Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Travelling

Look out world—I’ve had it! Here I am saving the planet and for what? You’re wrecking absolutely everything and what you’ve done to travel is nothing short of criminal. Nothing has degraded more spectacularly from what it once was, to what it is today.

Let’s start with check-in. Long gone is Heathrow’s welcoming British Airways First Class (or Concorde) building, and even in the states… no outdoor checking of bags. Why? Because Covid. Did they really think we were safer from airborne germs inside than out? Of course they didn’t, but like all the lies that followed… we swallowed the lie and grumbled it’s just two weeks. In addition, they kept saying things like ‘We’re all in this together’ when we most certainly are not.

The way we were.

What is actually happening, is I am paying for the people who used to check bags to sit home. And I am now taking my own bag from my driver and dragging it to the first-class counter that isn’t even first anymore. And in places where outside (open-air) bag-check exists—it’s now a new crop of untrained employees that charge a fee as they stare at their screens for an eternity. It’s unbearable. Faster now to take myself inside, and wait in the ever-growing line. Long, long gone are the days Daddy could place twenty quid in the hand of the porter who would whisk all of our bags to the mouth of the plane. I find myself echoing his sentiment—please just take my money and get on with it!

Forget the security lines… that is just pure insanity where I must take clean items and place them on filthy, germ-laden trays as the agents paw everything else with their filthy gloves. It’s always a calculated risk to ask them to change their gloves but when they unnecessarily breach something that is now contaminated, I say just throw it out.

Today however, I had a ‘salad’ problem. Salad refers to cords of any kind. I think we got this from the Germans who started calling it a ‘cord salad’ and then it became simply ‘salad’. But I didn’t have a tangle of cords, I just had the one that I’d popped in at the last minute—the extension for my MacBook. SERIOUSLY? I hear myself scream as my bag makes the little jog to the right of the conveyor belt for an additional filthy-gloved inspection. With pure evil in her eyes, the security matron claims victory holding up my cord as though she’s caught me with a brick of cocaine.

'I’m supposed to take out cords??’ I ask. More than a little annoyed.

‘Well yes, when you hide them behind chocolate.’

Bet they never had this problem.

I say nothing. If she can clearly see it’s a cord and see it’s a bar of chocolate (which by the way is not a rule!) what are we really talking about? She’s a cow and she’s loving it. Just prior to that I had the ever-fun waistband swipe. Boys don’t know this but if you wear tights, for some reason this elastic waistband baffles every security person in the land. What could it possibly be? they must gasp.

Is it so very different than the elastic-waisted pyjamas that have become such popular travel wear? Somehow this very sheer elastic is more scary than the elastic on men’s briefs and scarier still than the thick cotton waistband of those people in their cargo pants with millions of metal snaps and flapping pockets and likely clumps of disgusting laundry lint.

And for this invasion, I really MUST insist that they change their gloves. You are not thrusting that filthy and disgusting glove both into my clothes and onto my abdomen. EVEN IF you claim you just changed your gloves — which anyone can see is a lie. I don’t know why they try to get away with it. We see them standing there, complaining, patting previous people down, complaining more, touching their face and hair and belt buckles and trays and then they just look you straight in the face and lie saying—‘I just changed them!’ Except you didn’t. And for asking them to change their gloves…oh, they will make you suffer. But one is discriminated against for wearing a dress, trust me. It’s nearly every time.

Glamorous enough for you yet? Of course, my client doesn’t see this when I arrive, he just sees unflappable me, flying commercial to decrease my carbon footprint while he… well never mind what he does.

All things considered, I'd rather fly with Amelia Earhart.

But there’s another indignity. I must now purchase both a newspaper and a bottle of water, because these items are likewise gone from the planes. Remember all of those people who died from newspaper Covid? Well neither do I but apparently newspapers on the plane cause Covid. But newspapers for purchase—no Covid. So they got rid of newspapers and the PDB (pre-departure beverage) while we were all doing our part and littering the planet with empty vials of hand sanitiser and disposable gloves and masks and wipes.

I stroll past the shops… Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Burberry, Bulgari… all closed. Even the porridge bar. Only Boots and Duty-Free are safe from the dreaded Covid. The line at Boots is madness as I grab my paper and 99p water and head to the BA Lounge… one of the few that is open according to my app. But when I arrive—it too is shuttered. I scroll through my various lounge apps which only last night told me that several were open but this too is a lie. I call the Emerald Hotline and they confirm… no lounges—NONE are open. Which explains why the BA horse is lacking his seasonal wreath and the estimated walk to the gate is showing 00.

There will be no pot of tea, no fruit, no curry, no glass of champagne, no Victoria Sponge and certainly no shower for those people transiting from afar. WHY? Because everyone has used Covid as the iron-clad excuse to cut services. I was two inches from every manner of person in the security line, but in an environment where I could relax, wash my hands, and restore my health and sanity, and for which I’ve already paid…. I am blocked. I hate these people.

Safer on the floor.

