Thursday, November 21, 2013

Jinxed . . .

I’ve been a pretty busy camper in the last few weeks, but very little that would be of much interest to most of you that bother to follow my blog. Lots of work and lots of travel, but nothing related to being Transgender.  I’m afraid that the medication that I am taking for my blood clot, combined with just life in general, have had me feeling worn out and exhausted, and so my secret life as Kim has been placed on the back burner.

My pretty classic Mustang has been a mixed blessing lately, presenting me with problems that I guess one should expect when trying to keep a 46 year old machine in operation. My first problem was my own damn fault, and I suppose that makes it so much worse. Feeling that someone else, or perhaps the Universe itself has screwed you over is one thing, but knowing that you yourself did something stupid and careless, and so you have no one else to blame, really sucks. The modern but used Mustang that I have just purchased as a replacement for our recently totaled Dodge Caliber, was in the shop for a suspension problem and so I was once again forced to use my classic Mustang as my primary transportation. And so it was that one morning I arrived at the airport and found myself pulling my suitcase out of the back seat of the old girl when I heard an ominous “crack” and “crunch” sound. I sat my suitcase down outside of the car and almost sobbed when I saw where that sound had come from. After making it 46 years without any serious damage, I had managed to shatter the rear of my center console by allowing the suitcase to hit it on the way out. My car has never been restored, and is not a “trailer queen” nor is she a show car, but if there is one thing that I can brag about with my car that very few can claim, it is that she is totally original. She has not been turned into a hotrod, she has not been updated, and she has not been modified. Hell, I only recently had to replace the original alternator, and I have it sitting on the shelf so I can take it and get it rebuilt so that I can put it back in! She is 46 years old and yet almost entirely the very same car that Ford produced so long ago. . . and I just shattered a highly visible and desirable component.  Depressed just doesn’t do justice to the way I felt for the next week any time that I thought of this. I eventually used super glue to patch it back together, but it looks awful, and the damage is very obvious. I am still trying to decide if I should try to find an original console that will also be 46 years old and every bit as fragile, or buy a reproduction that will be new, robust, black, and very expensive. I’m leaning toward a reproduction, but don’t have anywhere close to the thousand dollars that they sell for.
A week later, when I arrived back in Austin, suddenly she started running super rough and stalling out. I figured that I had pissed her off when I shattered the console and so she had decided to be petulant and petty in retribution.  It would start and run well for about five minutes, then run rough and stall for another five or so, and then it would suddenly run just fine for the rest of the day. While the carburetor was relatively new, I had had a few problems that I was reasonably sure were due to carburation, and so after replacing the fuel filter, I very quickly reached the conclusion that carburetor was my problem and just went and bought a replacement. After I installed the new one, the car ran far worse than it had, and I was close to despair. Five years or so ago, most of my knowledge about cars was theoretical and “book learning”, with very little practical and hands-on knowledge. These days though, I feel pretty confident that I understand just about everything going on under the hood of my Mustang, and so it really irritated me that I had apparently got it wrong and still couldn’t figure out what was at fault. Still, since the symptoms had changed dramatically, I figured that either the new carb was flawed, or else I was on the right track. As I was troubleshooting the issue in an exhaust filled garage, my neighbor from across the street came over to see what I was up to, and so he and I went for a short ride in it. While we were at it, we kept hearing a loud hissing sound whenever I tried to accelerate, but we just couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, so we pulled over to try and run it down. To make a long story just a little bit shorter, almost by accident I discovered that when I had installed the new carburetor, I had placed the PCV valve hose on the wrong fitting, leaving a half inch wide fitting on the spacer plate under my carb wide open and sucking air into the engine. Talk about a vacuum leak! When I put the stupid hose where it belonged, my pretty little Mustang started to purr like a kitten again. So, the good news is that I had apparently diagnosed the original problem correctly, and it had been due to the carb. The bad news is, I had caused the second problem myself, and had to discover my stupidity in front of one of the few guys I consider a friend. Sigh . . .

As long as we are talking about classic cars, they had a car show not too far from where I live! They actually blocked the main street off, and had nothing but beautiful classic and antique cars parked along both sides of the street, and even right down the middle of it. There was no question that my family and I went to spend a few hours drooling over them.


