“Buddy, did we go to high school together?”
I met Siraj on my 2nd trip to Denver this year, on my way to have dinner with A, a Lyft driver I had met on an earlier trip. He called and asked me to go upstairs to departures to meet him. When I exited the terminal, there Siraj was, in the midst of a conversation with a traffic cop. His arm was casually hooked over the window, and I heard him asking, “Buddy, did we go to high school together?” (Mind you, the guy looked sixty and Siraj was maybe thirty-five at most.)
Later, as I would learn, this was Siraj’s technique of ensuring he wouldn’t be asked to leave the airport drop-off area. Not wanting to break up this touching reunion, I watched in bemusement from a little distance as they exchanged stories of lab and PE. Finally, the airport traffic cop/high school buddy gave Siraj his cell number and Facebook info so they could keep in touch. Siraj boasted to me later, “Man, I went to high school with half of these airport guys!”
Siraj was from NYC. He had just moved to Denver, and made generic statements about liking the mountains and the clean air. He did not, however, seem like a “nature” type, since he didn’t like any of the outdoor activities enjoyed by nature-lovers in Colorado. However, he did wave vaguely at the mountains and proclaim that yes, “Some people like to hike.”
We kept on talking, and he found out I worked in aviation, and that I was also a pilot and flight instructor. BAM. Instant connection. It had been Siraj’s dream his entire life to become a pilot, but his family had told him since he was a kid that it was impossible, and that the “white guys wouldn’t let him fly.” I told him, “You need to try, dude.” And he responded, “Right??? I mean, if you can do it, why not me?” Boy, that made me feel good. Clearly if I could do it, obviously, Siraj could!
We had a LONG ride. There was a ton of traffic because of the Broncos’ first game of the season. To pass the time, I did a mini flight lesson on stalls and spin awareness, as well as explained (probably unsuccessfully) the left-turning tendencies of airplanes. Siraj seemed fascinated by what I was saying, and looked interested and alert, which scared me a little since that was not his driving face.
We looked up local airports. Or rather, I prevented him from trying to google airports while driving, and did it for him. There was a small General Aviation airport right by his house, and I told him he should at least go check it out for a discovery flight. He asked to contact me, and added me on Facebook, saying he would be my new best friend because he had so many questions about flying. I have yet to hear from him, but I really hope he’s taken his discovery flight.
And who knows? Maybe he’s found new long-lost high school buddies…
About the artist
Loraine Yow is a self-taught illustrator hiding in Portland, Oregon with her outlaw cat. Her home on the web can be found at www.lolo-ology.com