Is Davos toxic? (for your health)
This morning at the Davos coffee bar I was, as usual, tucking into the stale Danish, when I spottedÂ a Davos Wife (easily identifiable by the infamous white name tag) drinking a cup of green tea. MyÂ companion, a Glamorous Davos Girlfriend (GDG) (my husband was, of course at a meeting) congratulated herÂ on her healthy choice.
â€śI am trying to detox because of all the crap I have been eating,â€ť came the pithy reply.
It may sound like we Davos-goers are whinging ingrates â€“ and that is certainly true â€” but one of theÂ perennial complaints about Davos is the generally unwholesome atmosphere. Indeed the GDG â€“ whoÂ juggles being a GDG with her job as a health consultant â€” is convinced that Davos is toxic.
Apart from the obvious problem of male egos, general pushiness and bad behavior there is the physicalÂ exhaustion that comes from the relentless string of panel discussions in oxygen-deprived basementsÂ rooms. It starts with the flight to Zurich and the schlepping of luggage and continues with massive sleepÂ deprivation, stodgy food and the risk of broken bones.
Before the sun has cracked through the dark Alpine sky, the average Davos Man has left his hotel roomÂ and begun the long march to his early morning power breakfast. The most legendary was the annualÂ Musharraf breakfast which meant thinking about the Pakistan Intelligence services, the doomed war inÂ Afghanistan and Islamic fundamentalism over bad coffee, rubbery overcooked eggs, sugary orange juiceÂ and gluey yogurt. Itâ€™s a menu that would make Michael Pollen cry and which surely canâ€™t beÂ expected to inspire the financial worldâ€™s most brilliant minds to come up with a way to save the world.
But itâ€™s even worse at 3am New York time before anyone has gotten over jet lag. The sponsorâ€™s sisterÂ complained so much about the timing that this year the organizer changed it to a lunch with Imran KhanÂ which was a lot easier all around.
After breakfast the day gets into gear with the average Davos man taking a new meeting every halfÂ hour, speaking at various panels, stopping at a few receptions, attending a working dinner and finishingÂ up glad handing and â€śexchanging viewsâ€ť at sundry after hours parties. After all it costs so much toÂ attend that everyone want to use every minute, giving rise to all sorts of meetings that are probablyÂ unnecessary but which justify oneâ€™s right to return to Davos next year.
Of course the back-to-back bookings means everyone is on Davos Time which could mean being half anÂ hour late or your appointment not showing up at all because he got a better offer and didnâ€™t bother toÂ cancel.
The Important People get a Mercedes to take them around. The rest of us hoof it up and down theÂ Promenade or wait for the shuttle. A Davos Wife close to the situation told me that the town of DavosÂ hates the World Economic Forum so much that they only shovel the snow after we leave. I donâ€™t know ifÂ this is true but I noticed on the way in that the neighboring town of Klosters has very clear sidewalks.
The sleep deprivation and dehydration from the mountain air prompts excessive coffee drinking, resulting in widespread Davos halitosis.
â€śItâ€™s caused by a lack of dental hygiene exacerbated by too much talking. The usual flushing andÂ brushing goes by the wayside because your mind set is go,go,goâ€ť explains the GDG.
Too bad they donâ€™t put breath mints in the conference bags.
Being up in the mountains of Northern Europe means a shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables. TheÂ average Davos meal consists of a wilted salad, overcooked meat and all the bread and potatoes youÂ can eat. And for snacks between meals the Canadian investment authority has cruelly set up a kioskÂ to give out irresistible fried â€śBeaverTailâ€ť pastries served piping hot and slathered in chocolate sauceÂ and cinnamon. This mayÂ even surpass the annual Infosys reception pakoras as Davosâ€™ most delicious fried food. But nothing willÂ replace the horrific memory of the Victor Pinchuk Foundation luncheon where I bit into a slice of breadÂ topped with what I thought was sturgeon only to find it was in fact a slab of pork fat.
Most depressing of all was a sobering panel yesterday about the worldâ€™s oceans and the seriousÂ environmental danger they are in. After an hour of gloom and doom and a compelling slide show fromÂ several committed environmentalists it was time for the Q&A. One Davos Wife stood up to ask, â€śAs aÂ wife and mother, what is safe to eat?” A very good question.