I look down at the terminal of humanity happily sucking down sugar-laden coffee drinks and pastries and lowering their immune systems with each gulp and I wonder if we are too stupid to live. I pull my mask off and sit down on the floor next to horsey. Even he knows it’s cleaner on this floor where no one has walked in months than in the taped-off seats below.

Downing my morning vitamins I look at my mobile to decide how long I will stay here until I head to my gate. This has nothing to do with health, and here I am, debilitated.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Waiting

Just when you thought you’d seen it all… 2021 brings fuel shortages in the most developed nation in the world. I wouldn’t have believed it myself but my new client has me hopping to various locales, and today that has me absolutely stopped on the runway at Reagan National Airport. What would dear Ronnie have to say on the subject? 

One assumes he’d find someone to sack. But these days no one is to blame, and the airlines in particular have the insidious practice of pretending that things just happen upon them. They never have any idea that an aircraft that leaves very late is also going to arrive late. Of course they could simply look up into the sky and see if the bloody plane is not en route…then there should be no surprise when it doesn’t pull into the gate as scheduled. But surprised they are. Every. Single. Time.

And they pretend not to know they are short an entire crew until… oh gosh, did they really not turn up? Passengers have to check-in, but crew? Apparently there is no system in place until— like the thief that skips bail -- they don’t turn up. And today the excuse was that they did not have sufficient fuel to fly the thirty-five-minute flight from Washington D.C. to New York. Honestly…

Up, up, and away... maybe.

I can tell you this never happens to me—this confusion about how gas is expended or how to get more. I never go to my garage to then be utterly surprised that there is no fuel in my car. And when I hire staff, I have them arrive well before the guests. A shocking practice I know. But oh the reveal… as first time fliers gasp, and the eyes of seasoned passengers glaze over.

Is it any wonder so many would-be actors end up as cabin crew? It must take years of Meisner acting technique to convincingly utter the sentence that begins with "unfortunately." Perhaps I should try this…  just say unfortunately as an excuse for absolutely anything. Unfortunately I was applying lipstick while driving and… were you very fond of that child? 

And just now…unfortunately… (although we are already on board and strapped in) we just found out we haven’t any fuel. This is unfortunate? Like a surprise? Even as a teen I would never have the nerve to call Daddy and say… unfortunately I ran out of petrol -- your car is in Chelsea.

But today, (despite having a dreaded window seat) I am calm—knowing I have a whole eight hours to get where I need to be. No worries on my end, I will wait in silence and pen mean letters in my head that I will never send as they refuel—and off we will be. But, unfortunately, that is not what happened. Minutes turned into hours and we began to feel it indeed unfortunate that they had closed the door to the aircraft and no one was allowed to get off. At two hours and eleven minutes (eleven minutes past the legal allowable detainment) Captain Unfortunate told us that ‘by law’ they have to let us off and he would be opening the door… however, he added, if you get off the aircraft you will not be going to New York with us. What cheek.

This must be what hell feels like.

For the lucky few who were missing their flights—the choice was obvious, and an exit made sense. But (unfortunately) I had to show up for work. And Captain Unfortunate now became Captain Storyteller saying ‘Gosh folks…’ (a phrase that makes me immediately suspicious) ‘I’ve read about this happening but apparently (apparently??) there are not enough employees to fuel the aircraft and we have to wait our turn.’ Of course no explanation as to why said employee wasn’t summoned during the last two unfortunate hours, but the captain assured us that we were fourth in line for refuelling. And at which point I just had to call daddy.

‘Yes, Jennifer,’ he answered. But I had to make him wait because the captain was now telling us that weather would lead to a further delay even once we were fuelled. I opened my radar app… nothing going on in New York. Nothing at all.

‘Are you on an airplane?’

‘Yes, I am, and…’

‘Increasing your carbon footprint in service of your green client?’

‘It’s commercial and I’m paying a carbon offset.'

‘And your client?’

‘He’s uh… on his plane,’ I conceded, and crunched on the last of the ice from my G&T. ‘Thing is, Daddy, I was wondering is there a fuel shortage sufficient to delay a major airline at a major airport? Everything I found online says it is due to the Colonial Pipeline hack, which was already three months ago… and nothing mentioning the shutdown of the Keystone Pipeline… So is that the real reason?’

‘Ah, yes, the Keystone… To be clear, you know who shut that down don’t you? [of course I knew] It was your green president.’ He gloated.

‘Yes, daddy, my green president," I offered, (as if all environmentalists knew one another) ‘But is that the reason?’ I asked.

Now they tell me.

‘It is not.’ He said. ‘Stopping Keystone XL doesn’t keep Canadian crude from getting to market it just means that it is transported by less safe, and far less green methods—like rail and truck.’

‘So it really is a labour shortage?’ I asked, perhaps too loud for the other seven passengers in first class.

‘I couldn’t say. But we both know refuelling is not a highly skilled profession. I’ve done it, Patrick has done it. It’s even likely that in wartime Queen Elizabeth has done it. No… I’d say follow the money. It’s that thing you green-niks are forever going on about…profits and greed. Only here it likely applies."

