I am a fairly private person. Yes, I make the occasional appearance on social media or podcasts, but for the most part I don't enjoy putting myself out there. I don't particularly like talking about myself, and pictures of me on the internet are hard to find.
This is by design. I enjoy my solitude, and this whole internet culture of documenting everything with one's smartphone and immediately uploading it to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook just leaves me cold. Human memory is fallible, I know, but is the ability to watch a video you'll probably forget about days after the fact worth seeing some of the most enjoyable moments of your life through a viewfinder rather than your own eyes?
Hang around the UAE long enough and you start noticing some trends. First and foremost, the whole "at least it's a dry heat" thing doesn't fly here -- being so close to the ocean means you get all the heat and humidity you can stand. The local soccer league has kicked off games with temperatures in the mid- to high 90s and 70 percent humidity. Not surprisingly, attendances are even lower than usual.
Another thing is how often words such as "exclusive", "ambition" and "prestige" are thrown around, especially in the retail and financial sectors. There's one level of basic service for the hoi polloi but, if you're willing and able to pay a bit extra, you suddenly get upgraded from Number To Be Served to a Valued Priority Customer. I got a snootful of this on Day 1 here -- there was a long line for the medical exams you have to undergo before receiving a residence visa, but because I and another white Westerner each stumped up 200 dirhams (about $50), we were ushered to the front of the line. As one who considers himself Not That Special as a matter of policy, being plopped in front of a queue of South Asian-looking men who were already there waiting patiently was absolutely mortifying. (To their credit, if this sudden display of #WPR put them off, they didn't show it outwardly.)
This two-tier system appears to be the way of the future. There's the high-end market, who want and can afford the best, and then there's everyone else. With the American middle class increasingly being hollowed out by job losses and economic shifts, it seems as though there isn't much of a middle ground on which to stand anymore. It's Dollar Store or Dolce & Gabbana, Shopko or Chanel. Just look at the airline industry for an example. Economy-class passengers are packed in like sardines, treated almost like nuisances by the airlines and told to be grateful for what service they do receive. Step up to business or first class, though, and suddenly the airlines can't do enough for you. A drink before take-off, served by your Personal Food and Beverage Consultant? But of course. Chauffeur service to and from the airport? Happy to assist. A luxury lounge with free food, drinks and wi-fi? Right this way, valued customer. Membership clearly has its privileges, as I can personally attest, but it's hard not to feel uneasy about being waited on hand and foot while others are treated like those who rode steerage on the Titanic.