What was different this time around was my new status as a “Member” of the Kennedy Center. Their telemarketers had been pestering me for years to become a member — which essentially is the entry-level donor program — and this year I finally gave in and sent them a check. In return, I received a flimsy ID card, some vouchers for reduced parking fares, the promise of having access to members-only lounges during intermissions, and the internal satisfaction of having begun (in albeit a very small way) to achieve one of my life’s goals. When I left my fundraising job at the Kennedy Center (a job that I loved), I told myself that I’d rather be a patron of the arts than a person who solicited donations from patrons. And now look at me: a bona fide donor!
Now, don’t get me wrong: This is NOT fancy. I am by no means a high-roller or important at all. And I thought I knew that, but I was still excited to go to the members’ lounge during intermission. It seemed like a sophisticated thing to do, and I figured it would be fun to take my friend Amy along with me.
So during the first intermission we walked up to the Opera-house lounge. As we went, Amy asked, somewhat uncertainly, if my membership was enough to cover her, too, or if she’d have to wait outside for me. Bah, I said, of course they’ll let you in!
Little did I know that they shouldn’t have let either of us in! We came to the door of what I thought was the members’ lounge and greeted the hostess. She knew me from when I worked at the Kennedy Center, and she was happy to see me. I cheerily told her that I’d finally become a member and was looking forward to using the lounge. She took one look at my card and laughed — You’ve got the wrong lounge! Your lounge is on the other side, up a few levels and on the right-hand side — there are no drinks or refreshments there! But don’t worry, I like you, so you and your friend can come in anyway.
And in we went! We got some refreshments and enjoyed the lounge that should have been out of our league. I was a little mortified at my mistake and made a note to myself to keep my delusions of grandeur in check. On the other hand, I was gratified to realize that, regardless of whatever money I may give (or not give!) to the Kennedy Center, I was already a “member” in the way that really counts — I was friends with the folks who run the place!
We finished our drinks and went back down for the next act of the performance. During the second intermission we decided not to press our luck too far among the fancy donors. We stayed among the plebes and agreed that we’d leave our hunt for the correct members’ lounge for next time.