O Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes-Benz?
A skid on a snowy road last Saturday, and my ten year old Hyundai was totalled. We needed a rental car, so off we went to Enterprise. The young guy behind the counter looked at our reservation and said, "Seyfried? I went to school in Upper Dublin with a Julie Seyfried!" Yes, he and Jules had been classmates. Now, I'm sure there's no connection, but next thing we knew he had waved us over to a Mercedes in the parking lot. "You can rent that for the same price as a regular car," said he. I pulled gingerly onto the road, terrified of denting or dinging this automotive masterpiece.
I am intensely uncomfortable with luxury. I feel like a fraud in Neiman Marcus (even if I'm just cutting through the jewelry department), and when I take the Walk of Shame past the snooty first class airline passengers en route to my last row seat in economy, I agree with their pitying glances. I am the one sitting in the nosebleed section at concerts and plays, observing the swankily dressed privileged folks on orchestra level far, far below. The few times I have redeemed a spa gift certificate, I have been very tempted to offer to take the place of the hardworking masseuse or manicurist, because what right do I have to be pampered?
The closest Steve and I ever came to Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous was way back in the early '90s, when we collaborated with a Philadelphia real estate mogul/composer on a musical project. Jim had written some tunes for a show he envisioned based on the life of a Howard Hughes (another high roller, naturally). We were brought in to write the book and lyrics. For months, after toiling away on a script in our modest abode, we'd go over to his McMansion to update him on our progress. Sometimes Jim had similarly wealthy friends over, and it was all I could do to not hang up their coats and fetch them hot toddies.
Eventually Jim bankrolled a performance of "Flight" in Manhattan, We were still clipping coupons for Pampers at that point, so this "money is no object" attitude was completely alien to us. We planned to train it from Trenton for the big event. Silly us! A limo was summoned by our composer, and we were whisked up the New Jersey Turnpike like royalty. Lunch at Sardi's? Of course! Alas, after an initial flurry, the show went nowhere, and our fairy tale sojourn ended.
Anyway, the Benz sits in our driveway, looking very out of place. I can't figure out the radio, or the backing up camera, or the heated seats--and in a week my fabulous wheels will be gone, so there's no point learning.
Would I buy a Mercedes-Benz if I had the means? Not sure. But for now, I hope I can get past feeling like the Great Pretender as I drive around town, and just enjoy my (very expensive) ride.