Before the house owner left on her travels, she introduced me to some of her friends.
I have made an interesting discovery about the very wealthy. Actually, I didn’t make it. I heard Billy Connolly talking about it a few times. He said that the middle class toffs – you know, the ones who have fake posh accents and roll their eyes at scruffy clothes and talk about how much their investments are worth and want to be seen to be important/rich – are the ones who are most obviously different from “us” (the working class). We don’t get along – we simply don’t understand or like each other very much. But according to Billy, the only real difference between “us” and the upper class – and I mean the seriously wealthy folk, here – is that they have lots of money and live in big houses, and we have no money and live in council houses. Apart from that, we’re very alike: he points out that in his local pub at home, the guys from “Millionaires’ Row” as he called it, and the guys from the council houses all stood at the bar and mingled quite merrily together. Nobody wanted to talk to the pretentious social climbers.
And now I’ve seen it for myself a few times, and it’s true. First in Belgium, now in Switzerland, I’ve been thrown in a daze into huge houses with swimming pools, spa rooms, luxurious furnishings and beautiful surroundings, and landed right in the middle of a circle of friends into which I would never, ever have imagined I would fit. I have no money and few possessions, and I have never been to the opera or a ballet. You’d think I’d have nothing in common with these people. I certainly don’t with any of the yuppies I encountered in some of my previous jobs. But these folk are nothing like that. They have no airs and graces, they are not at all judgemental, they don’t boast about their money or their possessions. Wealth is just something they have – it’s like they don’t notice it, and they don’t expect it to be a reflection of who they are. And I love that.
It’s what makes it possible for me to sit down to dinner (and feel entirely comfortable) with a bunch of people who say things like “Ohhhh, you’re going to dinner with Melissa in Prague? I’ve got tickets to a show in New York that weekend, but why don’t we all try to meet up when Steve’s in Paris on June 10th?” and casually lend you a spare Mercedes and forget that entire areas of their houses exist. I thought I’d be intimidated – I thought I’d be dressed really scruffily compared to everyone else, and that I’d be expected to know all sorts of complicated dinner table points of etiquette, but there’s none of that. They crack open several bottles of champagne (“Darling! This bottle’s empty!” “I’ll just fetch another from the cellar!”), enjoy their food, tell rude jokes, and take a genuine interest in everyone else. I am treated no differently.
Hey, this travelling thing really opens your eyes, you know that?!
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