Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Tracy Exchange

Mick Squirrely flies airplanes, small private aircraft with two or four seats. When we were dating, a few times we went to a private airport and picked out a plane. One time we went up and Mick just flew us around and over San Jose and the east bay region; I didn't recognize anything we flew over but it was fun. We weren't that high in the air so I could see people's backyards, and whether they had a swimming pool or a swingset or not. Showing me how slow a plane could go and not drop out of the sky, Mick brought the speed down to 40 mph, at which point I got nervous and told him to go faster.

This was way before I was afraid of flying.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve 2000 Mick and I were hanging out at his parents' house when his mother realized that she had forgotten to mail a gift to the child of one of Mick's cousins, who lived in Tracy. She became pretty agitated about not getting the gift to the little girl, and looked to Mick to solve the problem. I was not enthusiastic about driving out to Tracy and back on Christmas Eve, which I figured would take at least three hours.

Mick looked at me and suggested we fly out there. When going over the hills that line the eastern side of the bay area it got bumpy. Only one set of headphones worked in that plane so I looked out the window while the engine roared. We landed at the airport in Tracy, which was deserted and dark, except for the runway lights. No one was flying or getting ready for takeoff when we got there, which was good because there were no air traffic controllers either.

We jumped down from the plane and started walking toward what would be called a terminal in a larger airport. The gate to the airport was locked, and Mick's cousin's car was parked next to the ten-foot fence. We watched as his cousin climbed over the fence and walked toward us. The cousin took the proffered gift bag and climbed back over the fence while we returned to the plane. I don't remember anyone speaking, though we must have exchanged a "Merry Christmas," and I'm sure Mick introduced me. We flew back to San Jose, and I felt like we were spies in a Cold War movie who had met our contact to pass on the microfilm.

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