Thursday, May 28, 2009

Say what?

I've been, as is said in the Grinch, "puzzling and puzt 'till my puzzler was sore" about what happened to me today at a Dunkin' Donuts along Halsted Street in Chicago. I had to download data from my equipment at the University of Chicago Medical Center. But I had a 1:00 meeting with a client off Adams in the west loop area. I like this guy. We do a lot of work for his company so he is going to get personal service. We went over his job and it's huge. My eyes sort of bulged at what they are going to be doing and then, "Can you get me a price for your services tomorrow?"
I best go look at this job.
You also need to know that I have been battling a cold for almost 2 weeks. I got sick in the evening of the 15th and this virus has taken it's merry old time leaving my body. I have not had any semblance of a normal voice since the 16th. Last week, it could have been described as a dump truck dropping a load of gravel. This week, please find the person or persons who stuffed a bag of cotton balls down my throat. On more than one occasion at work, when I answer this phone, "This is Deb.", there will be a pause while the listener tries to decide what to say to acknowledge that maybe he or she is just not sure it is me. "Gad, you sound awful!" has been the usual response.
What does one say to that? I've taken the tact that humor is probably best and I generally say, "You should hear my singing voice." I sound much worse than I am but you know people are thinking, "What in the sam scratch is she doing at work when she sounds this awful?"
Anyway, the cold is breaking up in my head so breathing is now through the nose instead of my mouth which was drying out my throat which just aggravated the cough. I still have the cough until such time as my brain dries out completely and I can get into some very nasty coughing fits. I bruised my lungs and ribs last week so each fit is greeted with trepidation because I am now well there. I don't want bruised ribs again. But there is the voice or lack thereof...
And it was with this voice that I pulled into a parking lot to get a large hot tea from Dunkin' Donuts. I missed lunch. I had to wait for Melissa to be free to let me into the rooms where I have equipment to service so there was not time for lunch and making the 1:00 meeting. I can live without the occasional meal and, in reality, everything still tastes somewhat like food flavored cardboard. (I'm finally cooking the brats I got on Sunday. Once I got them home, they just weren't appealing.) But pushing fluids I will do and, for $2.50, I can get a large tea with two bags that will make my throat feel better.
The other thing you need to know is a section of Halsted is considered a mecca for gay and lesbian people. You know you're in this section of Chicago by the rainbow markers at street corners and by some of the merchandise available for sale in shop windows, not the stuff you see at Target. I don't particularly care "which team" you play for, just treat me nice and I'll treat you nice.
So, I bark out my order to the cute young gal behind the counter. She asks if I want cream or lemon or sugar, to which I croak, "No, thank you." The gentleman next to me turns to me and says, "Oh my god. I applaud you. You are so brave." He gives me a thumb's up as the gal hands him his mocha grande coffee with skim or whatever long-named coffee-flavored water beverage he was getting at Dunkin'. He pays for it and says, "I am going to remember you wow."
Okay, now this is bordering on the surreal. All I did was order a large hot tea, just 2 bags and water. What is he talking about? Since it was just the 2 of us at the register, I have no one else upon which to pawn my confusion. So, I just shrugged, paid for my tea and went back to the Jeep. He's waiting outside.
As I approach the Jeep, he comes up to me and says, "I know this is really none of my business but I just have such a deep reaction to what you did. How long have you been female?"
This is one of those moments where I really wish there were cameras to capture reactions. The look on my face must have been priceless. You need to know, dear reader, that I have a wonderful composer friend who has done the whole gender change with surgery. I know all about the process. I know what's involved and I read and exchanged a lot of letters during her "becoming" who she felt she really was supposed to be. I admired and still admire the courage it took to do everything she did.
But the look on my face gave everything away. He backed away with a horrified look on his face. Fortunately, the gods or God was smiling on me and chose that precise moment to give me a coughing fit. As I quickly set my tea down on the Jeep fender and fumbled in my pants pocket for an errant cough drop, I motioned that I wished him to stay for a second. He began muttering, "I am so sorry. Oh my god, I am so sorry. I am incredibly sorry. I am so stupid. I am so sorry." Once the coughing was under control, I said as kindly as this voice would allow, "It's okay. I'm not offended. We will chalk this up to my horrid cold and I'll have a funny story to tell my girlfriends." I looked down at my cup of tea. "Maybe I am brave for drinking Dunkin' Donuts hot tea at the temperature they serve it. Tea shouldn't be served this hot. Have a good day now." And I got in the Jeep and drove away.
It is a humorous story. Is my voice really that bad? This incident gives rise to thoughts about initial perceptions. We judge each other so quickly on that first look, that first time one opens one's mouth. Poor guy probably went home or to his next destination feeling like the bottom of a taxi cab. Maybe I am brave, but not in the way he thinks. I thought, for an instant, about a hug to show I felt no animosity toward his gaffe. But it would have been hugely awkward.
There are a lot of ideas and blog posts to be mined from this experience. Where do I go next?

Beverage: hot English Teatime


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