Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Elite Business Class

Once in a while a human being has the unique opportunity to come upon something perfectly terrible, something that so epitomizes all that one does not desire, that there actually is pleasure in it. It’s like the experience of being perfectly burglarized. A messy burglar who tears the furnishings and trails dog shit into your house is no fun, but someone who discretely walks in, cracks the safe and steals every valuable thing you own is providing an existential service: the experience of total dispossession. Delta’s Business Elite Lounge at JFK provides one such experience. Yogurt covered pretzels (that old staple of an unstable diet), curried nuts (the gastrointestinal equivalent of the kinds of tornadoes that have devastated the South), chunks of Monterey Jack wrapped in plastic (requiring surgical extraction), packets of hummus (whose contents, in both consistency and taste, could be mistaken for toothpaste) and enticing-looking cookies (which recreate the childhood experience of mistakenly eating sand) are some of the delicacies that can be foraged in the lounge. Unfortunately, rationing is so stingy that hopeful-looking new arrivals quickly find themselves in a Darwinian struggle to survive from the minute the skeptical lounge attendant examines their “Elite” boarding passes. Lack of table space is one key aspect of the lounge’s design, enhanced by the fact that used glasses and indecorous little plastic plates are rarely tidied up, giving the lounge the aspect of an outer-borough dive bar at closing time. If he were alive, Luis Buñuel, who loved despoiled landscapes, might have used Delta’s Business Elite Lounge for one of his surrealistic masterpieces. If this is elite, one hesitates to imagine how Delta treats its plebian flyers—perhaps like the factory-farmed chickens, crowded into sunless pens, whose short, tortured existence is documented in the film Food, Inc.

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