Tom Wolfe on the horror of the post-bailout switch from Gulfstream Vs to flying commercial…
Vanity Fair: Up until the tarantulas arrived late last year waving their billions in “bailout” money before our faces, there were 10 of us, including the two Harvard algorithm swamis, who could use the Gulfstream V, the Falcon, and the three Learjets pretty much anytime we needed them.
The vast majority of the flights—let’s get this straight before anyone starts clucking and fuming—were strictly business, but we also used the planes to “maintain an even strain,” as our C.E.O., Robert J. (Corky) McCorkle, liked to put it.
At the risk of sounding condescending, we should point out that ordinary people haven’t the faintest conception of the strain we had to endure daily. How many ordinary people have ever done anything remotely like betting $7.4 billion—bango!—just so!—that the price of energy will rise sharply 14 months from a certain date? How many of them ever had the animal spirits to go for it on the say-so of a young never-been-wrong-yet meteorology swami from M.I.T. who was convinced that, after a five-year lull in the cycle, a series of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes would pulverize the Gulf of Mexico, obliterating all offshore drilling operations, possibly shutting them down for years? How many ordinary people have woken up in the middle of the night, eyes popped open—swock!—like a pair of umbrellas, stark raving terrified by the possibility that they have just blown $7.4 billion on … a weather forecast? How many of them have ever sat for three days, 72 hours straight, in front of a gigantic plasma TV watching the Weather Channel as if it were the Super Bowl as Hurricane Enrique dithers, dawdles, malingers, messes around off the coast of Fort Lauderdale? How many ordinary people have been reduced finally, by sheer fear, to yelling at the screen, “Come on, Enrique, you pathetic wuss! Move your fat eye, you lazy worthless bitch! Be a man! Move inland! Cut straight across the Everglades, tear ’em up by the roots and just let the greenies wail! Set your eye on the freaking Gulf! Take your goddamn steroids! Show some rage, you pussy! Barrel into those goddamn oil rigs! Destroy ’em! Obliterate ’em!”? How many ordinary people have finally sunk to their knees, hands clasped in prayer before a plasma-TV screen, imploring it, begging it, beseeching it … to save them?
God knows we deserved every chance we could get to even out the strain.
One of the sweetest sounds in the world was Corky making the rounds up here on the executive floor, saying in his laid-back voice, “I feel like boffing some bimbos in the Caribbean. Anybody like to come along?”
We never had to deal with airports like O’Hare or J.F.K. and their intestines of roadways looping over and under one another on the way to terminals teeming with the aforementioned ordinary people. No, we always left from small general-aviation airports.
In the U.S. the term “general aviation” means its exact opposite, the way “public school” does in England. An English public school is private and, on top of that, exclusive. Likewise, general-aviation airports in the U.S. are for everyone but the general public. They exist exclusively for people or businesses with the money to buy and maintain private planes. The fields are usually so small our driver can take us out onto the tarmac and stop right beside our jet. Now, here comes the part a man has to love.
Who is it who puts our luggage into the plane’s baggage compartment, including golf bags weighed down by the steel shanks of every club that a bunch of rich golfers with handicaps of 19 or more have ever heard of? Who hoists all this unbelievable stuff and stows it?
The captain and the co-captain!
Yeah! And they don’t talk like any flight commanders, either! They have the polite, deferential, as-instructed cheeriness of bellboys…
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