I was waiting at the Batobus* station recently, and struck up a conversation with a gentleman from Cleveland. He and his wife were visiting London, Paris, and Rome over a month. Art and culture were the focus of the trip (not their first here), and the conversation eventually turned to what I was doing in Paris, and what I’d written.
“I can relate to that,” he replied after I briefly told him about The Old Money Book. “I grew up on a farm, where you had to plant, then wait, then harvest. It made delayed gratification part of my character. I think that’s being eroded today with everything happening so fast. I even find myself getting impatient if the internet is slow. It’s ridiculous.”
He laughed at himself, which, I’ve learned, is one sign of an enlightened mind, then continued: “I read a book when I first graduated from college that said, ‘Starting out, you can’t have things and money. You can have one or the other.’ It was a simple thing that I thought about each time I considered buying something, and when I started getting serious with my wife, we talked about it.”
His wife then chimed in, “We didn’t have a lot of either starting out.” The both laughed. “My older sister gave us our first sofa.” “And I wanted to give it back,” he snorted playfully.
“The reason we can write a large check today is because we’ve limited the number of small checks we’ve written over the past 30 years,” the gentleman added.
Ah, the irony of it all.
The conversation drifted from there as we waited for the next boat to arrive. (The Batobus is a great way to get around Paris, but don’t be in a hurry.) The farm turned out to be a four-generation, 1500-acre affair, managed by college graduate after college graduate, with not a Cadillac or diamond pinky ring in sight.
The gentleman was an attorney now, his wife managed their residential real estate holdings, which seemed to be a tad more than just a duplex here and there.
The Batobus finally arrived, and our conversation wound down. As we were about to board, the gentleman turned to me and asked me if I knew a cafe with good cocktails near the Ritz hotel. I suggested a familiar establishment, and he nodded his thanks.
“We’re staying there, and that’s fine. It’s part of the experience we want. But I’ll be damned if I’m paying 30 euros for a Jack and Coke.”
Old Money. I love it.
*The Batobus is a boat taxi that operates on the Seine. It serves mostly tourists–and the occasional metro-averse writer–with slow but scenic service from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower, making 8 stops at major sites along it’s route between the two. Day passes are 17 euros and two-day passes are 19 euros. Annual passes are 60 euros, unless you purchase them in late August, when the price drops to 30 euros for one year of leisurely boat rides, up and down the river.