Her itinerary was to travel to Baltimore overnight Thursday, then Friday morning on to New York City (and a planned meet-up with Marian, one of the bloggers here on Blogspot). From there, on to Chicago for a Saturday business meeting (not TG/CD related). And lastly, join up with the better half, who was visiting her sister in the area, and return to Maryland (with Saturday and Sunday in androgynous mode.)
Thursday was, well, enlightening. I left home in a skirt and top, avoiding our neighbors and wearing the new makeup I got earlier in the week. First stop was the cleaner’s, to pick up a pair of shorts. Now bear in mind, this cleaner's was 20 miles from home and has a branch in my home town, which I chose not to use, for obvious reasons. As I got out of my car, what did I see, but our neighbor’s new car - 2 parking places from mine, right in front of the cleaner.
Now you probably have noticed that just about every neighborhood has one resident who is, shall we politely say, “enlightened in everyone’s business, and willing to talk about it.” My own neighborhood is no exception to this, which is why I quickly learned what he drives. So I got back into my car and moved it to a parking place further away, to watch for a while, and wait. In about 5 minutes he came out, got in his car, and drove off. It would have been a bit of a surprise for both of us, had I walked in, with him there. My extra vigilance paid off...big time.
Second stop was at a Dress Barn, to search for a new top to go with my red and black print skirt. I'm somewhat "fashion-challenged", and didn’t know what color would look OK (other than solid white or black). So, I needed assistance. But my presence in the store wasn’t even acknowledged. There were customers in the store, but they seemed to be gossiping with the staff, and nobody bothered to say a word. After looking around a bit, I left. It was their loss, though...since I was prepared to *gasp* actually spend some money "not at a Goodwill"!
The reason I chose that particular store was simple, “It was there and so was I.” The neighborhood in which it was located was “highfalutin” and snobby, but I was hoping that the hired help might not be "cut from that same piece of cloth." Or maybe they were just busy? Don't know for sure. Am I going to write a complaint letter? I probably should, because they deserve it, but probably won’t...one foot is still in the closet. However, I WILL try another Dress Barn, in a less snobby location, and at a more favorable time...like first thing in the morning.
Mandy at the National Electronics Museum near Baltimore. Rest assured the skirt's red, not orange!
Mandy at the outdoor display of the 90mm antiaircraft gun.
The rest of my afternoon was spent at the National Electronics Museum in a suburb of Baltimore, which features displays of electronic “things” from the beginnings of the electronics industry (and electron tube products) to post-cold-war/Vietnam era aircraft navigation and radar units. There was also a a small microwave (an original microwave oven) and infrared display. Does anyone remember the US Air Force BOMARC anti-aircraft missile (vintage 1961 thru 1972 - a forerunner of today’s drones)? There was a display about that, too - but unfortunately, not one of the missiles itself. They also have a ham radio station there, but it was not active that day.
When I finished at the museum, it was off to my hotel for the night. When I checked in, the clerk was not well, so she was probably not performing “by the book”...no gender-specific forms of address at all.
Off to Timbuktu - but to get there I never set foot on an airplane. Notice the seated camel behind the sign?
After getting settled in, I chose a local establishment with an interesting name - Timbuktu - for dinner. Decor-wise, and food-wise, it really isn’t anything special...just your average local lounge, with average food and average clientele. However the name itself is mystical. For the geographically challenged, Wikipedia says Timbuktu is a town in the West African nation of Mali situated 20 km (12 mi) north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, with a population of 54,453 in the 2009 census.)
This was the only place where the dreaded S-word came into play. My server clearly saw me from head to toe, and spoke as I walked in, but the first time she came to my table she addressed me as Sir. Only once, so it could have been a slip of the tongue, but she couldn't miss my skirt and blouse, so that theory would be a stretch of the imagination. As a result, my tip was not of the magnitude I generally provide for servers who recognize my gender preference and address me properly.
But going back into the hotel, a gentleman held the door for me, so all was not lost!
Friday morning, I was up early for a good close shave and makeup application, in order to catch a Northeast Corridor train for New York City. Marian (a knowledgeable and insightful lady from the Big Apple, whom many of you will recognize as one of the bloggers here) and I have been corresponding for a while. We made arrangements to meet for the first time for lunch, when my train arrived in NYC. However, that day, a problem developed. She was able to alert me that her commuter train’s route into the city was blocked by a freight train derailment, effectively preventing her from getting into the city. Darn it anyway...we were both looking forward to meeting! So we're planning to try it again another time.
