Many of you who have experienced the Great Airports of the World – Heathrow, JFK, Dubai, and Belgrade’s own Nikola Tesla – will know already what I am talking about. This is a subject, in fact, which is so well known to frequent fliers as to be superfluous to set to pixels. It is a level of luxury which we have come to expect, but it is not for the uninitiated…
This having been said, however, I would like to share this exquisite secret. Please, before we begin, I must ask you NOT to share this with anyone. Need to know basis. Ok?
(Pause while waiting for your assent. 15 minutes.)
As usual, it all started at the airport. I had a little extra time while waiting to pick up my sons at Nikola Tesla and decided to have a walkabout. I chanced upon the Dufry-run café in the departures area before passport control.
Coffee, I said to myself?
To the casual airport-walker-arounder, this appeared to be a Perfectly Ordinary Café. On first inspection, one could see that 97.5% of the tables has not been cleaned for several hours (or days). One could browse the selection of sandwich (1) in the display window next to the drinkable fruit yogurt. The uneducated would think it looked like a poorly (and oddly) stocked aisle at a Delhaize supermarket.
But they would be mistaken, of course.
If you had observed me as I approached the line in front of the bar (table service had been ingeniously eliminated), you might have noticed a knowing smile break subtly across my lips. And even a slight approving nod. I could see what was happening only too clearly – although the man ahead of me did not seem to know.
I was experiencing what is known as “Hidden Luxury”. Hidden Luxury is where the luxury experience is so deeply disguised from the non-luxury consumer as to be appear to be utterly absent. It is something that few of us dare to discuss for fear of its becoming known and replicated by hipsters – you always have to be carefully of hipsters.
Instead of giving his immediate attention to the man in front of me, the barman feigned complete inattention. He stared off into space, his mouth slightly open. After the man had been yelling for attention and banging his fist for a few minutes, the barman shifted his gaze.
“Coffee,” came the order.
“Coke?” came the response.
“COFFEE,” boomed the reprisal.
Here is where the average muggle really gets confused. The barman nodded as if he understood, and, instead of starting with the order, turned to the OTHER barman who had also been staring into space. “Cappuccino,” he told him. My line-friend was, naturally, furious. He screamed and shouted his protest to the twin barmen – but they remained passive. Finally they delivered his peppermint tea. I think the man must have crossed to a place beyond anger: he simply accepted the tea in stunned silence. I watched him as he shuffled to his table, unaware as he was of the Hidden Luxury of the moment.
He had just paid 220% more than in most other places in Belgrade for the tea he did not order. He was oblivious to the fact that, included with this price, was the inattention of the barman, the dirty tables, the lipstick on his water glass (no extra charge), as well as the deluxe wood-look plastic tray with authentic remnants of historic yogurt dried onto the surface.
When it was my turn, I happily went through the same comédie. Because I knew that Hidden Luxury was ironic. The filth implies extreme cleanliness. The scarcity of choice denotes opulence. In this way, I sat on my wobbly chair and enjoyed the most luxurious coffee of my life thus far.
I am only sorry the waiter forgot to spill ketchup on my shirt.