Thursday, June 25, 2015

In Retrospect, A Few Take-Away Thoughts...

Some Take-Away thoughts about my vacation

Despite my own biggest shortcomings (voice issues, a bit of a weight problem,  and a lack of feminine curves), people tend to mind their own business, simply accepting me for what I appear to be.  If they didn't...and if there were constant hassles, these excursions would be much less fun.

Being dressed in women’s clothes was not a problem…  They look and feel fabulous, and are cool in the summer.  And most importantly, nobody cared what I was wearing...

When out and about en femme, we (collectively) can’t easily change presentation.  So if you get "cold feet," or feel a little self-conscious, why not just go on about your business and forget about what you're wearing?   Don’t even think about it.  You’ll be fine, as long as you follow safety precautions for women while you're out and about, particularly important after dark.

Through many of my vacation experiences, I “dressed the part" of a woman.  And I initially attempted (once again) to change my voice to a more feminine sound.  As usual, it wasn’t effective...if I raise my voice to a higher pitch, which admittedly sounds more believable, it cracks after a few words or sentences, depending on how much or how loudly I try to talk.  That leads to coughing, in "boy tones" of course,  which are more noticeable (and sound worse) than the boy voice I’m trying to disguise.  So when the occasion calls for an all-day skirted excursion, with repetitive speaking,  I just talk in a slightly softer normal voice, and avoid the coughing.  But it's clear that I definitely need voice coaching/training.  

Maybe someday…   

It didn’t seem to outwardly affect anyone that a lady (who was yours truly) was speaking with a deep voice.  They may have wondered about it silently, but were tactful enough to ignore it.  One of the females on the train sounded every bit as ‘masculine’ as I do.  (Could it possibly  be????   Naaahhh.)  Some women just have deeper voices than others.  So I guess beauty is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder….   

Those folks at the restaurant in NYC and the insensitive girl at the Queen Mary were most likely intentionally being nasty.  While I plan to continue to improve my presentation, I don’t think I’ll stress too much, over their (not so implied) criticisms.

I try my best to avoid restroom issues.  Despite the fact that "Bathroom Bills" failed in the 5 states where they were debated this legislative season, this really can be a complication for many of us girls who still aren't comfortable commingling with ladies in the loo.   In my own case, beginning the day with a touch of dehydration helped...dehydration as in omitting the large glass of orange juice and "cuppa Joe" with breakfast (caffeine works as a serious diuretic on me, as it does with many others as well...) 

On trains, with their unisex washrooms, using the toilet wasn’t a problem, nor was it at the meeting (private office and restrooms) or at either hotel.  In androgynous mode, the men’s room was appropriate. And, this time around, at least, I wasn't challenged by any men in the men's room (though it has happened on occasion…)  

In the Amtrak lounge at LA, I only used the women’s room in a skirt once.  I simply “held it till the lady passengers in the lounge cleared out once the next train boarded,” then proceeded to visit the now-empty women's room.  I used the men’s room there in a skirt once, too, right after I got back from my walk.  There were several women lined up outside the women’s room, and I needed a toilet imminently.  I didn’t meet anyone – the men’s room was empty.  I didn’t want any trouble…and didn’t have any.  (Surprisingly, no ladies followed me out of the ladies' room line and into the men's room.  Go figure.)

My clip-on earrings just aren’t comfortable.  Since getting my ears pierced at this time wouldn't be practical (the home front, you know), I need better clip earrings!

I also need a better-looking wardrobe!  But that may have to wait for a while, till I recover from the bills for this trip...or find what works in my size at a thrift shop!

And lastly, I anxiously await the chance to do something grand like this again.  Time will way to predict how soon it will happen.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Couldn't believe it...

The pink dress below is over 4 years old, and I haven't worn it at all for two years, or around my wife for at least three (in the past, she's rebelled any time I tried to wear it, even just inside the house.)  The reason: this dress is very short, and it's tough to keep my legs together enough to remain modest.  So it sat neglected in the closet, behind my everyday house dresses.   Back then, I wouldn't even think of wearing anything this short out in public.  Bending over without showing my panties was almost was crossing my legs in a feminine manner.


Today, in an attempt to force some summertime tan into my still-winter-white legs and shoulders, I announced to my wife that I was going to wear "the pink dress you dislike so much, to go sunbathing on the deck."  And she made no comment about it, except after seeing how I looked.   "Just be sure to keep those knees together and you'll be fine."  So I wore it from about 11 AM till about 3 PM, inside the house and out on our deck periodically, to sunbathe.   (Only burned my shoulders a little...)

