I miss the sight of the very important people, the super-men and super-women of the British Airways business lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5.
They walk briskly backwards and forwards in front of you, from the croissant corner to the mineral water corner and back, and again, speaking loudly, wearing white Apple AirPods, and making sure you understand that the meeting in Singapore went well, but the deal is on the agenda for tomorrow in Brussels, could you please bring Mary up to speed, yes, I know, I know, it’s John’s last day, poor chap.
This variety of very important, confident, and homo-very-erectus peripatetic people, are often seen holding a glass of prosecco at 7:45 am. They walk miles in the lounge. Unfortunately, in front of you. Even when you thought, at some point, that they had disappeared, and that the previous parade was just a spate of bad luck, they reappear again, still on the Singapore thing, with a fuller glass of prosecco. Still very loud. Now coming from the East of the room. How did they do that?
I have, a few times, been just close enough to interrupt their public State of The Union broadcast and tell them to get a life. But, in general, I tend to retreat to a safer corner of the lounge where concerned-looking, screen-glued, silent followers of a Reuters feed on their laptops have their mouth occupied with the Mini Wheats. And this is safe. Very safe.
Loud things in airport lounges used to be an American thing. That is how they speak in Tennessee. God bless them. I love them actually. I know what to expect and they are invariably polite and always bringing a ‘terrific’, ‘fantastic’ or ‘have a good day’ to the conversation, which is miles more therapeutic than the news from the Singapore deal. Today, the nomadic self-important alpha-male and alpha-female of the BA business lounge of Terminal 5, are of all nationalities and accents.
Maybe, in their defence, wireless AirPods make you think that you need to shout more to the phone. The cable is gone after all. I’ve noticed the same in video conferences. You shout at the screen because the other guy is in Copenhagen and, hey, there is a hell of a distance.
I miss my anthropological field visits to the business lounge of Terminal 5. Coronavirus has told me to stay at home just when I had been given my Gold card for life, which now allows me to choose between the British national dish, chicken tikka masala, and industrialised triangles of ham sandwiches with a drop of mustard in the middle. Great timing.
Airport lounges are incredibly more interesting than field trips to a remote tribe in Polynesia or Africa. Not that I have experienced the latter, a privilege for Anthropology graduates who must spend six months in the jungle as a way to get their degree before becoming market research managers for Unilever.
Years ago, immediately after the ascension of Trump to the White House, a group of Americans (by the croissant corner) were loudly expressing their disgust and disbelief. Another group of Americans (by the mineral water corner) heard them (not a difficult task) and joined them. Both groups stood up in the middle of the lounge. There must have been a total of 15 or so Tennessee, Kansas and De Moines citizens. They noticed that we all looked at them. They found themselves in the spotlight. With their unique sense of humour, one of them looked at all of us and shouted: “sorry folks, can I have your attention please, we would like to apologise…” Of course, I was convinced they were referring to them talking so loudly. “We would like to apologise for having elected Trump…” And then a series of adjectives and other descriptions that should not be reproduced on paper followed. I am not making this up.
I miss you Terminal 5. But, I have to say, I much prefer my kitchen now. I just worry about that Singapore deal. Did it happen?