Air travel is a miserable experience these days and giving travelers some sense control makes the process somewhat less onerous.
Some U.S. airports, for instance, provide rocking chairs for waiting passengers. These rockers offer another seating option to people, and having a choice, at least from a reasonable number of options, gives us a psychological boost. In St. Louis (pictured), there are enough of these chairs in each waiting area so that small groups can arrange themselves as they see fit – making eye contact or not, gathered around a young child, looking at images spread on the floor or on a computer screen as a client pitch is drafted.
There is also a health benefit. Rocking in the chairs vigorously enough can release endorphins into your bloodstream, which boost your mood just as surely as your sense of control does.
Pfifferling deli, photo by Paul Clemence
This summer I visited two design-obsessed friends in Basel, Switzerland. After a long morning weaving among the works of Herzog & de Meuron (the firm’s hometown brims with their buildings), all I wanted was to quiet my burning brain with a plate of food – the simpler the better. It was already past noon, but we kept passing fine-looking options, because friends insisted on a new place called Pfifferling.
When we reached the deli-cum-restaurant, I bristled at first. I was being bombarded once again by self-conscious aesthetics when I just wanted to fill my gut. Still, it was a beguiling space. At once bright, spare and elegant, it was enclosed by warm grey walls picked out with white details. All the saturated colors seemed to be gathered into the glass display case: purple radicchio, glossy yellow peppers, smoky pink trout. Beyond the counter beckoned a pair of tables that, thanks to three unexpected openings in the ceiling, were awash in light.
Photo by Christian Speck
I have many pet peeves that, I wager, are shared by most travelers today. Among these moments of discomfort are the endless security lines and rude TSA agents, tight seats on planes, indifferent service, noisy and hyper active hotel lobbies, rooms with inoperable windows and loud AC systems that cannot be turned off, making even the most balmy night feel like an ice station on the North Pole.
In hopes of escaping from the torture of travel, each time I check into a hotel I expect to find moments of respite, beauty, ease, and comfort. When this happens, all the bad memories of travel are gone and the harried traveler is able to recharge–become human again. Beautifully designed hotels that offer great service are a gift to the human race.