With such a short hemline,  there's no way I could stop the "leg show" every time I sat down - it just happened automatically.  I guess that's something girls get used to at an early age.  And if I wear it more often, I will, too.  Since crossing my legs in typical feminine manner is still impossible, I tried to keep my knees as close together as possible, to minimize flashing my panties,  and only needed a few reminders to "close 'em up."

Wearing such a short dress felt fabulous.  I'd forgotten exactly how wonderful it can be.  And this time around, I heard no complaints.   Wow...that's another first!   I've got to try wearing this around here more see if the envelope may actually have stretched a little bit more.  I really like the look and feel of shorter skirts and dresses, even at my (advanced) age...

Since this particular dress is somewhat thin and a bit revealing (more like a nightgown in that regard), its best future may end up being "worn with a cami over a pair of capris or, in cooler weather, stirrup pants."  But perhaps my small success today will mean that someday I will find myself in a pretty evening dress of similar length, when I go out on the town!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Headed East - and more "firsts".

Headed East!  And another first…

Dinner on the Amtrak train that first night was a bit disappointing –  due to our late departure and the fact I was in the second sleeper, my reservation was much later than I like it, namely 8:30.  (Who wants dinner at 8:30?)  And, my table companions were not at all talkative.  But breakfast the next morning was an entirely different story.  The people I sat with recognized me from the previous evening, and he and his wife arranged to sit with me.

We chatted a bit about issues facing our country today.  It turns out that they were enroute to a meeting in Washington DC on the topic of Global Warming.   They used the correct forms of address for me, as did the dining car staff.  It’s more than a bit of a thrill to hear “and a burger medium well, for the lady” as they place it in front of you at the table.  (And then you realize that you’re the lady they’re talking about!   Nice....)  

Meals the second day were good, and much more timely.  Table companions were also good, and talkative.  Discussions were started by the woman, and were directed toward me.  It took several minutes for us girls to get the gentlemen at the table involved.  

They used the correct forms of address for me, and it was a pleasant evening meal - amongst scattered storms, with rain shafts and virga (rain falling from a cloud but not reaching the ground) all around us.  We also saw lightning in some of the storms.  (This area must be a fertile brewing ground – every time I'm on this train, storms are in the area!)  And the folks at my table actually still lived in Long Beach, within a mile of the Queen Mary.  Small world.

When I got back to my compartment,  I changed into my purple long house dress/nightgown.  Since it was getting warm in the car, I opened my room door and curtain as soon as I was decent.  And this precisely coincided with the arrival of the Global Warming folks, who were walking down the aisle. I was still wearing my makeup and jewelry with my house dress as I turned to head to the toilet down the hall, when I heard the man say (in the presence of his wife), “Oh my, you look very nice tonight, Mandy.”   Wow, compliments on my house dress and "evening attire" - another first!

The last morning on the train to Chicago found me up for an early breakfast, dressed in denim capris, black polo, pantyhose, flats and light makeup/jewelry – except no lipstick or earrings.  The dining car staff seated me with two men, who initially didn’t talk much to me.  But they warmed up quickly, once the female companion of one of the men sat down across the table from me.  I was introduced as “she” to the lady, who then began to chat with me (and then the guys got talkative once she did.)  After a rough start, it all seemed quite natural…and at the end of breakfast we really didn’t want to stop chatting, but had to.

When those of us with a 1 PM reservation in the diner went in for lunch, I was the leading lady in a string of four.  The server made it a point to have “all four of you ladies please sit right here.”  Having lunch with the girls at the "hen table" was such a fun experience, and the girls all treated me as one of them.  A fine way to end that train ride!

While waiting in Chicago for the train to DC, I sat with the folks from lunch, who continued to address me as “she” to the others she spoke with from their group.  I was quite flattered…

When I boarded the train back to DC from Chicago (the one which we frequently ride), the en-femme part of this excursion was "a thing of the past."   I still looked sort of girly, but nothing out of the ordinary.  And, at breakfast, I was addressed as “Sir” – despite the capris and flats.  

