I went to Harrodʼs today. Not because Iʼm fancy, but because the rooming house Iʼm staying in doesnʼt have toiletries. In fact, I donʼt even have my own toilet. I have to use a shared bathroom down the hall from me, like in a dorm or a youth hostel.
One benefit of being excited about being in a new country for the first time is that I woke up early and was able to shower before anyone else stirred. But I donʼt have any soap or shampoo with me, so Iʼm relying on cold water and Right Guard to keep me socially acceptable.
I picked Harrodʼs as my first destination because it advertises “Omnia Omnibus Ubique,” which means “Everything for everyone everywhere.” Well, Iʼm someone and somewhere, so it made sense to see if it really has “everything.”
Good news: It does.
Right on the ground floor near the entrance I found a little wood-paneled salon featuring menʼs grooming supplies. I picked up a bar of very normal-looking soap, which was a relief because I was afraid of a repeat of the Budapest red soap issue. I also got a bottle of shampoo. I picked it because Iʼm not going to be in London for a month, and it was the smallest bottle.
Harrodʼs is clearly a special place. All of the salespeople were very nice and attentive. They were also super patient with me, and happy to cash my American Express travelerʼs checks. But there is a sadness at Harrodʼs. I couldnʼt quite put my finger on it until I came across the central escalator area. There, between the up and down options was a gilded easel with a big portrait of Princess Diana on it. People were standing around, seemingly at a loss for what to do. It was so quiet, you could hear the hum-clack hum-clack of the escalators — not something that happens in department stores.
A few people had violated the velvet rope barrier to lay flowers on the floor, and I imagine if the easel was of the correct height, they lay where her feet would have been.
I wonder if thatʼs why London seems… less vibrant than I thought it might be. I wasnʼt expecting New York, but I wasnʼt expecting a place as quiet as Vienna. Iʼm sure not everyone feels the same about what happened, but if enough people feel a certain way, itʼs contagious, and can cast a subconscious pall over a city. I should try to be more patient with my mustachioed hostess, and perhaps more grateful for the Harrodʼs store clerks demonstrating their British stiff upper lip. Time to make myself inconspicuous.