As I went downstairs to check out of the hotel, I was chatted up in the elevator by a younger guy, which really made my day! And this time, two different desk clerks addressed me in the proper gender, which is always a good sign.
Waiting for my train to New York was actually fun. Even though it was hot outside, I chose to wait on the platform - away from the huddled masses trying to stay cool in the sort-of-air-conditioned station. So, who did I see? Yep, a guy from my working life, getting off an inbound train. There was no issue, because he didn't recognize me. (Was it because men typically aren't observant? Don't know, but whatever the reason, it was a good thing!)
Some friendly women waiting outside included me in their conversation. One was a cancer patient who had lost her hair. She apologized to the me and the other girl for her appearance and offered to put on her hat. I spoke right up and told her that she certainly didn’t have to do that on my account - the best thing would be to just “make yourself comfortable, especially in this heat.” I told her that I'm in the process of trying to stop worrying about what others think. If anyone has a problem, it's THEIR issue. Both ladies liked that approach! I never did figure out if they knew I was TG/CD. Alas, they were riding coach, and I was business class, thus we wouldn't be able to sit together.
When I boarded the train, the Conductor knew who in Business was class boarding at that station, and addressed me correctly as Ms. Sherman. Hats off to you, kind sir!
Mandy enjoying business class accommodations on a Northeast Direct train.
Trenton, NJ has an interesting auto bridge which is equipped with their lighted town slogan..."Trenton Makes - The World Takes." I've wanted to get this picture for years, and was finally in the right place at the right time!
If the meetup with Marian had actually been happening, that Northeast Direct train I was riding took a delay enroute, which would have shortened our ill-fated lunch time by about 45 minutes. It appears that some things just weren't meant to be. As I mentioned above, we're planning to try it again... hopefully we’ll have better luck next time.
The change in plans gave me some time to stroll around Penn Station in New York, and buy a quick sandwich while waiting for my train west. Some observations from my 2-1/2 days spent as Mandy:
In Penn Station, nobody was paying any attention to the transgender girl in a skirt and blouse as they walked toward me...no noticeable double-takes or the like. Though if anyone turned around to look as they walked away I don’t know. And the "new me" doesn't really care - these folks don't know me at all!
It was warm in Penn Station (well, just about everywhere), and wearing a skirt and sandals felt heavenly. Like air conditioning for the legs. Is it any wonder why in hot weather, lots of women were wearing them? Pants and closed shoes are just awful... Why on earth don’t more men wear skirts? If they tried it, they'd love it!
With a touch-up on my makeup after boarding the train in Baltimore, then at about 3:30, and again at about 5:30 (dinnertime), my new makeup was still holding up well - meaning almost 11 hours. (Lipstick, though, not so much....I had to pull out the lipstick and compact several times to refresh my lips. And my cheeks turned red every time I had to do it in public... Guess I either need more practice, or need some long-lasting lipstick for weekends like this. Anyone have any ideas or suggestions?)
Once on the next train, I initially heard “Ma’am” from the staff. But as the afternoon became evening, and I gave up on trying to use my femme voice, some folks undoubtedly figured out what I am. Including the 20-something young lady they seated me with at the dinner table in the dining car. Nothing was said, but I'm sure she knew...in any event, she was very accepting, and we had a lovely meal together!
Clip-on earrings are a pain in the neck (or more appropriately, the ears)...and I wore them for 2-1/2 days. My earlobes may never be the same! Mom never had her ears pierced, and now that I'm wearing her earrings, I don't know how she did it. Having my ears pierced is not in the cards right now. But at least makeup and long hair can cover the little scabs that resulted!
My train took a delay at Albany, NY, so I had a chance to walk around outside in the tropical heat. When the train got moving again, and after having dinner, I finally hit the sheets in the sleeping car. That was the cue for Mandy's skirts and blouses to "climb back into the suitcase" for Saturday and Sunday...in favor of some androgynous outfits.
Maybe someday things will be different, or maybe not. Only time will tell what the future brings But weekends like this make Mandy’s play time seem all the more enjoyable. And I can live with that...
The tough part is going to be figuring out what to do as an encore!