However, one more experience goes into the record we approached DC, the train crew announced that there was a shortage of Red Caps to help with luggage today, and for anyone who can handle the walk to please do so, to save the help for disabled folks and women.  So I walked into the station with my bags, to the Club Acela waiting room.  There, the clerk said "though they're short on Red Caps, women and the disabled can get them if needed," and "would you like one for your train, Ma'am?"  Of course I would...and it surprised me that she accepted me as a woman, due to my less-than-fully femme presentation.   But I'm certainly not complaining...and I did get a Red Cap.  Eventually.  Unfortunately the first one never showed, but just in the nick of time, the second one did.  And he got a very nice tip.   A good way to end a fabulous vacation!

Hopefully another trip like this will be forthcoming in the not-so-distant future!  Though right now, it's not in the works.  Meanwhile, I’ll end this series with a another spectacular sunset picture from on board the train!

Thanks for reading my blog!


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Beginning The Long Road Home…

Had a fabulous time at the Queen Mary, but all too soon,  it was “The Party’s Over!”   

My last morning in Long Beach dawned cloudy and cool (60’s.)   After having spent the entire previous day and the day before that in skirts it just felt right to do it again.   And it showed me that I’d really enjoy doing that each and every day! 

In retrospect, my reception by staff at the Queen Mary during the visit was generally “good.”  There were a few “Ma’am’s” or “Miss’s” but predominantly, there were no gender markers at all.   That’s fairly common back east (maybe out west, too?), and fine with me.  Nobody seemed to care how I was dressed, including the other hotel guests. 

Notable was my reception the first day (with me in androgynous mode), when I first dropped in at the radio room on board.  Two elderly docents were there, and they fawned all over me once they found out (by asking) if I was alone.  Then they seated me, and took my picture at the radio set (with my own camera), a nice gesture:  

There was only one instance of “Sir – Oh, excuse me - Ma’am” my entire two week trip.  That one blooper was made on the second day at the QM (with me in a skirt, blouse and flats) by a young lady peddling QM tours (some of which I chose to buy), who may have been uneducated in the proper etiquette for helping transgender folks.  Or, more likely, she could have had a personal "axe to grind" with the “guy in a dress” concept,  and was expressing her disapproval the only way she knew how, regardless of its extreme non-politically-correctness.  Unlike the gas station incident, this time I decided to ignore the issue.  Pursuing it would not improve the situation, and was likely to chew up more of my precious (and too short) time there.  And it could have resulted in a management apology letter being mailed to the house - not necessarily a good thing in my case, since it could arrive before my return. But rest assured, the incident was given some sunshine on the ubiquitous "how did we do" survey, post-visit.

My return chariot (a Blue Van) arrived on schedule, to carry me back to the Amtrak station.  Its driver was polite, and he used no gender markers for the few interactions we had, though the rear seat belt was a difficult to operate, and he had to help me fasten it.   (I admit to blushing at sitting there in a skirt and blouse, having a man help me with my seat belt!) 

Once underway, the traffic got crazy.  And I’d rather the driver pay attention to traffic, than worry about the right way to address me.  As it was, a Californian, crazily weaving in and out of lanes (this one must have been really loco, doing 15 mph over the speed limit while weaving) nearly took off our right front fender in an abrupt and un-signaled lane change.   My driver's quick reaction saved the day.   Blessedly,  we soon were back in my bailiwick, the very art-deco Amtrak station, without casualties. YAY!  (Before you ask, no, my short visit did absolutely nothing to convince me to relocate to SoCal!)

My first stop at the Amtrak station was the Metropolitan Lounge for sleeping car passengers, to drop off my bags till train time.  The girls checked me in, saw my now-female given name, and with my skirt, blouse and other cues, I was addressed as “Ma’am” the rest of my time there.  And as other passengers arrived, I was included in a couple of discussions, as a woman. 

I went for a walk around the neighborhood (it was relatively safe during the day…not sure about after 5PM).  First stop, the Avila Adobe, oldest house in Los Angeles (built in 1818).  Typical southwestern adobe style, with a beautiful central courtyard.  Needless to say, Mandy couldn't resist a picture!

Then I did some shopping in "Calle Olvera,"  the Olvera St. mall  - little shops and restaurants selling things with a Mexican theme – togs, toys, trinkets, and tacos - to pedestrians.  (Some of those pretty dresses were to die for!)  Neat place. If I ever get back solo, I'd love to end up in one of those pretty dresses, but I literally had no room in my suitcase this time!

And though I wasn’t people-watching,  in casual encounters I didn’t notice any folks doing obvious double-takes, like those folks at the restaurant in NYC.  I was just another woman out shopping, enjoying the now 70+ degree afternoon weather in the city.