Feeling inspired by the car show, I decided to find my most “retro” outfit for my next trip, and take my classic Mustang to the airport so that I could take a couple of pics with her. Nothing like a pin-up, don’t get me wrong, because I know I’m way too long in the tooth to get away with that these days. I just wanted to get a retro kind of photo, wearing an outfit that was sort of appropriate for the era of the car. I’ve got to be honest – I hate the pics. . .

I had to laugh at the absurdity of it all as I was having my own personal photo shoot. I stood my suitcase up a few feet away and used it as a tripod. There I am in the airport garage, walking to the camera and setting the timer, then almost running to get in front of the car before my ten second delay is up, and then trying to make it look like a casual photo:
Set timer
Aim Camera
Push button
Run for the car
Try to look like someone just happened to take your pic while you were sitting there, and try not to look like you had just all but sprinted in high heels.
Repeat process a half a dozen times in the hopes that at least one of these pictures will be worth keeping.
Try not to die of embarrassment when you notice that someone an isle over is looking your way as they see the repeated flash while walking to the terminal. . .

Once I grew tired of making an ass out of myself, I packed my camera away and then made my way through the parking area and into the terminal.  I was standing there and waiting for the elevator that would take me up to the ticket area, when a family of five arrived at the elevator – two young children, their parents, and an older woman that I assumed was probably the grandmother. They were loudly discussing if they should go up or down in order to get to the same place that I was headed to, and they ultimately decided on “down”. I stood there trying to decide if I should tell them that they would be better off by going up instead of down. After all, down would get them there too, they would just have to take another elevator when they got inside the terminal. Eh, what the hell. . .
“You would be better off going up. The top floor is where the ticket counters are.” I told the grandmother, who I couldn’t help but notice was looking directly at me as the others spoke.  Just then, my “up” elevator arrived and so I stepped into it, and after a very brief pause, the family all piled in with me. As the doors closed, the mother looked at me and spoke.
“Are you sure?” she asked, kind of hesitantly.
“Absolutely positive!” I replied with my best voice and a wink.
The whole time, Grandma was looking straight at me and I saw her lift her hand to cover her mouth as she let loose with a small laugh. Clearly she had just decided that I was indeed a cross dresser and thought it was fairly amusing. The rest of the family wasn’t far behind her as they all started exchanging amused looks and smiles with each other as the elevator made the climb.
‘Thank you, thank you very much! I will be here all day for your amusement and pleasure!’ I thought to myself, imagining taking a small bow.

I was going to Toledo Ohio, but it turns out that Detroit is the closest major airport, and so I knew that when I landed I still had an hour drive to look forward to. I suppose this made me a bit impatient with the whole rental car process, but I was really irritated when I tried to board the rental car shuttle bus. There were only eight or so people in front of me boarding the bus, but they all had apparently agreed in advance to stop right inside the doors, drop their bags right there, and block the entrance so that someone, oh say, like me, with two large bags, would have no way in hell of getting past them. An almost entirely empty bus, full of empty seats, and they were standing there and blocking the way so that I could not get my bags past them to place them in the bins. I just kept looking at them, waiting for them to figure it out and move aside, but the few that even bothered to notice, just stared at me and stood there.
“Fuck it”, I thought to myself and just left my bags standing right there inside the door. “If the driver hits the brakes, y’all are gonna get two heavy bags up against your ass ends!” I finally just stood there and grabbed one of the vertical bars in preparation for the bus ride. I guess the driver noticed the situation, because he made his way back, and more or less shoved his way past them all, and made them step aside so that he could put the bags away himself. I was almost disappointed, because by that point I was looking forward to seeing my 50 pound tool box smack one of them in the backside. Have I mentioned that I am tired and irritable lately?

I’ve got to tell you, I picked one hell of a day to road trip from Detroit to Toledo! There were massive thunder storms and the radio was constantly warning about Tornados. It was raining so hard that on multiple occasions cars were either pulling off of the freeway or were slowing to 25 MPH and turning on their hazard lights because you couldn’t see the road anymore. It was with immense relief that I at last pulled into the parking lot to my hotel, but I now had a dilemma – the wind was incredibly strong and the rain was all but biblical. I really wasn’t looking forward to making my way from the car to the hotel lobby in it.  I figured out that I could at least mitigate the situation by pulling my bag out under the overhang in front of the hotel and then parking the car, so that’s exactly what I did.  As I was taking my bag out of the trunk, I learned why it’s a bad idea to wear a dress with a full skirt during high winds. With both of my hands occupied trying to get my bag out of the trunk, I suddenly found myself blinded by my own darn dress when it lifted in the wind and all but covered my face. Dropping my bag, I grabbed my dress with one hand and held it down where it belonged, and used only the other hand to grab the suitcase. I really have no idea if I saved myself any heart ache with this plan or not, because even though I had done all of this under the cover of the overhang, I was still soaked as I got back into the car. I got my car parked, and after grabbing my dress with one hand, and my umbrella with the other, I ran like hell for the lobby. I didn’t bother to open the umbrella – there was no point in this wind. It wouldn’t have helped to keep me dry in this heavy wind and rain, and would almost certainly have just been shredded. As I ran through the down pour, I couldn’t help but think of how amused my wife’s uncle would have been if he could see me now. Just the other day we were talking about some of the cold places that I traveled to for work, and he had made a wisecrack about how it must be something to have a cold wind blowing up my skirt. The way that I figure it, that asshole must have jinxed me . . .

