the bra I had worn on the trip there all in the same load. Since the machine said it was going to take exactly thirty minutes for the load, I headed back to my room to write up my report for the weeks work. When I returned about thirty five minutes later, I found that someone had moved my things to the dryer, and had even put in the $1.50 that was required to start the machine. I put six quarters on the washing machine to replace the money they had put in my dryer and then I took a seat to read my book while I waited. About ten minutes later a woman about my own age entered the room and we started to chat. I apologized for being late to move my things from the washer and she apologized for moving them. It was right about then that I realized that this would have included my bra and couldn’t help wondering what she might be thinking about that now. Her name was Jan, and she works for FEMA, and so much like myself, she travels a great deal. We swapped stories for the twenty minutes or so that it took for my laundrey to dry.

There was nothing else that I could accomplish with my customer until they got their plumbing problem fixed, and the only reason I was still in the Albany area was because I had a simple service call planned for another customer in the region Monday morning. That means that I more or less had the day off, and so I got cleaned up and headed out to do a little shopping and maybe to see a movie.

Albany NY 2011 09 29 027

The only movie playing when I arrived that I was at all interested in seeing, was the most recent Star Trek in Imax format. I’d already seen the movie, but thought that maybe the Imax version would be interesting so I gave it a go. After the movie, I browsed through the mall looking for bargains, and I actually found a couple.

This peach outfit wasn’t really a color I thought I would look awesome in, but I got a hell of a deal on it and so decided to buy it anyway. After getting it back to the hotel and trying in on, I’ve decided that it was a mistake as it really doesn’t flatter me. Anyone want it?

Albany NY 2011 09 29 028

The green dress below I wasn’t real sure about either. I know the colors work well for me but I wasn’t entirely sure about the style. What do y’all think – should I keep it or get rid of it?

 Albany NY 2011 09 29 035

Saturday I decided to make a movie day. I cant afford to shop anymore, and have no more room in my baggage for anything I might buy anyway, so movies sounded like a good way to kill the day. First I watched “Killer Elite” and then “Abduction”. Both were pretty good movies, better than most I’ve seen recently, but not really anything I’d rant or rave about. I had to laugh as I entered the theater for “Abduction” – it stars Taylor Lautner, the guy who plays the werewolf in the “Twilight” movies, and the theater was full of girls and women, with only one man to be found in the room - assuming that you don’t count me that is  . . . 

Albany NY 2011 09 29 049

Albany NY 2011 09 29 057