I walked a little farther to the Pico House, a former hotel, long since disused, which was rehabbed as a historic building (and the ground floor opened for special events) since my last visit to the area.   The docent of the art display there was definitely convinced I was female. Then she recommended the fire house a few doors down, as they had a museum of old fire equipment.  

Her suggestion was definitely a good one, except for the minor fact that the elderly male docent there was convinced I was male (despite my feminine outfit), and acted accordingly, with the dreaded "S" word.  Some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you!  Fortunately after our initial interaction, I was on my own to look around the place, and it wasn't an ongoing issue. 

Finally, back at the Metropolitan Lounge in the Amtrak station, boarding time came.   I used the service of a Red Cap – again.  (This could become habit forming!)  What woman wouldn’t want to?  Especially with bags as heavy as mine felt to me.  He addressed me in the correct gender, but unlike other Red Caps, didn’t put the bags on the rail car for me.  He left that to my car attendant, who told the first 3 people he boarded (all men) that their bags were over the weight limit, thus they were on their own to move them.  I began to worry…mine were already close to the weight limit when I left home, and I had condensed my collapsible third bag into the other two before leaving the Queen Mary.  “This yours, Miss?”  “Yes, Sir.”  And he heaved it on to the car, stowing it in the luggage rack.  I guess it’s a known fact that women don’t travel light!

Before the train departed, I took my camera outside and asked if the car attendant would take a picture of me by the car.   He smiled and said something to the effect of “For you, sweetheart, I sure would.  Give me a big smile now!”  And the results…

More coming as I get it written!


Monday, June 15, 2015

The trip west...

Though I was planning to be in Chicago for a meeting, I scheduled my arrival for the day beforehand, to avoid a problem I had last time, namely: the train arrived well after the meeting concluded.  That meant I had some time on my hands for exploring  the area - in androgynous mode, as other attendees were “on the loose” in the area near the hotel.

After getting settled into my (expensive) downtown Chicago hotel room, I realized that I wasn’t far from the eastern end of “The Mother Road,”  US Route 66.  A few minutes later, I found the spot, and got this “beginning” picture.  Remaining elusive was the “ending” sign – it’s allegedly a few blocks away – I just haven’t located it yet.   Will try on another trip.

Shortly after getting the “beginning picture”, I glanced skyward, and was amazed at what I saw…a low-hanging cloud deck obscuring the tops of skyscrapers.  It’s a phenomenon I haven’t seen in a long time, and it definitely was a Kodak moment…

Anyone remember “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” series from the ‘70’s?   His "office" was in the Old Colony Building.  I found that building, which is now undergoing serious renovations.  And yes, the elevated train runs right next to his office, just like on TV!

The rest of my time in Chicago was centered around preparation for the meeting I was there to attend…and also for my day-after departure from Chicago. Nothing very interesting...

However, instead of traveling east and returning home as originally scheduled, everything came together for an opportunity to ride to the west coast in a very old (1948) sleeper/dome/round end observation, on the back of a regularly-scheduled Amtrak train.  How could I do anything other than say yes to that?  

WEEELLLLL - Easy answer:  Let’s go!   So away I went, for my “magic carpet ride.”  Very nice digs, big quantities of wonderful food, vestibule-riding available at will, good friends and a glass vista-dome for viewing the scenery.  (Rode through thunderstorms, complete with hail, lightning and torrential rain, in daylight and darkness. What an experience in a dome, and what a ride!  When do I leave to do it again?????) 

Yes, they're real flowers...

Needless to say, for the approximately 2 overnights and nearly 2 days of the train ride, no skirts or other fem-wear.  I was just my usual androgynous self, which the folks riding with me had seen previously.  So, no harm, no foul.   I was under orders from my wife to “not” show up around people we know in a dress (translation: nightgown.)  There was no need to, as the railcar had individual rooms with toilets and showers, so it wasn’t an issue.  But there were any number of reasons it could have been necessary overnight, which I pointed out to her, and I wouldn’t have any way to avoid it (such as derailments, plumbing leaks, broken windows in the night, etc.).  She knew those chances existed, but hoped they wouldn’t occur.   And she won that bet  -  nobody got to see me in a feminine nightgown.

