The car took the exit before Sepulveda and began to loop around towards a separate parking lot. I was used to a very different experience when flying out of LAX. People fly in private planes all the time, I kept telling myself. No reason to be so nervous. But all I could think about was how a little girl from Compton made it here.
“You’ve got one bag, right?”, the driver asked as I heard the pop of the trunk.
“Yes, sir. Just a carry-on.” He smiled and ran around to get the door. I reached into my purse to grab some cash. I wanted to give the driver a generous tip so he would think I was used to this lifestyle. I held out a wad of cash and the driver politely whispered, “It’s okay, ma’am, it’s been taken care of by Mr. Tichenor. You have a wonderful trip.” I insisted, and after an awkward shuffle, he took the money. I asked for my bag, and the driver chuckled. “It’s been loaded. It’ll be waiting for you in Dallas.”
I remember thinking that the level of trust granted to millionaires was extraordinary. No security lines, no baggage scans or TSA agents. Our captain poked his head out of the door. “We’ve been cleared to take off behind the next regional. Are you all set?” I had forgotten we were already 20 minutes late because of an accident on the 605. “Yes. And I’m so sorry I’m late.” I hurried up the stairs, took one last look at the early morning sky, and smiled.
As I sat down, it all began to sink in: I was the only passenger on this jet. To the pilots and flight attendant, I must have looked like a little kid in a candy shop, swiveling my head around to see everything. I felt the plane jolt once as it started towards the runway, and with one left turn we were moving forward fast. Before I knew it, we were airborne and banking south over Palos Verdes. Golden sunbeams danced over the foothills. My face was glued to the window as we climbed into the clouds and away from the sprawl of Los Angeles.
Once we hit cruising altitude, one of the pilots came into the cabin and sat beside a small wooden table set perfectly with neatly placed napkins and coasters. “Looks like we’ll make up the time in the air. Might even be a little early. We’ll pick up Mr. Tichenor and prepare lunch in Dallas, then start making our way to M-E-X.” Deep in thought, I broke my gaze out the window and responded, “Sounds good.” Then I dove back into my fading memory of how I had met the man whose jet this was—the man we were en route to pick up.