How does he always manage to hand me my own hat? We were now at the four-hour mark and having finished my entire bottle of water and a second G&T, I was feeling woozy without any food and went into my carry-on to fish out a protein bar. When the pilot announced they would ‘in fact’ be allowing us off the aircraft but to stay close to the gate. Why couldn’t we have stayed close to the gate four hours ago?

I went straightaway to the burger bar I’d passed prior to boarding. I was first off, and fourth in line, and luckily the manager was railing on his staff to move things along. With order in hand, I deftly made my way to the club lounge to sit out the rest of the wait and book a hotel just in case, and YES I KNOW—no outside food allowed in the lounge, but I had a crafted a very curt answer if they had any intention of stopping me because truth be told, they had long stopped serving any real food in the clubs… ‘because of Covid’. Which, fortunately, is the other universal excuse when ‘unfortunately’ just won’t do.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Making Do

What is it about Hawaii that when you arrive it’s just that feeling of ahhh… I was so happy to be here even if there was no one to greet me, and no chance of the hotel sending a house car. They are on a skeleton’s skeleton staff. Gone too was the taxi dispatcher, the skycap and the cruise director herding midwesterners for a seven-day cruise around the Islands. One tiny Prius cab and a big “Aloha" from the driver, and we were off. En route we passed a gas station with prices just above the $2 mark?? How could this be? Do they save on transportation costs? No wait—never mind—there’s never any oil in places with volcanoes. Must investigate.

The upside of the end of the world proved to be the suite of rooms I was forced to take as they are technically closed and only private “apartment homes” were available. I’ll take my lumps as they come.

I cracked open my computer to get straight to your letters, dear readers. Stress and captivity are clearly taking their toll. It seems all this mask-wearing is causing break-outs when none of us can get to an aesthetician. Do not despair! We can solve this with things you already have on hand. Take equal parts of vodka and baking soda, mix together and apply as a mask directly on blemishes. For minor irritation take three bags of chamomile tea to one cup of water, steep for one hour and then use as a toner. But better yet, if you can, just avoid the mask altogether and use the vodka for its intended purpose.

One particularly galling aspect of this lockdown is celebs who can’t stop themselves from telling us “we are all in this together”. Firstly, most of us have only one home, and not a spare that boasts stables and a pool and a gym and an infrared sauna. For my part I certainly didn’t grow up wanting, but I also didn’t send out video blasts telling the masses I understood their plight atop an antique silk Louis XVI settee. And second, isolation by definition means we are most certainly not all in this together. I have only unkind words for these prats. Can’t imagine anything worse than getting seated next to one of them at a dinner, banging on about their great compassion. Equally offensive, and yes, I’ll leave her name out as well, is a friend of my mother’s—posting daily videos of her girls cutting up every measure of designer clothes from which to make crafts. Oh aren’t they absolutely brilliant to use only what they have in quarantine? Yes, brilliant. Absolutely.

Catching up on other emails, I was disappointed to see that coronavirus killed Earth Day, or at least the Earth Day climate protests in Washington. And I was especially distressed to read the very, very sad tweets of one of my clients—whose very existence is linked to fighting climate change. I’d just tweeted my heartfelt condolences when I realised how stupid I sounded lamenting the fact that a billion climate-change activists didn’t travel to lament climate change. So I took down the tweet and it will stay down until I can sort through the correct response, but it rather reminded me of the days when I questioned Al Gore’s globe-trotting crusade against his fellow man’s carbon footprint. Maybe my part in all this should be promoting virtual-only events? Thinking.  

Thinking (and drinking) is about all I’ve been doing under Corona’s scorching umbrella,  which doesn’t make for the clearest head but what else would I be doing in the land of blue cocktails? I was trying to work out whether there's more fruit in sangria or a pineapple flirtini. Conclusion: Americans are very confused about the purpose of a cocktail.

As for other confusions… I don’t know where to start on the beach closures…The department of land or some such thing said, “It’s currently against the law to walk or run on state beaches.” But only five beaches are state beaches. Except then the Governor said “all beaches are closed” and made it clear he “did not say no walking or running!” (on the very beaches he already said were closed). But state officials clarified that walking and running on beaches is illegal, even though the Governor made clear he didn’t say no walking or running. And then further explained this to mean “no sitting, no standing, no lounging, no sunbathing, and no loitering on beaches and sandbars”. Is a sandbar also a beach?

And then I read “You can walk across the beach to get into the ocean”, (no explanation if you can run across the beach to get to the ocean), “but you cannot run or walk along the beach.” Luckily if one still finds this confusing, every imaginable department is “patrolling beaches and educating people” while writing some 2,800 citations. That's some aloha...

It’s just as well I stay off the sand… not like I can get a pedicure anyway. So my fitness of choice is dancing around the suite to Katie Earl’s 'Tongue Tied', with no one above me and no one below me; no complaints, and no citations. Mahalo!