I had been confident enough that the chips might fall my way, that I had previously made appropriate  reservations to check out a stateroom at the Queen Mary Hotel in Long Beach…just in case I never get back to southern California.  (You might remember that I had to cancel that destination in last January’s trip.)   It certainly didn’t take long for me to get the repeat opportunity! Moral of story:  Never give up!  (Keep that in mind, Jen!)

Sunset from the dome:

Western sunsets are particularly breathtaking...

And a picture of yours truly, as I got off the train in Los Angeles:

More later, when I have a chance to write...


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Chicago,and the train...

Though I was planning to be in Chicago for a meeting, I scheduled my arrival for the day beforehand, to avoid a problem I had last time, namely: the train arrived well after the meeting concluded.  That meant I had some time on my hands for exploring.

After getting settled into my (expensive) hotel, I found that I wasn’t far from the eastern end of “The Mother Road,”  US Route 66.  A few minutes later, I found the spot, and got this “beginning” picture.  Remaining elusive is the “ending” sign – it’s a few blocks away – I just haven’t found it yet.

Shortly thereafter, I glanced skyward, and was amazed at what I saw…a low-flying cloud deck, obscuring the tops of skyscrapers.  It’s a phenomenon I haven’t seen in a long time, and definitely it was a Kodak moment…

Anyone remember “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” series from the ‘70’s?   His office was in the Old Colony Building.  I found the building, which is now undergoing serious renovations.  And yes, the elevated train runs right next to his office, just like on TV!

The rest of my time in Chicago was centered on the meeting I was attending the next day…and the following day was departure from Chicago. 

However instead of traveling east and returning home as originally scheduled, the pieces seemed to fall together such that I had an opportunity to ride to the west coast in a very old (1948) sleeper/dome/round end observation, on the back of a regularly-scheduled Amtrak train.  How could I do anything other than say yes to that?  

WEEELLLLL - Easy answer:  I couldn’t…   So away I went, for my “magic carpet” ride.  Very nice digs, big quantities of wonderful food,  good friends and a glass dome for viewing the scenery, too.  (Went through thunderstorms with hail, lightning and torrential rain. What an experience in a dome, and what a ride!  When can I go again?????) 

Needless to say, for the approximately 2 overnights and nearly 2 days duration of the train ride, no skirts or other fem-wear.  I was just my usual androgynous self, which the folks riding with me had seen previously.  So, no harm, no foul.   I was under orders from my wife to “not” show up around people we know in a dress (translation: nightgown.)  There was no need to, so it wasn’t an issue.  But there are any number of reasons it could have happened, which I pointed out to her, and I couldn’t have avoided it.  She knew, but hoped it wouldn’t happen.  She won that bet and they didn’t get to see me in a feminine gown.

I had considered that the chips might fall my way, and thankfully made appropriate room reservations to stay a couple nights in a stateroom at the Queen Mary in Long Beach…just in case I don’t get back.  (You just might remember that I had to cancel that destination in last January’s trip.)   It certainly didn’t take long for the repeat opportunity! Moral of story:  Never give up!  (Keep that in mind, Jen!)

More later, when I have a chance to write it….


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Meet-Up - Two Years In The Making

They say "patience is a virtue..."

In conjunction with a trip to Chicago for a club Board meeting in Chicago, I planned a "circle" rail route, with a "several hour layover" in downtown New York City.   This was once again planned to include a meet-up with Marian, one of the ladies on this blog. 

My adventure began with the hotel room where I stayed the night before departure, having no electric heat when I turned it on.  There were two distinct systems in the room, one for heat and a separate one for AC, of which there was plenty.  Seems management turned off the heat for the summer once the daytime temperatures climbed into the 80's.  Their intent was to avoid people running the heating system at the same time as the air conditioner, and wasting electricity.   Well, it didn't take them long for them to throw the breaker for my room.  The clicking of the electric baseboards was a welcome sign - things can get chilly fairly quickly with 50 degree nights.

Then upon setting up my laptop, I found that the charging cord had started to disassemble itself, leaving exposed wires at a connection.  It might not last the trip, not to mention the safety aspect.  So, it was of to the races...well actually, I WAS racing - the rush hour.  My 20 mile one-way trip to the computer store was uneventful, and they actually stocked the necessary part.  However, my trip back to the motel was a nightmare.

Stopped traffic littered every road I wanted to use - fortunately all except my last hope - my last fail-safe to avoid sitting in "over an hour" or more of traffic.  I've often used this escape route, in spite of the fact that it takes me "miles out of the way, in the woods."  (Fortunately, living in the area has taught me how to use back roads.)   My normally-half-hour return trip to the motel took nearly an hour.  But I was moving all the time.  It would not have been so, if I had stayed on main roads.

