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: Up in the Air

Getting home was a bit tricky, the airports are like third world countries: no newspapers, no restaurants, and no lounges (still!).  Just a lone Starbucks where no one is wearing masks either.  The upside was no lines—but that didn’t stop the TSA from ignoring the PreCheck on my boarding pass.  “That’s closed” they tell me, as eight agents stand round chatting and making me take my computer out. Seriously? How can that be closed? It’s not even a thing! It’s just their random decision. And on top of that I had to wait for the screener to shuffle back to the screen. I don’t understand how eight people in electric blue poly-blend can’t designate two people to be at the ready. Meanwhile here I am, out in the world, serving my clients and trying to make the world a better place.

Placing my computer in a plastic tray was not something I’d planned on. It’s not something I ever have to do in non-flu season -- but of course, on a day where I risk contamination and the screener literally has nothing better to do… I had to throw away my neoprene sleeve and wipe the case down with alcohol spray post-inspection.

Therapists have to be the other slackers in this crisis. I know I should be practising gratitude but they have just fled.  Part of my job has always been half-therapist. but everybody is wigged out these days -- extra wigged out -- and the shrinks should be on FaceTime twenty-four-seven, dispensing advice and pills by the truckload. How can they call themselves doctors, what with the media showing us pictures of freezer trucks parked outside of Queens hospital every day? As a public service I wanted to fly there and put giant Eskimo Pie stickers on all those refrigerator trucks but no one would appreciate that, least of all the Eskimo Pie company.

One thing I’m pretty sure about, I’m not going to be a bigger patron of the retailers who fill up my email with daily feigned concern for my health “amid corona”.  I mean, if you are concerned to the point of sending me a daily email, then seriously, just send a ventilator already.  For their part, Aspinal reminds me this is “A time for togetherness,” which upon further investigation means leather board games like chess for just under a thousand quid.  Lilly Pulitzer providing masks made from their signature prints to nurses I can forgive, because they are providing a needed, albeit trademarked, item. But for the rest—spare me the daily concern for my safety when your store has already been shuttered for weeks. I will say well done to Delta and BA for extending their mileage programs and more importantly their VIP lounges—YAY!  Meanwhile American tells me that I “remain their top priority” and I should keep earning miles by buying obscure wine from them. I swear they need nanny to tell them that’s very bad manners indeed.

More than anything I need a location tracking app to keep me up-to-date and out of jail; last week plastic bags were banned, this week it's how dare you risk the health of our employees with your reusables! And the lockdown/shelter/stay-home orders seem to be landing more than a few people in hot water -- we can drive unless pulled over, we can exercise unless??  Also needed: a divorce attorney, but they seem to be busier than toilet roll factories and everyone’s just one irritable juice-fast away from packing it in. Believe me I see those couples at dinner--equally rigid and exhausted.  And I see those same men out in the world, with a spring in their step, and a lilt to their voice -- so willing to help open a door or with a parcel.

Which brings me to my slightly early departure from sunny Palm Beach. It all fell apart when Mr. G, my client's husband, lost the cable to his noise cancelling headphones (it’s not a standard cable) and Amazon isn’t delivering -- and all on the very same week that their kids were home and the tutors aren’t showing up cause the kids were supposed to be skiing, and no one can work the sprinklers cause the gardeners won’t show up without hazard pay, and somehow the dog ate a dead iguana and suffered paralysis. And now everybody's in lockdown. Net-net, Mr. G wants out, but he couldn’t flee to a hotel or even his club, and he sure can’t flee when the kids are home so he retreated to the pool house—hence discovery of one paralysed Boykin Spaniel. It’s not the whole story but it’s enough. So I fled, because I can’t get any good work out of her in this state, and because people never forgive you if you’re around when they are at their worst.

Hovering just above this British girl's beloved Los Angeles I try to check the traffic on the 405 as I’ve always done.  There were very few cars on the road, a scattering of police vehicles waiting for… I couldn’t imagine what, a few trucks, and very few planes landing. Eerie. As we got even lower I could see some stores boarded up, National Guard trucks and very few planes parked at the gates.  What if I couldn’t get out until June? We landed and I checked my messages, hoping Mrs. G’s therapist had responded to my message -- he hadn’t.  Then I thought of ringing her but I know she does a chakra meditation before lunch. One second later…PING! A message from Mrs. G.  I’m sacked for my “incredibly selfish and self-centered behavior” followed by “Even John can’t believe you left”. So much for the chakra.

We’re at the gate. I’m not even going to respond. God, she’s such a ninny. Before me she would open with a central point from “the book that changed her life," ergo-why am I listening to you when I should be reading that book?  Heading into the terminal, nearly everything’s closed, the bookstore, the Burger King, the grilled cheese turned bulgogi spot and it just feels like a police state—everyone with their eyes down like that nebbishy accountant that’s secretly stealing from you. This isn’t my California. I hover in front of the closed Admirals Club before deciding where I can sit to get my bearings. I lean up against the locked metal roll gate at Duty Free and scroll to see what part of the world is still open—to where can I escape? That was previously Italy’s role in the world.

One unfrosted old-fashioned and a Dunkin' Donuts decaf later, I’ve rebooked myself to HNL where they have very few cases of anything flu-related and the Halekulani is still serving in the dining room. Paradise. Vitamin D, vitamin C and turmeric-infused curry is just what the doctor ordered and survival is once again assured amid plumeria-scented linens and the warm breeze that barely gets past the heavily planted entrance. It’s the self-care I need to make it through this fiasco, and is frankly just good common sense. A depressing four weeks of dried beans and helicopters overhead is not anyone’s idea of wellness -- and I have a responsibility to my clients.

And if this impasse has taught me anything, it is that, love them or hate them, everyone seems to be spending lockdown with the people who matter.  And in lieu of that, Pimm’s o'clock comes a bit earlier.