Once upon a time in Austria, on vacation, in Salzburg, I went to a classical music concert – Mozart, I think. This was in winter, just a week or so before Christmas. Snow dusted the tree branches overhead and the edges of railings beside and the puddles of frozen winter grass I walked past. Golden light spilled out of windows.
The concert took place in a pink marble room where the notes sparkled off the polished surfaces and the ceiling and the chandeliers soared far overhead and the concert-goers in stiff side chairs sat neatly arrayed in rows, listening. It was a chamber music concert, just four musicians. It was wonderful, like a window into another room, like a moment taken from a fairytale.
But the part that stays with me, as a surprise, years later, is this: that because it was winter, all of us concert-goers arrived wearing substantial, voluminous coats. And whereas in the United States, or the United Kingdom, or most other places I have been, we would all have waited in a coat-check line to hand our coats to a clerk in exchange for a tag or a token which we would then re-exchange for our coat again later, after the concert, after standing again in a line – in Austria there were simply large and substantial coat racks set up in the lobby, unattended. The racks gleamed with chrome and coat hangers. And we concert-goers, as we entered, simply hung up our coats on the hangers on the racks, and went in to the concert. Afterwards, on our way out, we returned to the lobby and retrieved our coats. No standing in line, no tags or tokens. No awkward uncertainty about whether or how much to tip the coat-check person.
And, as far as I know, no missing coats.
It was a wonderful experience.