I had always wanted to go to a “real” ballet.
As a kid my mom had taken me to see our local production of the Nutcracker several times over the Christmas holidays. I always loved it.
But going to a real ballet? With professionals in a grand old building?
That, I dreamt of.
When I was in Vienna at eighteen I got my first chance.
I had been travelling for a while and didn’t have much money, but I did have enough to buy a ticket for the standing section in the balcony of the Vienna Opera House to see the Royal Ballet.
Can you imagine? The Vienna Opera House?
It was spectacular.
I dressed in the best outfit I could muster our of my backpack – a black mini-skirt, black tights, chunky ankle boots, and a vintage leather jacket I had bought at a flea market in London. Perhaps for an 18-year-old snowboarder in the mid-90s I looked quite cool, but I’m sure to everyone else I looked ridiculously out-of-place.
I didn’t care; I was so excited.
Entering the Opera House was like magic. It was every bit as spectacular as I imagined it would be.
I took my spot up on the highest (nose-bleed) balcony and not long after, an elderly gentleman came up to me and asked me if I’d like a better seat.
He explained that he and his wife had season tickets and never miss a performance,but she was home ill and her seat was free.
Of course I jumped at the chance and enjoyed the ballet in one of the best seats in the house.
During intermisison he took me around the opera House telling me stories and personal accounts of all that the beautiful old walls had held.
After the show we went across the street with all the other locals to a café where they sipped Vienese coffees and talked about how lovely the performance was.
It was one of my favorite memories from over a year spent in Europe.
I can’t remember the gentleman’s name, or even picture his face anymore, but I’ll never forget how he made me feel – special and valued and… even a little bit cultured.
Q for you: When is the last time you allowed a stranger to make your day?
P.S. I ran out of time but wanted to mention that this “stranger” ended up being a friend of my 4th grade teacher, who at some point had done a teaching exchange in Austria. It’s a small, small world. (And this was before the days of the internet!!)