Emily Post Part III: The Taming of the Chauffeur

Allow us to return, for a fleeting moment, to a more genteel era: When mustachioed butlers were burned at the stake of public ridicule (Emily Post Part I).  When the color of a footman’s livery was not generally described as “cirrhosis” (Emily Post Part II).  When one minded one’s Ps and Qs rather than burped them.  Yes, dear gentlefolk, it is time once more to allow Mrs. Emily Post to conduct us to that bygone era via her 1942 Blue Book of etiquette.  In this chapter, we learn how to attempt domestication of the most elusive, feral servant breed of all – the savage chauffeur.

First off, how can the chauffeur be discerned from other servant species?  Mrs. Post helpfully distinguishes their behavioral tendencies, “The position of the chauffeur differs from that of the other servants in two respects.  The first is that he has no regular days out.”

(This accounts for the particularly dour, loathing, hostile tendencies of chauffeurs throughout the world.  The real mark of a great lady of the house is channeling this burning, homicidal rage into efficient, obsessive car polishing.)

The chauffeur’s habitat also sets the breed apart: “Second, he usually finds (and pays for) his own board and lodging.”

(This accounts for all those fellows with signs standing outside Wal-Mart advertising their requests rather than walking inside said department store to procure a job application.  Having already procured a position, they must at least pretend they do not chug Jim Beam and slumber in their masters’ cars while off duty.)

As to the chauffeur’s eating habits: “Sometimes a single man eats with the servants in the kitchen, but this is not usual.”

This is not usual, as chauffeurs are social creatures who gather for communal readings of Motor Trend magazine and feast in large packs on the flesh of puppies and virgins.  If maintained singly in captivity, the chauffeur should be confined to the outdoors and held in check by chains applied to the hands and feet, taking care that the chains coordinate with the livery of the outside footmen.

Though with that said, let it never be uttered that Mrs. Post is heartless: “Sometimes, too, there may be a room over the garage or perhaps a whole apartment – especially above a garage that has been converted from a stable – in which he and his family may live.”

We say “especially above a garage that has been converted from a stable” since it reminds the chauffeur and his genetic derivatives of the level of esteem in which they are held by the lady and gentleman of the house.  Specifically, it is the level of esteem that is shared only with the dung of the master’s and mistress’s late horses.  Remember the golden rule of the well-appointed house: An ounce of bourgeoisie suppression is worth a pound of proletariat uprising.

(There is presently a spirited disagreement among the well-to-do as to whether the chauffer should be taught to read.  On the one hand, it will not do for a menial servant to start getting ideas in his little head – ideas like “minimum wage” and “women’s suffrage.”  But on the other hand, while there is little difference between a Rolls Royce and the U.S.S. Monitor, it’s considered poor form to batter one’s way through a four-way stop because the chauffer hasn’t the foggiest idea what the red hexagon is trying to convey.)

The Red October of automobiles

Mrs. Post continues, “His duties are irregular, sometimes extremely so.  In a large family, particularly where there are half-grown or grown daughters, a chauffeur’s life can be inhumanly strenuous.”

The footman bet the butler five bucks that the chauffeur is one late night pick-up of the grown daughter from parking that Rolls on her foot.

Of course, “certain humane as well as very rich employers have two chauffeurs who drive in alternate shifts.”

But the majority of good society knows that this practice is very silly indeed, as it implies chauffeurs are real people.  Though, perhaps there is some value to it in the ability to take one chauffeur out back and humanely dispose of him should his performance not be up to par.  For example, if he forgets the following:

“No chauffer ever carries a robe on his arm as a footman does when waiting at the door for his employer.  Properly, the lap robe is laid in deep full-length folds on the far side of the seat.  As soon as the occupants have taken their places the chauffeur reaches across and, holding the edge of the fold, draws it toward him across their laps.”

Wait…you can pay someone to do that?

Never trust a man who can slam off your head in a car door. Repeatedly.

The Divine Tragedy

There are several ways to know that a movie is going to be bad.  Here are a few:

  1. If it’s anime
  2. If it’s billed as a “companion” to a video game
  3. If it’s based on the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, more commonly referred to as The Inferno
  4. Or if (God forbid) all of the above are true, as in this case, they are.

You know it’s coming, so here it is – your review of the 2007 anime production, Dante’s Inferno.

Your !@$# is in the public domain, so suck it, Alighieri!

As one undoubtedly cringes to imagine, in Dante’s Inferno, the author Dante is reinvented as a Crusader and thrust into the role of protagonist in a bit of artistic license as subtle and classy as a sumo wrestler clubbing a baby seal.  Before we’ve even entered hell proper, the movie takes bold and immediate steps to establish that our bastardized protagonist is incapable of interpersonal relationships, even with demonic entities, and undoubtedly needs years – nay, decades – of intense, inpatient therapy.

