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.)
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?