Truth collides with fiction in the strange saga of the president of Mexico’s unwanted jet.
As reported by The Washington Post and a slew of media outlets, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador hasn’t been able to find a buyer for his country’s version of Air Force One, a Boeing 787 purchased for $218 million eight years ago by a predecessor.
López Obrador doesn’t want it and thinks it’s a waste of taxpayer pesos. The jet sat unused last year, with maintenance and storage costs surpassing $1 million. It’s on the market, but so far, no one who came around to kick the tires and check under the hood offered what López Obrador thinks it’s worth. That’s probably not unusual for used presidential jets. They have a reputation of being flown hard and put up wet.
So, the president proposed raffling off the plane by selling 6 million tickets at 500 pesos a piece, or around $25 each. That would raise about $150 million and get rid of the unwanted aircraft.
That led to some creative internet memes — the plane sitting in a suburban neighborhood or parking garage with its tail sticking out — and, most interesting to me, a short-story contest by the literary magazine Letras Libres.
All entries to the contest must begin with this sentence: “When I woke up, I discovered I had won the presidential plane.”
There are other rules, instructions and a list of prizes for the short-story contest, but those were all in Spanish on the Letras Libres website. About all I remember from high school Spanish is to inquire about the location of the library.
Since I am rarely deterred by my ignorance, I wrote the following short story for the magazine contest:
When I woke up, I discovered I had won the presidential plane.
“Wow,” I said. “There must have been Dos Equis involved, because I don’t even remember entering the raffle.”
But the cookie jar was short 500 pesos and I had several unopened emails from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, so it all made sense.
Now I had to figure out how to get a Boeing 787 from a Mexico City hangar to a rural North Carolina cornfield, where I planned to repaint it, refurbish it and re-imagine it as the world’s largest airborne traveling Bigfoot research center and museum.
I called Squirrelly Bill, who, legend has it, flew black-ops helicopter missions in unspecified parts of Central America in the 1980s before opening several successful tanning salons in the tri-county area.
He answered on the third ring.
“You want to go to Mexico?” I asked him.
“Who do I have to kill?”
“Nobody. We’re going down there to get the presidential plane I won and bring it back.
“All right. Let me get my pants on.”
Next, I called Dennis, who owns the largest tow truck within a hundred miles no matter which direction you look. He once pulled a semitrailer full of circus elephants out of a ravine and married a redheaded high-wire walker who was impressed by the size of his boom. It didn’t work out.
I figured we would take Dennis’ tow truck to Mexico City and on the drive down, Squirrelly Bill could read the Boeing 787 owner’s manual I printed off the internet. If Bill couldn’t figure out how to fly it, Dennis could just drag it on back like a trailer full of circus elephants.
To make a long story short, since this is supposed to be a short story, we ended up in jail in Tijuana for two days after a misunderstanding at la biblioteca but eventually dragged the plane back home. Squirrelly Bill tried to fly it, did his best, but he kept flooding the engine on the tarmac and everybody was giving us dirty looks, so we hooked it up and said adios.
I’m about halfway done with renovations now, so be sure to look for the President Andrés Manuel López Obrador International Airborne Bigfoot Research Center and Museum, coming soon to an airport near you (if you happen to be near an airport.)