After the Fact: Leaving on a jet plane


It was illegal as all get-out, but it was a very small school district in Northern NM where everyone knew everyone else and half of them were related. So, when one of the teachers went door-to-door at the high school selling seats on an “airplane,” nobody bothered to report it to anyone. A few folks in the administration office had already paid for their flight and the purveyor of tickets said dozens of others were interested.

You’d better sign up today if you want to be “in on the ground floor,” so to speak. She sounded suspiciously like a used-car salesman. As it happened, I’d worked at a police department in the Denver area when a similar “pyramid scheme” was exposed and several “travel agents” were arrested.

The idea is that you come up with a chunk of change to “buy” your ticket. Your seat is in the back of the plane, but you can move forward by selling tickets to other unsuspecting souls. The more tickets you sell, the faster you move up because tickets sold by those who bought from you are also a credit to your account. By the time you get to sit in the co-pilot’s seat or, WOW, the pilot’s seat, money from the passengers begins to flow into your pockets. Immediately, you ought to see that it’s a long walk to the pilot’s seat and, when the captain retires, who is in charge of the pension fund? 

Now, the people we’re talking about in this particular scam are mostly teachers. You’d be correct in surmising they have college degrees. Which just goes to show: you don’t have to be brilliant to get through college. You don’t even have to have common sense.  With college degrees up to a PhD available online, you might even be able to put a “Dr.” before your name by paying someone else to do the assignments for you! I know a couple of kids who graduated from high school “online” by doing just that.

Back to the pyramid. Lucille was a single mom, who had worked for the Sheriff’s Department to support her two teen-aged kids, both of whom had been students in some of my classes. As a sideline, she also sold pot. Which is still illegal in that state. By the time she paid for her ticket on the plane, she had become my daughter’s mother-in-law, which is how this story came to light.

When her son pointed out that the whole affair was illegal, Lucille called the ticket agent to demand the return of her money. When told there were no returns on used tickets, she threatened to report the whole bunch of them, and said she had a taped recording of everything this salesperson had said. Evidently, the ticket seller relayed this threat to someone else, who informed someone else, and, before long, Lucille was offered a refund in exchange for the tape. The trade went like this: the salesman pulled up in Lucille’s driveway where she waited, in her bathrobe, with a copy of a Led Zeppelin tape. No, she hadn’t really taped a conversation, but the bluff had worked well enough.

The money was extended through the car window, and a second hand reached for the tape. As the tape was transferred, the ticket agent tried to withdraw the money. When Lucille wouldn’t let go, the driver tried to roll up the window, snagging up the tie to Lucille’s bathrobe. The money was finally released, but Lucille continued to chase the car, fuzzy slippers throwing gravel in all directions. Lucille was in danger of being dragged through town when the tie broke through the loops and waved a merry “goodbye” as the car sped down the street.

Lucille was on her knees in the driveway when her son came out to see what the heck was going on. She was scraped up a bit, but she had her ticket money grasped firmly in hand. The Zeppelin tape and her bathrobe tie were never seen again. The moral to the story is, I think, to never fly anywhere in your bathrobe.

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