“1,012 feet and 308 meters.” our tour guide said coolly. She was calm and collected, unlike her unsteady workers who had been fidgeting anxiously for the full 20 minutes before her arrival. Their hair was pulled back so tightly you could hardly avoid their bulging eyes darting back and forth between our group in the lobby and the front entrance. I’m not sure what was more entertaining- watching every muscle in their body tighten when we spread out over the entire seating area, or watching their faces when one of my peers picked up a magazine then put it back on the opposite end of the table. Inconceivable! Shockingly, they never approached us while we sat there. They just extended their full wingspan and silently hovered over us like hungry vultures.
Where were we? We were at the Shard. Waiting politely for a private tour arranged by our professor. We were experiencing what every avenue in the London Underground was advertising: the best view of the city! The magnificent Shard! You haven’t seen the city unless you’ve visited the Shard! Such welcoming advertisements; inviting every member of the public to enjoy the city’s most majestic view for a small fee of £25 a pop...
I took a deep breath of the herb-infused air-conditioning and relaxed into a sofa that could easily pay my college tuition until our tour guide’s untimely arrival signaled the vultures cool off. As she ushered us into the lift room and away from the seating area, the vultures attacked the scene. The pillows were put back into place and the magazines realigned before the tour guide had even tapped the lift’s “up” button. Charming. She took us up an elevator, some fifty floors, until we arrived at the main hotel lobby. It was magnificent. Circling the entire floor was a breathtaking 360-degree view of the city. Sunlight streamed into a white interior with an elegance and sophistication that made me self-conscious. Exclusive art was placed tastefully on the walls which enclosed lavish lounging areas, private rooms and a gourmet restaurant. On our way to a second lift to take us to a hotel room, I caught a few glimpses of the people dining in the restaurant. Dressed head-to-toe in designer fashions and drinking dirty martinis, I experienced a moment of surrealism. Call it jealousy, bias or trying to read a language I don’t speak, but these people looked cold, bored and alone. Though they were surrounded by an opulence unparalleled to anything I’ve ever seen before, I couldn’t bring myself to envy any of them. Even the workers who served these icy individuals looked as though their smiles had been screwed into place before clocking on.
After viewing a surprisingly typical hotel room, our tour at the Shard was over. Without paying the £25 a piece, our magnificent view meant for “every member of the public” was over. Don’t get me wrong, the Shard is an exquisite addition to the London skyline- no questions asked. Renzo Piano’s got some serious style, and he’s definitely got some guts. But you couldn’t pay me £25 to walk in that place ever again.
£’s can’t buy me love!