And the charger worked properly...

Back at the motel, it was finally time to try on my next day's outfit.  The next day was to be a big event - Marian and I had been trying for a meet-up ever since the one we set up two years ago had to be cancelled due to the rail accident in NYC which cut off commuter train traffic from the 'burbs.  That meant a work-at-home day for Marian, and no meet-up.

This year, we were hopeful that things would work out...and they did! Marian was able to get into town without difficulty.   I arrived on the train north from Baltimore,  and we met at Penn Station.  From there, we walked several blocks west, to visit a new linear park which was built on the former New York Central elevated freight trackage which allowed freight to be delivered by rail to certain customers within the city.  Homage was paid to its former use in construction:  rails were left for folks to see, and integrated into the greenery and walkways. Plus, there are some local vendors at various spots along the way.  It's beautifully designed,  a wonderful asset to the vibrant downtown community, and very-well-used that day by many folks - obvious tourists like myself, as well as city residents, enjoying this new "object of entertainment." 

A picture taken while walking the linear park:

Below is a picture Marian took for Mandy, overlooking the Long Island Railroad Yard underneath the linear park.  This whole yard area is reportedly slated for redevelopment into new downtown buildings, providing employment and housing for many people.

After our walk, we ate lunch at a local eatery, then walked back to Penn Station by way of Times Square, in preparation for my catching the westbound train.

It was fabulous for Mandy to finally be able to be out and about again...far too many months since my last excursion.   This was a wonderful chance to finally meet Marian, and get to know her better "in person" as opposed to via the printed word.  Both of us certainly had lots to talk about!

We were generally well-accepted in the City.  Due to my androgynous mode of everyday dressing, you probably well know I don't live my life worrying that everyone who glances my way is suspicious.  However, there was one notable occasion -  as we were leaving the restaurant - where a couple made it plainly obvious that they were checking Mandy out. 

A likely reason:  Mandy's voice.   I've not yet had the privilege (and probably won't for a while, if ever) to receive any voice coaching.  My regular voice is unmistakeably masculine.  I can tone it down to a quiet, breathy level in an indoor environment, which I regularly do.  However, it's a strain, and I can't maintain it for very long.  Add a noisy environment such as a restaurant/bar, or outside on the street,  with traffic noise it's "all over but the crying" as I tend to revert back to my normal voice after a very few minutes.

My hair, eyebrows, nails, purse and manner of dress all provide me with many good feminine cues.  And they definitely help a lot.  However, voice could be considered an "anti-cue" as far as "flying under the radar" goes.   And I've felt for some time (but never acted on it) that I really could benefit from some padding which emphasizes the feminine curves I don't have.  Those are definitely some things I can strive for in the future, to enhance my womanly appearance...though success will not be assured as long as Mandy has to stay "behind the scenes."

Despite my "minor appearance inconveniences," Mandy had a fabulous time in NYC...Marian is a wonderful hostess!  And the experience only increases my enthusiasm for "being Mandy!"  I'm ready to meet up with her again, on my next trip west!

My trip from NYC to Chicago was uneventful...a decent dinner - alone as the diner was almost empty,  a change of persona into androgynous, and few chances to be mis-gendered.  However, the next two days would  be in androgynous mode...  I would be meeting people we know.

Part two is next...when I get it written!


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Gas Station Incident, & Old Steam

On the way home from Mom's the other day I stopped at one of those convenience store with gas pumps - you know...Wawa, 7-11, Sheetz, and the like.  It was time to fill up the daily driver.  So I did.  And pushed the little button to get a receipt.   But the machine didn't print one.  It's not the first time this store has had this problem.  If I stop 3 times in a month, and use different pumps each time, odds are that 2 times out of 3, there won't be receipts.  So I trudged in, to ask the clerk to print one, like I usually do.

However, the clerk was busy.  Very busy.  Unbeknownst to me till I was inside, four 4-door pickups worth of construction workers (about 14, more or less) had come in the back way, and were in line ahead of me, all buying their lunch.  Even though there were two registers behind the counter, only one clerk was on duty. At high noon, with construction nearby.  I suppose in a twisted sort of logic that makes sense - the store looks busy (and prosperous) at lunchtime.  (But that manager certainly isn't worth whatever the store owners are paying him...)

