Friday, December 5, 2014

Thanksgiving - going home.

Everyone loves a kitty...and this one (female, of course) is learning to be a good QVC shopper.  Hmmmm...soon our son better lock up his credit cards and the computer keyboard!

Kitty intently watching QVC...

Our son, his fiance, my wife and I visited a few small stores on the Friday after Thanksgiving.   Not at popular shopping sites for "door-busters" or "holiday deals" mind you, only for little things like gluten-free noodles for dinner (future D-I-L is gluten-sensitive), model trains and so on.    It was late enough in the morning that the only really popular stop we visited (Lowe's) wasn't crowded - deals had all been sold out by that time. 

While our son and his fiance were checking out their purchases, they suggested that we drive over to Chick-Fil-A (closest restaurant), buy our lunch, and they'd meet us there in a few minutes.

Well, that sure turned out to be a good idea gone very bad.   The place was jammed - with a line 20 cars deep on the street (insert memories of the 1970's gas station lines here...)  We had to park in an adjacent store parking lot and walk back to the restaurant.  There were no tables available, inside or out.  My wife looked in the window and decided to stay outside (she hates elbow-to-elbow crowds and snaked lines to the order counter), leaving me in line to order our food.

Eventually, I heard "Ma'am - Ma'am?"  I looked up and the clerk was motioning me to the next register. "I'll take your order over here, Ma'am."  I respond to everything...male or female.   Moving to the next register, I gave her our order, paying in cash.  "And your first name, Ma'am?"  So I gave it to her, and she never raised an eyebrow. "Stand over there, (insert real first name here) and I'll bring it to you."  I did, and she did.  And her closing greeting was in the feminine gender...

This excellent treatment truly surprised me, considering the blatantly anti-GLBT opinions very publicly expressed by Chick-Fil-A's owners a couple of years back, and the issues subsequently brought to light on the internet by some of their employees.  I truly was expecting the worst.  In fact, this was the first time we've patronized them since that brouhaha (they lost our business after that.)

This visit, the food was just average...not exactly bad, but very far from the former "excellent".  Since lines for service were long, it could be attributed to rushing food along, to minimize wait times.  The bright side was that the owners' beliefs weren't being inflicted on their customers by the staff.  

Needless to say, there were no open tables, with many groups of people standing around (holding their meal trays) and waiting to pounce on the first open table.  The din of so many people talking loudly in order to be heard by their table-mates, was distinctly uncomfortable, and most unpleasant.  Ugh.  So we retreated to the quiet of our car to eat...

We may give them another try on a less-busy day, to see if their food returns to the excellent quality of "back in the day." Or perhaps they've sunk to the level of mediocrity found at other fast-food chains...cutting costs (i.e. quality) to improve financial returns.

Saturday, we treated the kids to a sit-down type restaurant.  Yes, away from the malls, but it was still crowded.  We were addressed as "folks" by the greeter, and when the server appeared, she interpreted me as "Sir."   Soooo...the pendulum definitely swings both ways.  But the four of us were all together, thus it probably was a good thing.

All too soon it was time to head back to Atlanta...our departure grew near.   First stop was the rental car office, where we turned in the car, a popular compact Japanese model touted as "economy," but which provided only 29-31 mpg over the road, had no throttle response whatsoever, and a very small "open trunk area."  Good riddance.   My Ford Focus (larger and heavier, with more miles on the odometer) typically gets 32-34 mpg under the same general open-road driving conditions, with lots of pep - and a bigger, enclosed trunk.  Guess folks prefer the Japanese car because it's "imported," not because of performance.  A week's rental before buying could be a fabulous decision-making tool.  (Just my humble observation - and yes, we do that.)

The male store manager on duty, recognized me from several previous rentals there...and I was "Sir."  Despite my androgynous outfit, and feminine cues such as purse, hair, nails and flats.

Since we choose to arrive in Atlanta early and avoid afternoon traffic issues on I-75, we stowed our bags at the train station, and  hopped a cab into midtown Atlanta.  Our plan was to walk around a bit,  then eat at one of the upscale hotels on 14th Street.  Obviously, we can't afford to patronize them for an overnight stay - far too pricey. 

