December 12: being rich

When you go into the Steinway piano showroom in central London or the auction house at Christies or Bonhams you need quite a lot of courage to walk through the doors in your scuffed shoes and Zara jacket. It is because mostly the people who push open the sparkling glass doors are rather wealthy. They are the kind of people who might buy a Steinway grand bottom-lining at a couple of a hundred thousand pounds or so. What is required from you is an ability to look and talk at home in these places. You play the piano and the saleswoman comes across, seduced by the stream of notes and the possibilities for a sale of a Steinway grand. Are you looking to purchase a grand? she says. Here, obliquely, non-committed, you say maybe. You are spare in your articulations. She perks up at your sovereign and patrician manner. You had looked away when you said maybe, ignored her even. this dismissiveness of manner is in line with the ways of the very rich. She likes this. The saleswoman comes back for more. This is a lovely piano, she says, or something like that. It’s just a question of where to put it, I say. She has not noticed my scuffed shoes and Zara jacket, or maybe she has reinterpreted them as a feature of the casual eccentricity of the very rich. It must be that I am troubled by moving my collection of Cubist painings out of the drawing room of my London residence to make room for this grand. It would be so inconvenient and such a nuisance for the staff. Where are you from? she asks. Here, I say, non-committedly, remaining costive of words. In London? she says. I smile. We are leaving now. She wants to give me her card. I’m not far away, I say, as though I live in Mayfair. I am a potential sale, she feels. I’m pretty good at acting rich. Maybe I’ve missed my calling. I probably should really be a rich person, I think, on the 159 back to South London.

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