Saturday, October 12, 2013

It aint purty . . .

It has been a fairly rough two or three weeks for me to be honest. Remember how I mentioned on my last blog that I was apparently so nervous that my leg was shaking so badly that it was bouncing up and down? Yeah, well it turns out that it had nothing to do with my case of the nerves. Over the next few days my leg began to hurt for no apparent reason, but it was a gradual thing that kind of snuck up on me in small stages until it got so bad that it couldn’t be ignored any longer. . .
Toward the end of that service call in Detroit, I received word from my manager that I needed to change any plans that I might have, and to fly directly back to Portland where I had recently installed a system for a huge customer of ours there. When I had been there, the customer really had not been ready, despite their demanding that we get there quickly and on short notice. Well, after I had done all that I could do given their lack of preparedness, I had moved on to other customers while they resolved their problems. Anyway, they had corrected their issues so that our system should have been able to run as designed, but it didn’t, and guess whose job it was to go figure it out and fix it? Throughout that week working to correct several problems with our system, I had the poor luck to get sick, and at the same time, my leg just kept hurting worse and worse. There is nothing quite like trying to troubleshoot a complex system, with a pissed off customer standing right behind you, while running a fever of 102 and just barely able to walk. By the time that I flew back to Austin the following Saturday, my leg was hurting so bad that I had to stop and take a break on the short walk from the airplane gate area to the baggage claim. This was pretty much the point where it couldn’t be ignored any longer or written off as just another sucky artifact of getting older. When I got home I discovered that my left calf was about 15% bigger than my right, and it was a distinctly darker shade as well. What the hell?

Sunday morning my wife started in on me to go to the ER, but I flat out refused. I had been dealing with this for over a week, and while not fun, it didn’t strike me as urgent enough to go to an emergency room. I did think it was a big enough problem to warrant at least trying to get into the “after hours” clinic, so I gave them a call. As soon as I described the symptoms and told her that I fly a lot, she told me not to come to the clinic, but to go directly to the closest Emergency Room. She agreed with my wife’s’ conclusion that it was probably a blood clot in the leg, and the danger was that if part of the blood clot breaks off and moves to the brain or the lungs, it can apparently very quickly turn into a life threatening event. Awesome. One day off in two weeks and I was going to be spending it in the E.R.

