Owing to a certain unrestrained, and often unfocused generosity of my mother, I am a life member of the Qantas Lounges. This is not as cool as it may sound. To get in the lounges, you have to be flying Qantas on your next flight, and Qantas are generally way more expensive than everyone else, with less comfortable planes and way more disinterested staff. Their lounges are crowded with FIFO workers, and supplied with pirate crew of surly, superannuated stewards who specialise in making you feel bad for asking for a peanut.
Anyway, Qantas, sensing the writing is on the wall, have done a deal with Emirates (who will soon emerge as The Global Airline). This deal means I can go in Emirates lounges when flying Emirates.
All that is preface. I arrived in Dubai this afternoon after 4 weeks in Kabul. It was a good four weeks. No one died. That’s not a blithe comment. It is a part of our considerations these days. I helped keep things going. I supervised security improvements, scoped for a new head office, consulted on various projects, picked up the bits and pieces, incinerated old documents, tried to encourage the team, hosted a weekly BBQ. I am grateful to have been there and it was a privilege. And do not think it was a hardship: the electricity failed only once, I had hot, running water, fans to keep me cool, and ready access to most conveniences. Kabul is not what it once was.
So, on arriving in Dubai, I find the Business Lounge is shut and I am directed to the First Class Lounge. I have been in the First Class Lounge twice before: my reckoning is that people are more likely to sneak into Business Class. Those who are going into First Class have a massive sense of entitlement, all you need to do is emulate that. So I did. I just walked on in. The first time, I spent 6 hours there. The next time, after about 30 minutes, they found me and said, ‘Mr Sparrow, you should not be here.’
‘Yes’, I said.
‘Will you please leave now?’ they said.
‘Yes’, I said. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. But today, I am ‘entitled’ to be here, so to speak. In First Class, you order your meal. The whiskeys are 15 years old. The seats are leather. It is preposterous, in every sense. I enjoy the peace it affords me, but I rail against it. It is wrong. It is wrong because I left a place where people do not even have clean water to drink.
I look out the window at the endless steam of jets taking off, and think of the massive contradictions humans are capable of. Me included.