BY Christopher Rice
September 15 2009 9:00 AM ET
In my opinion, there is something deeper and more exciting at work when a major airline fills the noses of its largest planes with a series of cells that look like a special commission Gucci might have completed for Bellevue Hospital. While most of these contraptions would look absurd sitting in someone’s living room, send them hurtling through the air at 500 miles per hour and they become art. I call it the design of defiance. Opulent furnishings take on a special significance when they are surrounded by a thin skin that separates luxuriating passengers from a potential drop in pressure that could snap their necks if that skin were breached. Some people might call this whistling in a graveyard. I prefer calling it needlepoint inside a tornado.
So yes, my obsession is a gay one, if there is such a thing, but not for the obvious reasons. Forget the slick ballet of flight attendants responding to a passenger’s every request with a smile, and forget their impeccable uniforms. I couldn’t care less. But a defiance of nature’s most basic constraints and an insistence on bringing beauty and detail to places of industrial sterility are widely acknowledged components of a gay sensibility, and those traits define the premium cabins of most major airlines to a tee.
But that’s not to say my obsession is not without its pitfalls. Just for starters, giving away large portions of space on gas-guzzling jets to seats that fold out into 6-foot-6-inch–long beds isn’t exactly the greenest of choices. Good thing I’m just looking at pictures of flat beds and not designing them myself. Then there was the morning when I sat down across from a friend and thought to myself, Her dress is the exact same shade of purple as the business-class SpaceBed on Singapore Airlines. That was what our president might refer to as a “teachable moment.” Perhaps my obsession had gone too far. Fine. So I’ll temper it. But I’m not switching to another one. I’m perfectly happy to remain on the design-oriented, leather-cosseted fringe of airplane geekdom. Just don’t expect me to have an excited conversation about wingspan with any of the other geeks.