Take, for example, his interactions with Charon the Ferryman, whom the animators felt inclined to anthropomorphize into the figurehead of a bizarre barge.  Don’t ask me why or why they felt an entire barge was necessary.  Apparently, the “Congratulations, you’re damned!” cruise has grown inordinately popular.  Regardless, Charon has no arms, no legs, and no capacity to do much of anything save transport the souls of the miserable from point A to point B while making cryptic pronouncements.  Still, for pointing out that Dante was still living and, as a result, really not the sort of clientele the underworld was aiming for, our hero bravely jams his weapon into Charon’s skull, thereby slaying an oversized sentient canoe with no ability to defend itself.

The church bell chimed ’til it rang twenty-nine times for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

This is to become a recurrent theme throughout the feature.  Dante encounters an overworked, underpaid member of Gehenna and, regardless of whether they attempt to actively impede him or not, waves sharp implements at them in a generally hostile fashion until another help wanted sign appears in the windows of hell.  By the end of the movie, Charon, Minos, and Cerberus are all pushing up the daisies, and that’s just to name a few.  If nothing else, one must admit it raises the interesting theological question of what hell does when it’s short staffed.  Close for a day?  Bring in some temps?  Outsource?  Clearly, synergies need to be leveraged.  Maybe they could merge a circle or two to cut costs?  Just throwing out ideas here.

Speaking of throwing out ideas, Dante hasn’t rampaged through too many realms of eternal torment before something becomes abundantly clear: namely that several of the animators slept through the part of the meeting where it was discussed how they would be drawing Virgil’s hair.  Literally on a scene-by-scene basis, his ‘do goes from appearing as though it was hewn from solid granite to the “stuck my tongue in the socket” anime staple to the “Hey!  Is that Obi-Wan Kenobi?” special.

Great. Of all the guides I could have ended up with, I get Virgil Sassoon.

Dante himself takes this in stride – likely because the animators cannot come to a consensus about what exactly he is or is not wearing in terms of armor.  For much of the movie, he’s sporting a sort of Hell Boy metal armguard…except when he’s naked from the chest up…or when he’s back in his full Templar regalia.  No wonder Virgil seems impatient at points – Dante can walk by anything except a dressing room.

Next time, guys, how about a little more CCing on those style e-mails?

Beatrice, author Dante’s paragon of womanhood, was also dragged into the hell that is this film, both figuratively and literally, but the animators were a little more united as to the nature of her apparel.  Specifically, they were in agreement it should fall off – as often as possible and for no reason other than drawing attention away from how awful the rest of the movie is.  Sort of deus ex cleavage, if you will.

At this point, we’ve covered more or less all the principal players in this lovely crap-daptation with the exception of Dante himself who, I’m proud to say, is portrayed one-hundred percent authentically.  He’s a Crusader sent to liberate the Holy Land who, over the course of the movie, knocks up his fiancée, cheats on her, starves innumerable prisoners, slaughters them all, lets someone else take the blame for it, denies everything to his fiancée while she’s on her death bed, and…  Alright.  Seriously, people.  Who put this together, and have they been subjected to a less-than-random drug test?

Still more inexplicably (if that’s possible), after going through the trouble to establish Dante as a lying, prideful, mass-murdering, adulterous womanizer, the movie assigns to him the power to brandish a ginormous crucifix (that he can somehow touch without being obliterated by a freak lightning storm) and release souls from hell pretty much on a whim.  When he does so, comments tend to be made about said soul being unjustly condemned.

Wait.

What?

Most major religions would have me believe that the pearly gates have some sort of quality control.  How the !@#$ are we explaining this?  “Oh dang – Dante found another one that wasn’t supposed to be there.  Wow…you know…sorry about all those years of unending torment and whatnot.  We were reorganizing the department and, you know, Phil told me he had the paperwork, but it must have gotten lost and…yeah…  So!  Now that we have that cleared up, here are your wings!  There’s St. Peter!  Have fun!”  It’s enough to make hell, even badly short staffed, look like a bastion of efficiency.

In the spirit of efficiency and finishing this article in less time than the movie, let’s just cut to the end.  Eventually Beatrice, in a completely logical and believable plot development, becomes the bride of Satan.  I am not kidding.  Luckily for us, Dante, problem solver that he is, opts to forgo his usual stabbity-stabbity response to this development and instead brandishes his comically large wrought iron cross, which magically turns Beatrice from an almost naked demonic entity to a completely naked spiritual entity.  (If I had to assign a soundtrack to this scene, I’m pretty sure it’d be Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride,” but I digress.)  Hovering there buck naked, the movie finally realizes that Beatrice, like an old oil derrick, has been completely exploited, and so an angel descends to cover her with its wings (marking the first scene she hasn’t done entirely in the buff) and carry her to heaven.  Hopefully, it does so by way of an Old Navy so the woman can buy a pair of pants.