When we arrived, the restaurant wasn't open. So I walked into the lounge (very few patrons there) and asked about food.  I was greeted as a female, and the female server was very friendly.   We decided to come back for dinner and told them we would.   As we left, the front door staff bid us a swift return, and I assured them we'd be back in a while, after a short walk in the neighborhood...

About an hour later, light was fading (no more pictures), so we gave up our local touring and returned.  There were a few more patrons this time, and the server was glad to see us..."Glad you came back...right this way, ladies."

A festive pricey hotel, the Four Seasons in Atlanta.

Yours truly, waiting for our meal....

We knew our dinner would be very expensive, and it fully lived up to that expectation...$5 soft drinks, $9 soup (huge bowl) and $18 burgers.   But the hotel was festively decorated, and presentation of the food was to a much higher standard than your typical "burger in a bag."  And much tastier, as well...  It was an IMMENSE burger...I almost couldn't finish it, and I couldn't finish the fries...same for my wife!

The nicest presentation of a hamburger and fries that we've seen...we liked the individual servings of condiments.  Eliminates the chance of adulteration of the condiment bottles.

Our server was very attentive, didn't vary from "ladies" - thus she was rewarded with a nice was the bellman who summoned a cab to take us "two ladies" back to the train station.

We've hoofed it back to the station during daylight hours on previous visits - it's a little over a mile.  However, we chose not to risk it after dark.  Two ladies walking alone after dark on quiet business district streets in an unfamiliar city...with purses...would be prime mugging candidates.  I didn't want to become Atlanta's latest hate crime statistic, and end up being a headline on CNN (whose Atlanta offices weren't far away.)   And the driver said "thanks, Ma'am" when I gave him a tip. 

The train station was hopping...much more crowded than the last three times we were there.  Truly SRO (Standing Room Only), majorly overcrowded, and noisy.  Not a chance you could even hear announcements.  Ugh.

When it was time to board our train for the trip north, we (or more appropriately, I) was recognized by both the Conductor and sleeping car attendant (who coincidentally both said something to the effect of "Sir, you rode with us a couple times last summer, didn't you?" He was right.

Likewise, the female server in the dining car recognized me as well.  But she remembered me differently - "Hi there girlfriend, glad to see you on my train again.  Where is the pretty lady traveling with you?"  And we chatted for a minute before my wife came in...of course, I only used my wife's name, not "my wife."  And nothing more was said as we ate our meal...the diner got very busy.

That's why I'll stick to androgynous outfits and light makeup when on trains we customarily ride.  Crews tend to remember me,  and that could be a problem if I'm in a skirt.  On my planned January trip, there are two such trains.  All the rest are fair game for dressing...subject to people from the event I'm attending out west being on board.   It'll be a judgment call each time.

On the commuter train enroute back to Baltimore (where there were no miss-identifications - but no "Sir" either),  I casually mentioned to my wife that I'd seen an article on line about the best way to combat gray hair roots...dye the hair blonde, and gray won't show. 

In return for my suggestion,  I got a serious version of her classic wifely "stink eye" stare,  followed by her "suggestion" that it's time for me to go completely gray and get a haircut "like other geezers who haven't gone bald quite yet."  

My immediate response: "Sorry, dear...not happening.  I'm not voluntarily adding at least 5 years, maybe 10, to my apparent age.  There's lots of time for that when I get old."  As you can imagine, that wasn't the "correct" response (she obviously was hoping for "Yes, dear, right away dear.")  Since we were out in public, she clammed up, meaning the end of THAT discussion.  (And, curiously, nothing more has been said since we got home!)

What could motivate her to prefer that I look older than my actual age?   Perhaps she's thinking that she appears older than me already?   Or maybe it's the concept that an old, gray-haired man with a men's short haircut, wearing leggings or stirrup pants with pantyhose and a blouse or top, makeup and lipstick, long manicured nails, feminine eyebrows and ballerina flats with a purse, isn't as likely to be "miss-taken" for a female.  Have we gone full-circle now?  Time will tell.

