Things must be worse than I thought if even the oligarchs are economising.
Today I saw two bodyguards doing their Madame Tussaud’s routine outside an establishment in central Riga. It’s a sight one doesn’t come across too often these days, which is undoubtedly a good thing as the presence of roll-necked bouncers immediately evokes the bad old days of the ‘biznysesmen’ and their “get them before they get you” approach to commerce and indeed life in general.
Wherever these hired hands are stationed, they cannot fail to exude a sense of veiled menace and dodgy dealings even if in most cases they are just fashionable accessories bought to go with the gaudy Gucci and look-it’s-real Rolex.
Posting goons outside trendy nightclubs or department stores opened for one’s own personal pleasure is all well and good, but I can’t help thinking that getting two gents with necks thicker than their heads to stand outside Double Coffee while you blow 2 lats on a latte is rather unecessary.
It is neither big nor clever and certainly not impressive. Yet, that’s precisely what I witnessed today at the Doma Laukums branch of Latvia’s answer to Starbucks.
Indeed the sight was so incongruous I couldn’t help going inside to see who considered it necessary to ensure protection against some muffin-wielding assassin.
You should be able to tell a proper oligarch – sorry, successful investor – on sight, but sadly no-one in the establishment was displaying the sartorial style of Elton John after a visit to the new year sales in Monaco, and there was nary a Faberge egg or solid gold mobile ‘phone in the place.
Could that weedy adolescent in the corner be the offspring of some BaltRosNeftTransGazLuk bigwig? Or maybe the group of earnest-looking intellectuals pointing at a laptop were Conradian revolutionaries plotting the downfall of the western world?
Unlikely – they seemed too laid back to overthrow much more than their duvets.
The likeliest candidates were a couple in the corner, if only because the tall, handsome man seemed to be eliciting some giggles from the waitresses every time they returned from his table. Maybe they were contemplating the tip of the century.
His equally tall and handsome companion may have been a famous supermodel for all I know, but by Latvian standards of womanhood she was nothing out of the ordinary.
If you can’t tell who needs/can afford protection, doesn’t it rather suggest that said protection is probably not needed? If I was a celebrity stalker or member of the Black Hand I would feel cheated.
Such modesty represents the breaking of an unspoken social contract. We are supposed to be able to point and laugh at the mega-monied and their ever-increasing efforts to buy extra life. If we cannot rely on them to be vulgar grotesques lacking self-perception yet totally self-absorbed, what is the point of their existence?
Utterly disgusted by this ostentatious lack of osentation, I made the most of the situation upon my exit from Double Coffee. Pausing
momentarily outside between the two Kevin Costner wannabes I tried to catch the eyes of passers by, hoping they might think I was actually the Million Dollar Brain who must be protected at all costs.
Needless to say, I don’t think anyone was taken in.
But then, just as I had given up my faith in the tastelessness of the today’s Croesuses, I glimpsed redemption. It was six metres long, black and parked on the other side of the square with a Maybach badge and a personalised registration slapped under its stupid grille.
If ever a car screamed “more money than sense” in six-foot high, hand crafted Cararra marble letters with ivory inlay, gold scrolls and optional cherubs, it is the preposterous Maybach.
It quite restored my faith in humanity.