Last week, I got an e-mail asking if I'd be interested in renting a private jet. It's the sort of e-mail I usually delete, but there I was at my desk, it was still dark outside and 20 degrees below zero, so I thought it was a good time to do some research.
Many years ago, my aunt and uncle were told by their doctor that they were going to have a bouncing baby boy. When instead they had twin baby girls, my uncle shook the doctor's hand and said, "You're the wrongest man I've ever met."
That same doctor's son must have a job compiling email listings of rich people who need to rent a private jet, because unless Yugo has gotten into the private jet business, that call to me was a really wrong number.
Maybe it's our family history. Many years ago, my father started getting phone calls from people offering him investment opportunities. The one that sticks in my mind was from the guy who wanted to sell him gold -- in 100-pound lots.
It seemed like a larger volume purchase than a guy answering a phone in an unheated shop while wearing manure-encrusted boots might typically make. My dad inquired as to just how the "salesman" had gotten the impression that he was in the market for mass quantities of gold and the mystery was soon solved. Dad had recently been elected chairman of our local cooperative and somewhere, on some set of records, he was listed as the chairman of the board of the Big Stone Co-op Oil Association. So, small town pig farmers might not often be in the market for gold in hundred pound lots, but apparently guys who have their own oil companies are just all over that opportunity.
I have to admit I was intrigued by the idea of chartering my own private jet. You know those car rental commercials that show the company picking you up at your house? That's the concept I had in mind, only with wings and glasses full of champagne. I'm scheduled to spend a couple days in Bemidji, which means a four-hour drive, and a jet could get me there in an hour. Since I'm speaking at a Methodist church, a jet might present an image problem, but hey, Jimmy Swaggert and Oral Roberts have their own jets, so why not me?
I want a jet to land at the end of the driveway and taxi right up to the sidewalk. I might have to trim some trees so the wings wouldn't hit anything as it came through the grove, but it'd be worth it. Next, I want a guy in a snappy uniform to fold down some stairs, and with a little luck, those stairs would be covered in red carpet.
Turns out it's more complicated than that. First of all, there's some sort of rule that you can't land a jet on a gravel road. Apparently all those huge trucks that pick up stones in their tires and break windshields have ruined it for everyone, so you have to meet the jet at an actual airport. Right away that takes the fun out if it -- if the Thomsons across the slough can't witness a private jet pulling up to my house, what's the point? I mean, they have horses and a llama; I need to keep up somehow.