The Close-to-Complete Diary of Harriet Rubin: Excerpt 2: Davos, Here I Come
BY Harriet Rubin
In Excerpt 1, "January 1998: Taking the Plunge," Rubin talks about making the great leap into independent consulting after a long career as an editor at Doubleday. Here, she talks about her experiences at Davos, "the Rolls-Royce of business conferences, where presidents of nations mingle with presidents of companies." Also known as the World Economic Forum, Davos takes place in Switzerland. In late January 1998, Rubin made the trip.
Please note: This is the raw text of a personal diary. It has not been edited for accuracy of dates or facts.
January 27, 1998
Business class is full of the Davos bound. My Delta seatmate, who says his boss is going, tells me that his company, Price Waterhouse, has just had a wake-up call. It's this: think big about your business. "You are in the trust business, not just accounting, and it should have been you guys who developed the Nielsens, who do the Gallup polling." I feel like he's telling me something about me. Trust yourself, kid, and keep those dreams big.
An aisle away sit Bill Buckley and his wife Patricia. His khakis don't reach his ankles, but she is spiffed to the max. Kelly bag, buttery cashmere sweater. An hour into the flight they crack open a personal stash of caviar and toast. Who am I next to him? Buckley got to the top by doing television, early in his career, and writing a shocking book: God and Man at Yale. (God and Chick At Davos, in the party center of the Swiss Bank that Took Over The World.) How can I make a difference in this world? Who do you have to be to make it in this world? A source of scandal? Like Monica?
Here I am, on my way to one of the best armed and defended countries in Europe. Those postcard beautiful mountains are hollowed out, made porous so dozens of bombers can be hidden inside. In the picturesque villages are soldiers under porches, bread that can last for two years: Switzerland is a colossal secret. Like a porcupine: it rolls up into a ball and brandishes its quills. Lessons everywhere: Defenses keep you small as Switzerland. Trust alone will give you stature. I'm trying to remember that. If only I had a little caviar . . .
I'm too old to play baby of the family. I call the hotel and nobody has heard of me. The guys I befriend on my drive in from the airport make me write down their room numbers in case I need a place to sleep. I don't argue, I write. After a trip like this I should have arrived at the promised land. Fly the ocean for seven hours. Fly to Zurich for an hour. Then ride a bus for two and a half hours to Davos.