Meanwhile, "back here at the ranch," my long hair and other feminine cues live on.  Nothing more has been said since getting home.

All in all, we had an enjoyable and successful visit, and spent lots of time with the kids in their new house - a wonderful trip.  But we decided that, because of the huge quantity of "things" we always seem to haul south, and the messes at the Atlanta rail station (near-fisticuffs on the way in, huge crowds on the way out), our next trip will most likely be by car.  That should be another type of adventure....

Hope your Thanksgiving was good, too!



  1. Mandy
    This was an excellent combination family reunion, travelog, dining guide, hair and makeup and scenic tour blog post.

    I am glad that the trip to visit your son went well. I can see the benefits of train travel if you have the time.

    Chick Fil-a got a bad rap. It has always been a faith based business and there are segments of our secular society that look to bash all manifestations of faith. To my experience the food and service has always been good, except if you feel like eating there on a Sunday.

    I will put the Four Season's burger on my 'things to eat list'.

    I do get a kick out of how you get identified...sometimes as a man, sometimes as a woman and sometimes simply leaving a big question mark in the minds of those you meet.

    My once black/brown hair has long been white but during its "salt & pepper" period I had given some thought to color but the effort to do it seemed daunting.

    What you say about dying lighter as camo for gray makes sense. My mother and her 5 sisters as well as most women of that generation that I knew all started out as brunettes but as they aged they all became lighter, blonder, etc. I am sure that it was because gray hair does not show up on blonds or lighter color hair as much as it will on darker hair. My wife still has beautiful honey strawberry blond hair and I never notice any gray although she seems to know when one comes in as soon as it hits.

    You may consider doing what many women do as they age. With each new color session go one shade lighter. Do not make the switch all at once but make a slow and gradual move towards the lighter end of the spectrum. The lighter you get the less visable your grays will become.

    While I cannot and do not present with any feminine cues when I am out of the house my wife has become resigned to seeing me in dresses, skirts, hose and heels around the house. Like you, I will occasionally get the snide quip or comment or 'stink eye' but I suppose she has started to acclimate to the fact that I am the same wonderful, likeable, loving person regardless of whether I am in pants or a skirt.


    1. Thanks so much for the kind words about my post...I certainly do enjoy writing! And now that I'm retired, we have the time to take the train. Even if it's a bit late, that's not an issue for us...

      I sort of let my hair get lighter each time it's dyed. But eventually I'll get the "stink eye" and instructions to darken it up. Hopefully by the January trip it'll be a bit lighter...

      I hope that one day, I can identify as a woman more of the time. But till that day dawns, I have to be satisfied with the status quo. And as for being identified as a man, woman or "?" - it's sort of like the proverbial "box of chocolates." You never know what you'll get. That's part of the fun!

      Though you don't get to present with feminine cues, it sounds like your wife is becoming more comfortable with you in skirts. And that's a good thing! Let's hope she will agree to let you dress for your train trip!



  2. Just to update you on how you may be influencing me. My toenails have been painted for about a month. The color is similar to the background color on your blog. She made one brief comment when she first saw them and has not said a word 'stink eye' either.

    This weekend I wore my bra and cami under my guy clothes alone with pantyhose with no socks the entire weekend. She made one short comment about my 'man boobs' and the fact that people could see I was wearing pantyhose. I said that most people would not be even remotely observant of these aspects of my presentation. Friday and Saturday night we went out to eat and Saturday we went to a local show. We ran into a golf buddy of mine and his wife. I chatted with my arm crossed in front of my chest.

    Sunday we went shopping and half the time I was carrying her pocketbook, bags from a ladies shoe store, etc in addition to having small breasts and pantyhose clad ankles. I have a pair if 'chicken cutlet, enhancers that I wear in my bra that give me a small set of 'moobs'.

    I look at these wardrobe adjustments as small steps for womenkind. It is part of prepping her for the auto train.


    1. Wow, sounds like things are going well! And I'm glad that my adventures are an inspiration! The fact that you aren't getting any serious flak is fabulous...and having no issues from seeing your friend and his wife should be very encouraging to your wife.

      Keep that Auto Train trip in your may just happen this year!