About 7 minutes later, she'd taken care of 2 of the customers. They were standing around at the end of the line, waiting for their friends.  So I was "staring down the throat" of another 30-40 minutes in line, just to get my puny little gas receipt.  That's just not happening to this girl.  I stepped out of line, walked to the front, and said to the clerk "excuse me, Miss...I just....", hoping she would simply press two buttons and print a quick receipt.  But she interrupted me and instructed me to "go back and get in line, Ma'am."   (See above comment about the quality of the manager, and now add to the list his/her employees,  whose "people skills" need a whole lot of refreshing.)

Needless to say, that "lit my fuse."   A rare occurrence, and it takes a lot to do that...

In my rather loud normal - translation: male - voice (no pretense of femininity), which everyone in line could clearly hear (but carefully using politically-correct language, with no swearing or anything anti-social which could get me thrown out or arrested), I relayed to the clerk what she could tell her manager about the quality of their equipment, and their people.  And I pointed out a logical question: what does this say about whether their gas pumps (which they can't seem to keep "papered") even meet State maintenance requirements for accuracy.  Since this happens so often at this place, I added that I don't plan to return any time soon.

She looked at me angrily, like she wanted to try to defend herself from the onslaught, but couldn't get a word in edgewise during the 90 seconds or so that I "had the floor."  And the manager, who couldn't have missed overhearing my little "discussion", remained suspiciously absent.  You'd have thought he or she would come to their employee's defense.  (Perhaps I was speaking the truth and he/she didn't want to have to admit it?)  Before the clerk could say a word, I finished, turned on my heel and departed, leaving her standing there.

Remember, I was dressed androgynously as usual - women's shorts, a women's polo, Mom's necklace, bare legs, flat sandals with pink toe nails, and my purse, but no makeup, earrings or lipstick.  The boys (yes, they were all guys) were grinning, apparently having a good time listening to the clerk get chewed out by a customer.  I got lots of smiles, "way to go, Ma'am" comments, "good for you, Miss" and the like, as I left.   Guess the lunch line there must be a slow proposition for them every day - and I provided the day's entertainment!  Those guys really didn't care at all whether I was male or female...if I could break the monotony of the long wait for their lunch!

Gee, maybe I should try Karaoke now!  (More likely: probably not - every Bassett Hound and Beagle within 2 miles would be baying loudly...even on a moonless night!)

A funny coincidence with this same theme: over a year ago,  I was stopping frequently at a different station, about 12 miles from the above shop.  The very same thing was happening with their gas pumps and clerks.   One day I went in and asked for a receipt, and the clerk gave me one with an email address, to take a questionnaire about the store and service.


I usually ignore those receipt surveys, because I never know if a real live person ever gets to see the info.  But on a hunch, I went on line and answered their questions, factually and honestly, plus they gave enough space to write a little essay.  I added that if the manager's approach of making people go inside to get a receipt was a not-so-well-disguised plan to encourage folks to buy something while they're getting their receipt...they may have another think coming.  I, for one, certainly wouldn't reward them for incompetence.  Instead, I'd drive down the road a few miles to the next store to spend my snack money.

About 2 months later, I needed gas and that station's price was right, so I stopped in, fully expecting to go inside for my receipt again.  Lo and behold, the pump gave it to me!  So I stopped in a couple more times in the next couple of weeks, used different pumps, and got receipts again.  Amazing!  It's been almost a year now, and only once have I NOT received a receipt at that station.  When I told the clerk,  she called the manager to go fix it.  Nice!

I wonder if they fired that bad manager, who then trotted up the road and got hired by the other store?  Stranger things have happened in retail... 

For those of you with rail interests, here are a couple of pictures from the archive...

This engine is Pennsylvania Railroad K-4 Pacific #1361, back in March of '87, when it was under restoration at the Altoona Shops in Pennsylvania, not long after being removed from display at the Horseshoe Curve.  I managed to gain access to the shops several times back then, and got some nice pictures.  Those were better days for the briefly pulled some excursions, but broke down and has languished since then, without being fully repaired.  Rumors are the repairs are too costly to get it running again.

Bright side is, it hasn't been scrapped!

Unfortunately, I missed my chance to ride behind #1361, and that was a colossal mistake for a railfan to make.  "Shoulda just done it"... since it's still not running any more, and may never be.    Instead, I had to settle for watching the video, which I still have (in a box somewhere).  :-(