AGAWAM, Mass. For Rich Cseko, a lawyer whose practice is concentrated in business aviation, a typical day at the office finds him surrounded by wealthy clients as he caters to their personal transportation needs. “These people are too busy to fly commercial,” he says as eyes the windsock at Mosi Tatupu Memorial Airport here. “If they’re entertainers or sports stars people bug them for autographs, and if they’re businessmen they get the evil eye.”
Mosi Tatupu Memorial Airport
Cseko’s life would be an uncomplicated routine of aircraft lease and purchase closings but for one inconvenience; “Rule 6.1,” he says as he shakes his head. “It’s a real pain in the keister, excuse my Polish.”
That rule of the state’s Supreme Court requires all Massachusetts lawyers to spend at least 25 hours each year on unpaid pro bono legal work for the needy, a goal that Cseko has found difficult to achieve due to the nature of his practice. “I spend all day hobnobbing with the rich,” he says with apparent exhaustion. “After ten hours at the office, I’m too tired to hob any more nobs on the poor side of town.”
“Could you see if there’s a tractor pull on ESPN 14?”
But Cseko had a “Eureka” moment recently while watching the film version of “The Grapes of Wrath,” John Steinbeck’s novel of the travails of Dust Bowl migrants as they make their way to California. “A lot of private aircraft owners have unsold fractional interests and unused hours on jet cards,” he says. “So I created an exchange where people in need can hook up with people of greed . . . or something like that.”
“That shore is one sweet Hawker 400XP sitting on that there private runway!”
Today’s match between high and low-income fliers includes Rainer DeShays, CEO of a 200-year-old New England family business that has just sold off its shoelace nib division, his trophy wife Ivana, and six unfrequent fliers including Minnie Newbill, a mother of three rambunctious young boys, and Claude and Bobo Reavis, itinerant zydeco musician brothers who were stranded in the northeast after playing a folk festival.
Making shoelace nibs Ye Olde New England way.
“I can write this off, right?” DeShays asks as Cseko points him toward the Hawker 400XP the jet service has provided for the group’s flight to New Orleans.
“Absolutely–under Rev. Proc. 1-103(a)(ii)(P)(7), you . . .” the lawyer begins, but the businessman cuts him off.
“I don’t need all the nerdy details,” he says as he helps his willowy blonde companion up the “air-stairs” into the sleek jet. Newbill waits deferentially until the attractive young couple is in the plane, then ushers her boys–Larry, Nestor and Zach–to a bank of leather seats in front of a wide screen television.
“This is cool!” Zach says, but his mother shushes him. “You gonna have to use your church voice while we in this executive aircraft,” she says. “And don’t wipe no boogers on the seats.”
The Reavis brothers are last to board, and they have some difficulty getting their instruments–a vest frottoir or rubboard and an accordion–through the narrow cabin door.
“Y’all want some fried chicken?” Newbill asks the upscale couple who have taken their seats in the rear, and Ivana DeShays is unable to conceal her evident distaste for the fatty snack as she declines.
“You sure? ‘Cause I brought a big bag, just like I was goin’ on the Greyhound bus.”
“I’m going to have a few celery sticks,” Ivana replies.
Ivana–I can’t tell you what ivana do with her on a family website.
“You need to fatten yo’ self up girlfriend,” Minnie says with a broad smile that reveals her gold front tooth. “Yo man wants a meal, not a snack–you unnerstand?”
“Thank you,” Ivana replies politely. “I feel better when I keep fit.”
Mr. DeShays has missed most of this exchange as he listened to Mozart with his nose buried in a draft of his company’s quarterly SEC filing, but Minnie interrupts him for a minor business transaction of her own.
“Excuse me–mister?” she says with unforced humility.
“Yes,” he replies, taking off his earphones.
“We sho do appreciate what you doin’ for us,” Minnie says.
“You’re quite welcome,” DeShays says. “In my tax bracket . . .”
“Ain’t you got no bigger seatbelts than this little shrimpy one?”
“Oh, don’t I know it, taxes is way too high. That’s why I want to offer you some gas money,” she says as she removes a coin purse from the pocket of her dress.
DeShays looks at the two dollars Minnie holds out, then waves them away with his hand. “Really–that’s not necessary,” he says, but Minnie isn’t taking no for an answer and stuffs the bills in the pocket of his Brooks Brothers hyper-casual shirt.
“You cain’t fool me,” she says. “I look at this young girl here, and I know you all is just barely scraping by. She’s so skinny, I bet she has to pass a place twice to make a shadow!”
With this Minnie erupts in laughter at her own joke and returns to her seat, while the Reavis brothers tune-up for one of their favorites from the Louisiana bayou, “Lula Lula Lula, Don’t You Go to Bingo” by Boozoo Chavis.
“Lula Lula Lula,” Bobo sings, “Don’t you go to bingo,” and the Newbill boys begin to rock in their seats to the plaintive song of a man whose wife spends all his hard-earned cash on the game that fattens church coffers across the country.
“Did you bring an extra set of headphones,” Ivana says to Rainer, but he just shakes his head from side to side as the Reavis brothers run through a series of verses based on bingo numbers which will allow them to keep the song going for the entire three-hour flight in the manner of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”
“No sweetie, I didn’t, but I need to work so I better keep them on,” he says with an ingratiating smile.
Ivana attempts to endure the happy strains of the zydeco music for a full minute before she rips the earphones off her newly-acquired husband with a jerk. “You may need to work,” she says as she crams them down over her platinum blond tresses, “but I get to wear them if you want to play with me again.”