Years ago I was in Eindhoven in The Netherlands.
One evening after work I was in the hotel sauna relaxing. There was another gentleman there reading the newspaper. As is the custom, neither of us had on a stitch so there was nothing to communicate status or profession.
Eventually he put his paper down and we started talking. I described my work, teaching a software class at the Philips home office there in Eindhoven.
Perhaps searching for common ground, he asked if I liked music and, if so, what kinds.
I said, “Jazz, some R&B, a little rock, even some country if it is musically interesting.”
He asked, “What about classical?”
“As long as it’s not French Renaissance,” I said, “I’ll pay attention.
“Years ago,” I continued, “I played flute and we did some chamber pieces that were fun and intriguing.”
He paused a moment.
“Would you like to attend a concert tomorrow evening? You see, I’m the guest conductor and they gave me two free tickets but I don’t know anyone here. You are welcome to one or both of them.”
The next evening I put on the best “engineer” clothes I had brought with me and added a borrowed jacket and tie from the hotel’s concierge and went to the theater a couple of blocks from the hotel. As promised, the tickets were being held for “Ed” and, presenting them to the usher, he glanced at the ticket to note the row and seat but then paused to examine me rather closely.
“Sir,” he said, “please come this way.”
He guided me to the almost empty main staircase even though most patrons were going directly into the theater on the same level as the entrance. I realized my seat must be in the balcony and hoped it would not be too far back; I like to be able to see the musicians and watch the conductor.
The usher directed me to the currently empty front row of the balcony. I walked into that row and he followed.
As we neared dead center, I realized that the house had become rather quiet and that more than a few faces on the main floor were turned in my direction. I also saw that the seat the usher now indicated was dead center and lit not glaringly but, nonetheless, brighter than any other seat in the concert hall. I could only hope my blue jeans below the borrowed jacket and tie looked presentably rich-shabby.
I took my seat, the lights dimmed and the concert began.
I never ran into my benefactor again nor did I even note his name at the time — there was no notepad or pencil in the sauna and I’ve long since misplaced the concert program — so I have never able to tell him how much I enjoyed the evening because, even though I can’t say much for Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, my oh my, what an entrance I got to make at the Muziekgebouw Frits Philips in Eindhoven!