An evening in the life of . . .

I’m not privy to many days in the life of Mark Spicer, but I have a ringside seat at night. Mark took some vacation days during the holidays, and toward the end of his time off, it occurred to me how quiet our evenings had been. Usually our evenings are monopolized by his cell phone. Take yesterday as a case in point:

Mark got home from the hangar at 6:15 p.m., just as Kg and I were sitting down for supper. I served Mark a plate, too, but as so often happens, his cell phone rang shortly after he sat down. A doctor at the Ghanzi hospital was calling to request a mercy flight. The patient was an 11-year-old girl who had swallowed a 2-pula coin (larger than a quarter). The doctor said that it was lodged in her throat so tightly that saliva couldn’t even get through; it was pooling in her mouth.

Mark hated to call Dan, the Pilot-in-Command on call. Dan was still legal to fly time-wise, but Mark knew that he’d had a long, tiring day and was probably looking so forward to an evening at home. Dan is great, though. He’s always willing to do whatever needs to be done, and he didn’t complain at all when he got Mark’s call. Travis, the First Officer on call, is always willing, too — but he’s a lot younger!

After calling Dan, Mark called the paramedics. Then came a whole series of phone calls; emergency lighting needed to be organized at the unlighted Ghanzi airstrip, and permission needed to be received for the Gaborone airport to stay open late. Kg and I had finished eating long before Mark sat back down to his supper. While Mark ate, I popped several batches of popcorn for Mark to take to Lonaka, the youth drop-in centre that our church hosts on Friday nights. When Mark returned from Lonaka, he started making calls again. Arrangements had been made for lights at the Ghanzi airport, but Mark always calls to confirm that the lights are on and working. He doesn’t want our pilots flying out to the desert at night with nowhere to land. Also, he was having trouble getting authorization for the Gaborone airport to stay open after hours. The air traffic controllers will stay on duty only if instructed to directly by the airport manager. The airport manager doesn’t have a land line at home, and he can only receive calls on his cell phone; he can’t place them. The manager ended up getting someone to take him out to the airport so that he could give the authorization in person.

I am used to Mark getting home late on Friday nights. He gives rides home to the Lonaka workers and usually doesn’t come in until 10:30 p.m. Last night he came home at 11:45. "What happened?" I asked. "Why are you so late?" "Well," he said, "first I gave the guys a ride home from Lonaka, and then I had to go out to the airport and give the airport manager a ride home. Then he asked me to go back to the airport and give the Air Traffic Controller a ride home!"

In the end a little girl’s life was saved, so it was an evening in the life of Mark Spicer that was well spent.