British Airways flight 183 was taxiing for takeoff from London’s Heathrow Airport. It was 8pm and I was bound for John F. Kennedy airport in New York. My seat was in the upright position, my seatbelt fastened. A couple of martinis in the lounge left me feeling pleasantly drowsy.
The captain’s voice broke my reverie. A passenger had discovered a crack in a window. Upon inspection the captain decided to turn the aircraft around and head back to the gate. An aircraft window consists of two layers. The internal layer cuts noise and light. The external layer is part of the load bearing frame of the aircraft. An external window failing mid flight could have disastrous consequences.
Back at the gate, British Airways boffins swarmed the aircraft, armed with ample supplies of duct tape and chewing gum. An hour and a half later the ancient Boeing 747 was back in action, rolling down the runway, a trail of duct tape streaming in its wake.
The passengers were all nervous. Keeping our seatbelts tightly buckled we looked around, as if to determine which one of us would get sucked out of the aircraft should the window fail. The woman sitting nearest the defective window leaned over and quietly unbuckled her sleeping boyfriend’s seatbelt. Now I understand what Kalil Gilbran meant when he wrote “if you love somebody let them go”….
Reaching my Manhattan hotel room at 1:30 AM I was looking forward to my bed. Entering the room I immediately noticed the unmade bed. The door to the bathroom was ajar. The shower was running. The room was occupied! I retreated, quietly shutting the door behind me.
I’ve been on the other side of this debacle. Some years back I had undressed for bed in a hotel room in Mumbai. It was around 1am and I was on the phone, making one last call to New York. Sensing a presence in the room I turned around to confront an elderly American couple dragging their luggage into my room. They looked like they had been travelling for days – and were facing a naked man on the phone, in what was supposed to be their hotel room! The woman spluttered an apology as they backed out of the room!
When leaving the comforts of home, the frequent traveller looks to at least some elements of his journey to be reliably, even boringly efficient. There is pleasure in the predictable. Providing a properly inspected aircraft and an empty hotel room is surely not beyond the wit of man!
My travel equilibrium shaken, I looked to the familiar to restore my faith in human civilisation.
The Bergdorf Goodman restaurant on the seventh floor of the eponymous department store has been home to martinis and ladies who lunch since before Botox. Its a glamorous space exuding a dash of Art Deco glamour and a sense of old world decadence. It celebrates an era when New York was the centre of the world and seemed like it would stay that way forever.
The mostly female clientele look like they’ve been here since the Eisenhower era. Despite sporting enough filler and Botox to fill a toxic waste dump, they are a sprightly bunch of ladies, knocking down martinis at an alarming rate.
The martinis by the way, are very very good. My Tanqueray #10 gin martini was perfectly stirred – properly cold with just enough dilution. The chaps behind the bar don’t need Japanese ice picks, thermometers and centrifuges to make their drinks taste good. They just know.
Ask for a table with a view – the sweeping vistas of Central Park are beautiful at any time of year. The service is impeccable. It’s the kind of place where the waiters offer you a choice of black or white linen napkins to prevent any stray bits of lint marking your outfit.
The menu feels like it hasn’t changed much since Ike, and there is still much to like. Some items have been on the menu for so long that they have returned to fashion. Devilled eggs, a Bergdorf Goodman perennial, are now popping up in chic restaurants on both sides of the pond. Their Gotham salad, a house take on the classic New York chopped salad is so popular that over one million have been served.
There is nothing surprising about the menu or the service at the Bergdorf Goodman restaurant. And sometimes, that’s just what you need.