A high-flying friend with a very important job (the type that comes with security and a driver) was recently telling me about joining a gym. First, he’d looked at one of those premium ones that offer a concierge, coworking spaces, spa pool, and reformer Pilates. They even provide towels and locks for your locker. All you do is rock up and work out.
Then he’d scoped out a “normal gym” where you take everything you need and only have things like a pool and treadmills at your disposal. He settled on joining the latter because of its proximity to his home. The time saving made more sense. He’s enjoying the new gym but divulged, laughing, that on his maiden voyage to the fine establishment of exercise he realised he’d forgotten both towel and lock. So, schlep home he did. “You’re just too used to turning left, I teased. “We proles take a towel.” Of course, I meant this in the literal sense.
He’s always jetting off somewhere. And always in business or first class. But the associated trappings of success — a PA sorting absolutely everything, dinners at the chicest restaurants in everywhere from Malmö to Miami, meetings with people who run countries — mean perhaps you forget how things lower down on the rungs of life work. It’s all relative, though. While he’s standing on the red carpet at priority-boarding check-in, there are humans who travel without ever seeing the inside of a normal airport terminal. And I do not mean they’re taking a bus. Between VIP ground handlers and their own Bombardier Global 7500, they are the type who might recoil at the thought of sitting in a communal airport lounge with a complimentary glass of Mumm. Take the recently rich Gaynor Scott
The wife of pound millionaire and luxury-car dealer Tom Scott, she is one of the subjects of the 2022 series Inside Dubai: Playground of the Rich. It’s on YouTube, if you missed it. The three-parter follows various expats and immigrants (controversially, “expat” if you’re white, “immigrant” if you’re not) who’ve made the Emiratis’ land of luxe their new home. One of the finest glimpses into Scott’s unbelievably privileged existence, besides her commentary on her neighbours, the Mugabes — “They do amazing parties, actually, on New Year’s Eve” — is a trip her family of four take back to their other tax-haven home in Jersey. By private jet, obviously.
There are the 25 bags of nibbles especially requested to feed the family on their eight-hour flight, an arch of balloons framing the door to the jet, a concert pianist playing Scott’s favourite tunes on a high-gloss white grand piano in the glitzy but stark private terminal, and cappuccino froth embellished with a hyper-real cocoa image of dear Gaynor.
“I’m quite a nervous flyer anyway, so it’s a nice thing for me actually to be able to do this,” says Scott. “Just, all the distractions just make me less nervous, ya know, not thinking too much about the hustle and bustle of the airport and getting on the plane with all the people.” That’s around R1.65 million in distractions, round trip.
The Scott family’s life might appear to fall on the one end of the wealth scale, but even they pale into monetary insignificance rather quickly when you run the numbers.
The worth of Dubai’s ruler and the United Arab Emirates’ prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is estimated to be about US$14 billion. Which seems brilliant, until you consider that Berkshire Hathaway guru Warren Buffett’s net worth comes in at about $188.5 billion. And he’s only the fifth wealthiest man on the planet. It’s a sliding scale of the extreme — but I’m sure none of them has to take their own towels.
• From the March edition of Wanted, 2023.