This week I’ve decided to turn the tables. Rather than opening up the Fast Lane mail pouch and answering all those last-minute holiday questions that are piling up (OK, I’ll do a few ... Yes, try the new Aman in Greece – a well-placed source at Departures magazine gave it a good review. Yes, spend a week taking the waters in Merano. No, do not even think about travelling with that jumbo wheel pram. Yes to Edelweiss to reach those less served Mediterranean destinations. No, it’s not appropriate to wear swimwear on aircraft – unless it’s your own jet). I’ve decided to pose a few questions that have been puzzling me of late. If you have any thoughts or answers then please jot them on a postcard and send them along to Southwark Bridge. An email to the address below is also acceptable.
Q A couple of weeks ago I promised to return to the very disturbing trend of restaurateurs demanding that their waiting staff offer menacing disclaimers to any diner ordering a potentially risky dish. Has the world gone absolutely mad? What could be more off-putting than arriving at a favourite restaurant and deciding you’d like a nice filet from a fluffy Scottish bull and being warned that ordering it rare is at your peril and the restaurant assumes no responsibility of any potential complications? What’s next? A daily house visit from a health and safety officer warning us of the risks of getting out of bed? I’m quite sure it won’t be a nuclear winter or other climate issues that will kill off mankind – it will be the total collapse of commonsense.
Q Why do people use fabric softener? Why does it exist? Isn’t it a much more enjoyable experience to slip into something crisp rather than to pull on something that feels limp, damp and slightly greasy? Good hotels need to ban it from their laundry rooms and return to simple soap and ample starch.
Q When will TV news networks stop resorting to Skype-based interviews or start issuing guidelines to interviewees to save viewers from having to stare up some professor’s unkempt nostrils (more on this in a moment). While laptop cams have certainly helped trim satellite costs and made guest booking more accessible, it’s also made many producers lazier. Do we really care what the random student holed up in their bedroom has to say about the smoke blanket over Singapore?
Q What will it take to make it acceptable for western men to address stray hair above their beard line? Brands such as Gillette and Nivea spend enormous amounts of money marketing razors and shave creams but are missing out on billions in sales by not helping consumers address noses, ears and eyebrows. While I don’t think it’s necessary for men to adopt the precision grooming of a Korean boy band, it’s also not attractive to have an unruly jungle of brow hair pointing and snaking out all over the place. The best barbers know how to tackle the problem with diplomacy, precision and efficiency.
Q Why do people continue to cycle through cities with headphones on? Rather than forcing everyone to wear helmets (isn’t there a certain joy in riding around the corner to buy milk with the wind in your hair?), wouldn’t it make more sense to fine people who dart through traffic oblivious to their surroundings? The same might go for pedestrians who walk out into intersections completely disconnected from all that’s around them.
Q Why do Americans, who are generally not known for keeping quiet, continue to put up with their ridiculous airport security apparatus? In a nation that likes to pride itself on finding efficient solutions and embracing technology, how can people put up with rude staff, ridiculous security queues and a system that’s substandard? Or is it the case that most travellers reckon it’s the same the world over?
Q When will consumers stop hailing the iPhone as an outstanding piece of design? Does a truly great piece of design often come complete with a cracked screen and a keyboard that forces people to write briefly or at best inaccurately? While Apple is not alone in the mobile device world when it comes to a blind shift to touch screens, it’s somewhat surprising that so many people express love for such devices while complaining that life was much better on a Qwerty keyboard.
Q Why don’t developers recognise the value a tree (or even a small forest) adds to a property? According to some calculations, a solid maple or oak can easily add $40,000-$50,000 to the price of the home. So why are so many new housing (and office developments) so bald?
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine
More columns at www.ft.com/brule