After a quick trip to Baltimore, I had to fly to Dubai for a series of business meetings and to attend a trade show.
While a 12 hour and 7000 mile flight is never fun, Emirates award-winning on board entertainment system in the new A380-800 Jet is a joy. Not for the interface, a little outdated, but for the large screen and seemingly endless selection. Then again, all I need to make it through any long flight is an AC plug, which this plane had, so I was golden. But it would have helped that the baby the man next to me was holding had not screamed, at the top of her lungs “daaadyyyyyy!” exactly 86 times before we even took off. Yes, I did count them. It was one of the mechanisms I had to deal with the annoyance. Perhaps the only legal one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a dad. I’ve had crying babies in my arms a lot. But our brain is hardwired to react to that high pitched tone, and it takes a lot of concentration, even meditation, to completely bypass it.
So, eventually I achieved “the zone”, despite the flying baby-day-care that the whole gigantic plane was (you rarely encounter kids flying to Europe, but parts of the Middle East or Asia… that’s another story), with a mix of meditation, awesome music playmix, and frantic typing away on my laptop.
It was my honest intention to read some post-modern philosophy and art theory during the flight and perhaps to also catch up on some recent movie releases that I did not get to see in the big screen. But I always end up writing on my laptop during flights because it’s an almost interruption-free time.
Note to self: for a comfortable seat and to avoid being disturbed every 5 minutes with fellow passengers going to the restroom (and to avoid bothering others), on a long flight with a 3+4+3 configuration, and if forced to fly coach, it makes a lot more statistical sense to get the aisle on the 4 section.
So, after the flight a Uber driver in a Lexus 350 sent by my customers picked me up and took me to the Sofitel The Palm hotel. An splendid property with all the amenities and comforts you can think of in a luxury hotel. Quite notable was the view of Dubai’s skyline from my room.
The next day I woke up early and went to the private beach for a walk, then at 8:30am, when the swimming pool opened, I swam a few laps on the beautiful heated outdoors pool. Not surprisingly, being so early, there was no one there but the lifeguards, gardeners and waiters.
Dubai is a scary example of where our “artificial scarcity” society is going. “Creating value” by restricting access. Exclusivity. Everything compartmentalized. The “haves” segregated from the “have nots”. A new way of apartheid: economic. The 1% (or rather 0.001%) with a free pass, the rest condemned to work hard or break the law to have a shot of one day making it to the “exclusive club”. But it is all a lie, mirrors and smoke, fabricating a false necessity to drive demand and increase prices. Manipulating consumers into believing their life is not good enough and they should want more (and of course, “product X” will get them there, or closer at least). It’s sickening. And we are heading in that direction at full speed and in a globalized form.
So, after my daily dose of healthy social criticism and revolutionary impulse, I went straight to the very extensive and delicious breakfast buffet. It was organized the way I like it most, in different stations: Indian, English, Dim Sum, etc.
After breakfast, shower, and getting “suited-up”, I had a surreal “taxi adventure”. Although the address was clear, including a well known point of reference, the taxi driver took me all over town for an hour, when it should have taken 15 minutes. I’m sure he did not mean to rip me off, because the third time he stopped to ask for directions from strangers, he stopped the meter. But my customer was going ballistic, since the driver would not pick up the cell phone to talk to him and get directions. Eventually, through text messages, I received a clear description of the building and surrounding area, and I was able to point the driver to the right place. So, lesson learned: when the driver is from Indian origin, make extra sure he knows where he is going, because in order not to disappoint you, they will lie and say they know, while moving the head side to side, when they actually don’t. It’s a cultural thing, but definitely messed up.
My business meetings and trade show went well, but since this is a personal blog, I will spare you the details.
At night my customer was very kind to invite me to his home for dinner with his family and associates. It was a very nice house, with a neat organic garden, and a truly nice, loving and fun family. Dinner was delicious, and as much as I usually hate mixing business and personal, the whole evening turned out to be great.
On the way back to my hotel I saw a big group of disoriented bunnies on the side of the road. I asked the locals and nobody could believe it. The most plausible explanation anyone dared to come up with was “perhaps someone threw a birthday party for his little girl, the bunnies were part of the party, and after that they just let them loose”. Sad but could be true.
The next day I had more meetings, including one with a former intelligence officer, now an executive at a government owned IT company. As an anecdote, he explained to me the different collars in the traditional male robe (kandura): raised in Abu Dhabi, straight low cut in Dubai.
After a day full of meetings at the Convention Center and Internet City, we had dinner at Cle, an amazing restaurant with the Michelin starred chef Greg Malouf, who came to our table to chat with us.
My flight back, although it was delayed, changed, and changed back, ended up being a breeze, with a whole middle section to myself. Now I’m back in New York, for a few days. It is cold, but the “snowmageddon” or “blizzard2015” that they were expecting ended up not living up to the hype, unlike in New England.