Fourth of July at the St. Regis Washington, D.C. Early evening. Near triple digits outside. AC blasting. Feeling rich from cashing in some credit card points. My better half lounging on the enormous bed, flipping through a complimentary copy of Town & Country magazine—Donna Karan says it’s not about me, it’s about we. She’s wrong. It’s all about me as I polish off my shower beer and shave before dinner at Zaytinya. There’s a remote control on the counter between the sinks, but where’s the TV? Power on. An image magically appears in the middle of the bathroom mirror. The TV is inside the mirror! So ingenious, so unnecessary, so … wonderful. I find the channel broadcasting the Independence Day concert taking place down the street. There’s some Muppets, Jimmy Smits introducing Gladys Knight, and I’m shaving and watching TV at the same time without cutting my lips off. It’s amazing, and I’ll suffer greatly when I’m once again forced to shave with a non-TV-impregnated mirror. O luxury items. How you vex me.
Apparently these miracles of technology started popping up in fancy hotels and affluent homes last year, and there’s really not much to them. They’re just flat-screen TV’s hidden behind a pane of carefully polarized glass. But the thinking behind it gets at the heart of the luxury market: the rich should never want for anything, ever. Plasma TV next to the mirror? Forget it, turning your head is for poor people. Every moment of a millionaire’s life should be absolute perfection. Physical activity should only be undertaken when unavoidable: a backhanded wave to dismiss a waiter offering a tray of hors d’oeuvres at an embassy party; an eyes-closed, mmm-I’m-so-worth-it smile amid the sybaritic pleasures of a hydrotherapy treatment; a knowing nod to the croupier at the baccarat table. But looking away from your pretty reflection just to check the five-day forecast? Not in this tax bracket.
Alas, the memories of my brief encounter with the Mirror TV in room 716 will surely fade as I melt back into my quotidian existence as a New York salaryman, but it almost makes me pity the creators of these outrageous luxuries. They must now begin to dream up the next labor-saving, pleasure-giving doodad for hedge funders to smirk at, amused, then disregard like so many insider-trading regulations. In the meantime, at least I don’t have to worry about Big Bird popping up to conduct the National Symphony Orchestra while I’m putting in a contact lens.