Oh, dear readers, let me tell you about my Saturday …
After Wednesday’s foray into the home of affordable Swedish furnishings, I knew that going out in “Ali mode” was going to become a more regular thing for me. Unfortunately, Thursday and Friday were wrapped up in work and being a dad — Him things — so there was no opportunity to step out.
Saturday was my own, though, and I knew from the time I woke up that I would be spending the day as myself. I dressed comfortably in the morning and worked on some app reviews (I write them as a side job to pay for my phone bill). Then I decided it was time to step out again and see what reaction, if any, I would get in public. This time, my first destination was one of my local Salvation Army Thrift Shops. I’d spent enough time in the Plus Size Women’s section as Him, so why not show up as myself? And dressed, of course, in an outfit made up of pieces I’d purchased from there in the past.
SalArmy was packed. Sometimes I have the Plus Size aisles all to myself; this time, there were three or four other women scouring the racks for deals, and more came and went as I shopped. And I shopped a LOT. Some weeks I can barely put together five items for the 5 for $5 deal; weeks like this I pull sixteen or seventeen things off the racks and then have to pare down to ten or so. And this week I also had a couple of items that were not part of the sale but that I wanted anyway. And I found some bric-a-brac for the apartment …
Okay, I overspent. But I was in a good mood and just went with it.
I was in SalArmy for nearly two hours, all told, just browsing the racks and enjoying the fact that no one said anything to me, or pointed and laughed, or anything. I think the check-out clerk did a double-take, but it was subtle and he was otherwise professional.
I was feeling good after SalArmy and I was in no mood to go home. But hey, I had grocery shopping to do! And I was craving Starbucks! And my ex had asked me to pick up something for her! If I were brave enough, the day could be packed.
So there I was, toolin’ down the road, when all of a sudden my car stalled. The engine just stopped firing, the car died, and suddenly I was rolling towards a stop light on nothing but residual momentum.
I managed to steer myself into a small parking lot with the momentum I had left — thank Zeus for small favors — and tried to get the car started again. The engine turned, but it just wouldn’t fire. And it occurred to me: the car was out of gas. My fuel gauge was not indicating that I was out of gas, there had been no Low Fuel light and it was pointing at about an eighth of a tank; but I checked my mileage and my last fill up, did some math in my head … and yes, I was probably out of fuel. And now I knew that I had a wonky fuel gauge to boot.
So I needed gas, and I had a wonky fuel gauge, and Siri told me that the nearest gas station was nearly half a mile away.
Oh, and did I mention I was presenting as a woman?
I texted my ex first.
“Could you bring me a gallon of gas?”
“No, sorry, I’m in St. Clair Shores.”
I considered contacting a friend who lived nearby who knew about my transgender status, but then I remembered that she was out of town for the weekend. I considered calling Erica, my trans friend, who lived further away but who I knew would help me out; but then I remembered that she was in Columbus for the weekend. In my desperation I even considered calling my in laws; but then I remembered that my father-in-law was in the hospital.
I was out of alternatives. At that point, I had to either call someone who didn’t know I was trans and have the most awkward coming out ever; or I could grit my teeth and walk to the gas station in Ali mode.
The temperature was near 80 degrees. It was humid. It was overcast, and as I walked there was a light sprinkling of rain. I made my way along the busy road, beneath a highway overpass, and to the gas station on the other side in a pair of nude flats that were not meant for long walks along concrete. At the gas station they charged me $4 for a gallon of gas and $8 for the gas can [seriously?]. I had to speak, and I was so flustered that I didn’t even try to disguise my voice; but once again I was faced with a clerk who didn’t bat an eye at the situation. I was a customer with money and that was all that mattered. So I took my $8 gas can [seriously?], filled it at the pump, and hiked back to my car.
In a skirt.
I went home after that (well, after stopping to fill my gas tank). I was sweaty, I’d gotten gas on my hands, and I wasn’t in the mood to shop anymore. I just wanted a drink and a foot rest.
But you know what? Every cloud has a silver lining. And I have to say that, after this situation, I can’t imagine having much anxiety about going anywhere in Ali mode. Having to walk into that gas station in women’s clothes, having to talk to a clerk with people nearby, and having to take that long walk in daylight, on a busy boulevard — that’s the sort of thing that really makes stopping at a Starbucks seem like no big deal.
There will be many more public outings in Ali mode in the future. I’m coming out, world! But first, I’m going to fix that gas gauge.