I Wonder What It’s Like to be Rich

I see Forbes magazine has published its billionaires list again.  http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/

What would it be like to have that much money?  I have no idea myself.  But twice in my life I’ve gotten a glimpse of wealthy lifestyles.  It’s like some careless person has left the door ajar, and I got to peek inside.

The first was about ten years ago.  A close friend invited me to attend the Indianapolis 500 auto race with him one Memorial Day weekend.  Even though I’d lived within two hours of Indianapolis for most of my life, I’d never had the fortitude to attend.  A one-day event with a quarter of a million people?  Stuck in traffic for how many hours?

But my friend had an ace in the hole. He had a college chum who had become a judge in Indianapolis. My friend and some of his other college buddies had been able to capitalize on this contact and attend the race year after year with a minimum of hassle.

Here was their system: about two hours before the race was scheduled to begin, they would rendezvous in a hotel parking lot. Then their friend (did I mention he was a judge?) would arrange for a police escort to the speedway area. The cars formed a line, turned on their lights, and stuck very close to a motorcycle policeman as he drove down the wrong side of the street to within two blocks of the speedway. This house (or rather its garage they rented for the day) was their headquarters.  Once there, they parked, took their time unloading, grabbed the beverages of their choice, and enjoyed a leisurely two-block walk in plenty of time to view the race. After the race, it was party time at the garage!  The food came out, and there was a potluck meal for the next three or so hours, just enough time for the post-race traffic to thin.  Two hours after that, we were home.  Talk about a stress-free day at the speedway!

My second peek occurred about two years after that in Las Vegas.  A friend and I had arrived at our hotel very late, around midnight.  And it was at the peak of their busy season.  We presented our reservation to the desk clerk, who promptly disappeared into a back room.  I was a bit mystified, but a few minutes later he returned with a good explanation: “I’m sorry about the delay, but I’m going to give you a $3000-a-night suite and had to make sure it was okay.”

My first reaction was disbelief. (“Isn’t that funny, it sounded like he said $3000 a night.”) I still didn’t believe it when he directed me to a hidden bank of elevators and gave me a room number on a floor that was second from the top. But everything fell into place when I saw the room.

It was indeed a suite with two entrances and a full-size dining-room table. Actually, it seemed to have two of almost everything. When I read the card on the back of the door and saw the rack rate topped out at $30,000 a night, I felt a twinge of anxiety. I’d had the presence of mind to note the desk clerk’s name, and I immediately called him at the front desk. Yes, the rate was what we’d originally reserved (low three figures), not $3000, not $30,000. It was simply a routine upgrade because all the cheaper rooms were taken.  After assuring him that he was my New Best Friend, I relaxed and began to take it all in.

You see, my friend was a semi-regular at this hotel, having  stayed there at least once a year and thus learning their system. You reserve a reasonable-rate room as a regular customer, ask for an upgrade if available, then show up very late and hope the reasonable rooms are all filled. Jackpot!  Needless to say, this was my luckiest trip ever to Vegas.

By the way, what was my favorite memory of that stay? It was the pen. No ordinary ballpoint, this was a fat silver pen, one of five spread liberally throughout the suite. When I noticed they were for sale in the gift shop for $10, I was afraid to touch them. So on our final morning, just before we checked out, I got the courage to ask a maid. “Are the pens complementary?” “Sure,” she cheerfully replied, reaching into her service cart to hand me a half dozen.

Cinderella may have been left with only a glass slipper, but I got a handful of silver pens!

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