When I got to the local E.R. and told the lady behind the counter what the clinic had told me, they threw me to the top of the waiting line, and I essentially walked right past everyone else that was waiting there. That sort of tells you that they thought it was a big deal anyway. Soon, I was wearing one of those stylish paper robes, and laying on a bed while a technician ran the probe for a sonogram up and down my leg. As soon as he realized that I was breaking my neck to see his display, and that I was genuinely curious about what the machine was showing us, he and I started having a nerd conversation about the display and how to interpret it. It didn’t take him long to find a clot/blockage that was about five inches long.
“No way?!” I joked with him as he pointed it out and began tracing its length. “You got that lucky that fast, and found the thing already?”
“Ummm . . .” he started, clearly uncomfortable. “I don’t think I would call this lucky if I were you.”
“Oh believe me, I ‘get’ that part of it; this aint good or lucky, but at least you found it.”
“Awe shit!” I said after thinking for a minute. “Now I gotta go home and tell my wife that she was right. I HATE telling my wife that she is right.” Clearly he was a married man, because he started laughing so hard that the wand started bouncing around so that he had to stop working for a minute.
“Well, the good news is that you won’t have to tell her for a while, because I doubt that you’re going home tonight.”
Once he was done with the sonogram, I ended up back in my original ‘room’, and before too long the nurse was back to talk to me.
“Well, it looks like you’re staying with us for a while, so I’m going to go ahead and insert an IV now, OK?”
“No way. No one said squat about poking holes in me when I got here! Take all of this junk off of me – I’m outta here!” I told her. I waited for a second to see if she would figure out that I was teasing, and since I wasn’t sure, I let her off of the hook. “I’m just teasing – go right ahead.”
“So which arm would you like me to put it in?” She said with a small laugh.
“Damned if I know. To be honest, I’m kinda fond of both of them.”
“Oh, so you’re gonna be one of those patients huh?”
“What?! No, not me! I’m the kind of patient who knows better than to piss off the woman that is about to stick a needle in my arm. How about I shut the hell up now?” I told her with a smile, and then kept my mouth shut while she inserted the needle and taped it to my arm. For the record, she did an outstanding job and I felt very little discomfort. After she got that accomplished, I was left alone for another ten minutes or so before the cutest doctor I have ever seen entered the room. She was a petite woman, probably no taller than five foot, and she had long black hair falling straight down her back. To make a long story just a little bit shorter, she confirmed the blood clot, but decided that it did not require me to stay in the hospital. She gave me a prescription for something that is supposed to get rid of the blood clot over the next three weeks, and told me that I shouldn’t fly for a while. I actually laughed when she said this, but I didn’t tell her why – I would rather drop dead on an airplane than to risk my job by telling them that I wouldn’t be able to travel. The nurse and I both had a laugh when she came back into the room to take the IV right back out of my arm.

The very next morning, I left on a nine hour drive to Quapaw OK for a repair there. I was supposed to have taken care of this guy the week before, but had to put him off to take care of the situation in Portland. Since I’d already screwed him over once, I wasn’t about to call him and say “Sorry, not feeling well, so I aint gonna be there . . . again . . . “
I was fine for the drive there, and for working the next day, but the drive back home got a bit exciting. I had been driving for about six hours, and had just made it through Dallas when I started to black out behind the wheel. Just to add a dramatic touch to it, I was in a construction zone, with concrete walls on my left, and an 18 wheeler on my right. There was no warning and no signs that it was coming. One moment I was fine, and the next moment the whole world was almost entirely gray and my head was falling toward the steering wheel. Fortunately it passed very quickly, and I never was entirely out of it, but it scared the snot outta me. Just as soon as it was possible, I pulled off to the side of the road and sat there until the dizziness passed and my heart stopped thundering in my chest. When I thought that I was up to it, I pulled back on to the freeway and drove the rest of the way home at a more stately pace, scared and nervous the entire time that it might happen again.

The next week, I put that whole “do not fly” concept to the test and headed for New York City. I’m not sure if it is a side effect of the clot, or of the medication that they have me on, but I am super exhausted all of the time, and I keep having fevers that come and go. I was so exhausted the morning that I headed out, that there was no way in hell I was going to fly pretty, and by the time I arrived in New York, all I did was check in to my hotel and go straight to bed.
The next day I had a ten hour work day, and then went straight to bed again.
The day after that I didn’t have the choice to go straight to bed. I worked almost a ten hour day, and then had to drive eight hours to my next customer in Painted Post NY. It shouldn’t have taken that long to make the drive, but when you try to drive through the New York City area during rush hour . . .
The following morning was my 26th wedding anniversary, and I spent it a thousand miles from my wife, working all day in Painted Post, and then driving five hours back to NYC to catch a plane home the next morning.
Friday morning I had to get up at 345AM to catch my flight home, and to say that I was "tired" just doesn’t do the feeling justice. Anyway, when I got back to my home town on Friday afternoon, I figured I would stop and get my wife some roses since I had missed our Anniversary. As cheesy as it sounds, HEB (A Texas Grocery store) really does have a nice little florist section with awesome roses, and so that is where I stopped for them on my drive home. Stumbling bleary eyed through HEB, carrying my vase full of pink roses, I couldn't help but noticing that every single woman that looked my way was grinning from ear to ear. I figure that they were either thinking "I know what you’re up to!" or "I wonder what he did wrong?"

