By the time we are six we learn that there is no Santa Claus. Then, a year later, the Easter Bunny leaves us too. By the time we hold our first job we realize that those with money are not better than us, only richer. Sometimes, the rich allows us a glimpse into their persona and we learn the real difference.
Do you remember Ivanka Trump sharing with a film maker a family anecdote about how humbled her father had been by some failure of that moment? When she was a teenager, he had dragged her to the street person closest to one of his Trump Towers and teary-eyed, told her the poor, disheveled character on the sidewalk was millions of times richer than he: the Trumps’ tramp might have had no money but, he, Trump was millions of dollars in debt. Boorish? Most likely.
Anyway, this week I attended an event at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and, as a proud Harvard graduate, I decided to have lunch across the street. I have been a member of the Harvard Club since 1994. Or, so I thought. Reality, it seems, wanted to challenge my desire to mix with the rich and not-so-famous and it sent to my table an immigrant, or t least a non-WASP, to mirror my status – given away by my Club records – and make me feel less abused perhaps while she was trying her best to shame me into leaving. My account was, as this Club employee finally told me, inactive. When I explained that, like a good American, my husband, and gave her his name, paid my dues, she took a short leave to confer with her bosses, and returned to inform me that there was nothing in their records to prove my claim. My claim of marriage, or that my husband paid my dues? I did not ask.
I handed her a credit card for my $24 tab. I was humbled – more like Ivanka than Donald. Is the economy so bad that the Harvard Club cannot absorb a $24 tab from a hungry, vagrant woman, had I been one, or their impoverished graduate with an inactive account, as their narrative stated? Hadn’t President Obama doled out any stimulus money to his alma mater?
All good questions but irrelevant. Had the Harvard Club employee been trained to be efficient and not officious, she might have noticed that my husband, the one whose connection to me could not be traced through a common last name was having a business lunch in the main dining room at the same time as his wife was the object of persistent harassment. Even more to the point, as a Harvard lawyer might say, all my husband’s checks written to the Club, bear my name on them and a reminder that their amount was to cover my dues as well.
But here comes my moral question: Can I really complain to the man in charge that one of the Club’s employees was out of line, when most likely, what I perceived as harassment and insult was nothing more than the institutional line? I would complain if I thought it would bring her promotion, because she surely deserves to be rewarded. She proved beyond doubt that she belongs in a Harvard Club which chooses boorishness above everything else.