Sheesh, put on some pants.

This, of course, leaves Dante to descend to the final circle and confront Satan, who revels this was all part of his plan to invade purgatory and, by extension, heaven.  Since, you know, that worked so well for him the first time.  Long story short, they meet, and Dante screams at him for awhile, the usual stabbity-stabbity occurs, Dante ostensibly repents – five seconds of prayer atoning for his years spent as a philandering psychopath, God intervenes, Lucifer is trapped, Dante enters purgatory, the HR department for said realm starts getting a bit fidgety, and…the movie tries to set itself up for a sequel.  God forbid.  No pun intended.

Bite Me

Much like the Harry Potter franchise can be blamed for the swell of literature extorting the glory of teenage wizardry, the Twilight franchise is the reason a trip to my local bookseller involves copious amounts of lusty vampire jacket art.  Apparently, at least in the literary world, being dead is the new being alive.  Furthermore, in addition to being surprisingly sexy, it pays far better than one might think.  But while I will admit to having a working knowledge of the rules of Quidditch, I haven’t been able to bring myself to drink the collective Kool-Aid that is the present vampiric infatuation.  As you might imagine, there are reasons for this.

Am I the only one who doesn’t find this attractive at all?

First among equals is that, for whatever reason, the prospect of fantasizing about human lampreys hell bent on sucking my life force and, in the process of doing so, passing on some sort of blood borne pathogen that afflicts me with a similar inclination does not excite me as much as it does the average teenage girl.  Go figure.  My guess is that similar sentiments are possessed, even if not always expressed, by every other male on the planet with occasional cause to leave their parents’ basement.

Of course, this admission opens me up to a charge of preemptive damnation in regards to the Twilight series – particularly when I add to the fire that I’ve neither read, nor have plans to read, the books in question.  However, I do have what I feel is a fairly solid counter argument for that.  Enter my wife, editor and English literature major, who subjected herself to the series for reasons I will never fully understand.  Needless to say, the most convincing book review I have ever heard in my life came in the form of three sentences, uttered by the spouse in question, moments before sleep overtook her.  They were as follows:

“I’m finally enjoying Twilight.”

Pause.

“It’s only grown interesting in the last fifty pages or so.”

Pause.

“And that’s only because someone is trying to eat the protagonist.”

GET IN MY BELLY!

Were one to condense the above into some sort of numeric score, I’m not quite sure where it would fall.  But either way, if the only incentive to read the book comes from the possibility of the protagonist’s untimely demise, I’ll stick to Greek tragedies and Russian lit.

Of course, I hardly needed a reason not to read the series when my mind had been made up about it for some time.  Call me a hopeless romantic, but I hold somewhat conservative views when it comes to vampires – specifically, that their activities should be limited to instilling fear, biting necks, and having stakes rammed through their hearts when they’ve done too much of the first two.  Based on the book jacket and various previews for the movie, I have concluded that Twilight contains precious little of the aforementioned.  So unless someone is going to reassure me that Wesley Snipes does indeed show up and enact utter pandemonium, I’m going to politely decline any variation of the experience.

He wears trench coats in summer, sunglasses inside, and fights with a katana. How can this movie not be awesome?

While I’m bemoaning the lack of a certain Mr. Snipes (something I never thought I’d do…particularly after Blade 3), allow me to indulge a last petty gripe in regards to the Twilight setting – high school?  Really?  Admittedly, the presence of the undead could have only improved my own educational experience, but let us pause for a moment to inquire what the undead are doing in a high school setting at all.  Is a GED insufficient for a career in professional neck gnawing?  Did Congress pass the No Child of the Night Left Behind Act before their most recent recess?  In short, if I had every reason to believe I was going to live for an eternity, a high school education would not make the list of things to do before I…don’t die.  Eating the football team might, but perhaps my priorities are a little askew.

On the topic of askew priorities, the mass murder of the football team wouldn’t put me too far afield of the female protagonist of Twilight who concludes, after the eternity of a one-week high school courtship, that her vampiric co-protagonist is the one whom she is destined to be with forever.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, because lest we forget…high school matters…to someone…somewhere…maybe.  Furthermore, important life decisions are made there everyday – mostly to the effect of whether the chemical in question can be safely smoked or not, but I suppose that is beside the point.

So…this is technically necrophilia, isn’t it?

One can only hope that the present vampire obsession is already in its twilight, pun premeditated.  Of course, this means something else will take its place, and at present, my guess is that something involves zombies.  I’m cautiously optimistic that it is impossible to draw a sexy zombie, which means it might not be safe to walk the fantasy section of Barnes & Noble in the near future without running the risk of blindness.  Of course, I’m probably wrong, and I should probably be writing a book involving a sexy zombie rather than ruminating on whether it would be popular.

So on that note, I’m off to work on The Love Zombie.  Watch for it this fall.

Time could never rot her heart…