I made my way back out to my classic Mustang with the roses in hand, got the car started, and then was busy trying to get the flowers squared away so that they wouldn't fall over while I was driving, when a woman scared the snot out of me by knocking on the driver’s side window.
"Excuse me. Did you serve in the Army?" she asked when I got the window down. The question caught me by surprise, and given my state of mind, it took me longer than it should have to realize that she had probably just seen the "Army" license plate on the front of my car.
"Yes ma'am, I did"
"Well thank you for your service!" she said, reaching into the car and shaking my hand.
"Thank you, but no need. It was the smartest thing I've ever done!" I told her with a grin.
"Well, I just wanted to tell you thank you for your service, the flowers were a great choice, and I LOVE your car!" 
Considering my really shitty last few weeks, I was more than a little grateful for her words.
So, I am traveling quite a lot, but aint none of it pretty, and aint none of it fun . . .

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Get your own damned bag . . .

You know, I really couldn't tell you why, but for some reason I was a nervous wreck on my trip to Detroit this time. I was just filled with anxiety and nerves, but I had no reason or cause for the feeling. Well, no reason other than being a 48 year old male trying to pass as a 29 year old woman in a crowded airport anyway.

I wanted to cringe when the TSA inspector took my ID and ticket and then asked "Please state your first and last name."  Austin is the only airport that asks you to do that it, and I have no idea what the point is. Are they waiting for someone to say "my name is Achmed the bomber" or something? In any case, it’s a bit embarrassing for me because here I look like Kimberly but have to tell him out loud that I am Matt.  Grrrr. . .

It's been a while since my number came up, but as soon as I replied to the above question “My name is Matt Huddle”, a female TSA agent stepped up in front of me.
"Ma'am, you have been randomly selected for additional screening. If you will please follow me?"
"Sure," I told her, "this is the only lottery that I actually win ya know?"
Well, a few minutes later they had determined that I really wasn’t "Achmed the terrorist" and I was on my way to the gate area, where I took out my book to pass the time.
Not long after, they announced that boarding would begin soon, and so I grabbed my backpack and made my way to the boarding area where I stood around with about a dozen others who were also waiting to board. I still couldn't shake that nervous and jittery feeling, and much to my surprise I realized that I was so nervous that it felt like one of my legs was shaking.  I figured it was just nerves, and that it probably wasn't obvious to anyone, but I was wrong. I glanced down at my leg and discovered that it was visibly bouncing up and down, and entirely obvious should anyone be looking at me.
"Well this sucks!" I thought to myself. "It's gonna be real annoying if this starts to happen often!"  I just placed more weight on the traitorous leg until its shaking wasn't so glaringly obvious. The good news is that I calmed down for the rest of the day and so the problem went away.

As my connecting flight in Philly was taxing to the runway, the plane kind of jerked a bit to the right, and being subject to the laws of physics, the poor flight attendant standing in front of me went skidding to the left, almost falling into my lap. The male flight attendant that was talking to her started laughing once it was clear that the young lady was safe.
"You know, she almost wound up in your lap!" He said with a laugh.
"That's ok, I would have caught her! Well, I would have tried anyway!! I replied with a wink.
Later, as the plane was taking off,I struck up a conversation with the hapless young flight attendant. She was sitting in a uncomfortable looking chair right in front of me that was facing backwards so that we were essentially sitting face to face.
"So is that seat as uncomfortable as it looks?" I asked.
"Oh, yeah! It's straight up and down!" She said, with look of disgust on her face.
"I kind of figured since It looks like a couple of pieces of plywood with a little padding attached to it."
"So are you going home or going to work?" She asked me after a moment.
"Oh, I'm definitely going to work. Ive gotta go and earn my paycheck. How about you - are you headed home?"
"No, I’m from right here in Philly."
"I've only spent time in Philly once or twice, and as I recall, the hangover lasted almost a week!" I replied with a laugh. Of course she had no way to know it, but I was speaking of the night that I had hung out with Sophie in an awesome piano bar. These days, I rarely stay out terribly late if I am not assured of a day of rest to recover, but I was having so much fun that night that I had overlooked my personal guidelines on the matter. All kidding and attempts at humor aside, I had felt bad for a good three days after and have sworn to never do that again!

It didn’t take long to figure out that the guy seated next to me was not the overly chatty type. I’d made a comment or two on the flight and was met with little more than a grunted reply. Still, when the plane landed, I offered to hand him his bag from the overhead bin since I had the aisle seat and there wasn’t enough standing space left for him to get out of his seat. He proved that he wasn’t stupid when he waited until his bag was firmly in his own hands before he gave me a smug smile and said “Thank you sir!”
So help me God, if he had said that before the bags changed hands, I’d have thrown it right back in the bin. . .