Saturday, September 29, 2018

What? Dame Covington Is In Jail!

This evening I got a late-night call from our local Constable to see if I could come and bail Dame Covington out of jail! Seriously? It seems the dear old gal had become belligerent and created a ruckus at a fancy cocktail party here in town. Apparently there was an argument about politics and Covington used her gold-handle cane to trip her opponent - an equally elegant lady of roughly her age who didn't take it well and called the cops!

Of course I jumped out of bed and drove over right away. In my world I always have access to bail money, be it for my crazy old employer himself or for his occasionally unruly guests. But Dame Covington is a special case and I'd use my own money to bounce her out of jail, if need be.

This charming wise old woman has been a friend of my employer's since childhood, elementary school in fact, and was a best friend to his first wife who died some years back. She's like a fixture in this house - always around in the background. She can be found in the library quietly reading a book, down at the pond with parasol in hand watching the swans glide by, or unobtrusively making herself a hard boiled egg in the kitchen. In fact, I'd be worried if I didn't see her around here on a daily basis. For those evenings when she's had a few too many cocktails and can't quite make it home, she even has her own designated bedroom on the second floor, next to the elevator.

Among her multiple marriages, no one seems to know or care where she gained the title Dame along her journey in life. But she has a regal air and carriage which gives her all the respect she deserves. It's rumored that she was once quite rich, but now is almost totally dependent on other people's cocktail buffets for her daily nutrition.

Bless her dear heart, she has all kinds of issues in staying out of jail. The dents and scratches on her ancient Rolls Royce testify to her driving skills. While she doesn't drive on highways anymore, apparently she's a terror on streets here in our little community. Our local cop Michael is very lenient with her, but here's some funny exchanges he's shared with me:

Michael: Did you see that red light, Madam?
Covington: Of course I did young man, but there's so many of those in town - do you expect me to stop at all of them?

Michael: There was a stop sign at that intersection, Dame Covington!
Covington: Yes, but it appeared like more of a suggestion and I wasn't really in the mood.

Covington: Why did you stop me young man, can't you see I'm in a hurry?
Michael: Speed signs are there for a reason!
Covington: Alright then, I'll take it under advisement. May I go now?

I met Dame Covington the first week I worked here, it was in autumn. Upon escorting her and my employer's new wife (both with cocktails in hand) out to the balcony to observe the brilliant fall colors of red, yellow, orange and purple, she said to the new wife, "Your grounds are lovely my dear! Who does your trees?" And I've been in love with her ever since.

After posting bail, she fussed all the way home about the embarrassment and discomforts of being thrown into the clink. But coaxing her with a Hot Toddy I finally got her tucked into bed, up on the second floor. And I'm going back to bed myself, right this minute!

As always, thanks for stopping by this evening, even at this late hour.


PS: Her bail was only $50!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Gender-Neutral Service in Restaurants!

When it comes to the rules of etiquette between men and women, admittedly I'm what you might call old school. It was taught to me by my mother in childhood and it has fit in well with my current job as a butler in a billionaire's home.

Things like holding a door, pulling out a chair, or opening the car door for a lady are second nature to me. Giving up a seat on the subway, especially if it's an elderly woman or a mother with children, goes without saying.

And when it comes to dining - whether in a private home, a 24-hour greasy spoon cafe, or a posh five-star restaurant - serving women first seems like it's built into our collective DNA.

But now it seems there's something new afoot, and proper etiquette might be evolving. Our friend Caroline Muller (known as the Master Concierge on Twitter) shared an article by Grace Perry from about a new trend going on in some surprising places.

Entitled "The End of  Ladies First Restaurant Service", I took a deep breath and dived right in.

Grace explains that several trendy restaurants are responding to the various social movements of how women expect to be treated in this world today by offering what's called Neutral-Gender Service. Which basically means forget about serving ladies first and treat everyone at the table as equals. From water and wine, to dinner plates and dessert, guests are served clockwise around the table, regardless of male or female - or age for that matter.
While this rocks my world, I totally get it. The long-standing feminist struggles and more lately the Me Too movement have awakened us not only to grotesque physical assaults against women but also the pervasive and subtle ways of sexism and gender discrimination lingering in our society today - even in such simple things as restaurant service.

We all know that social change is agonizingly slow. Not so long ago, until the Suffragettes had finally had enough, were American women finally allowed to vote in 1920 - although driving a car or smoking a cigarette was still unthinkable for them. Going to a gathering of homosexuals, whether in a private home or a public bar, could get you arrested and thrown into jail on morals charges. But the revolts in the revolutionary 1960s put a stop to all that and the Gay Rights movement was born.

It could take years, decades, even generations for this gender-neutral trend to become universal, if ever. Especially among the royals in Europe as well as the overindulged and coddled new rich in America who are drunk on attention and personal service. Not to mention all the unique and complicated relationships between men and women in various cultures around the world. Only this past year were women in Saudi Arabia allowed to drive a car.

At the very least, gender-neutral service is a start - like a courageous first step and a new beginning. Most likely it will smolder and simmer as a lovely niche for a long while, like comfortable sanctuaries in a hostile world.

But I get it. And I'm writing this post tonight so we won't be shocked if we wander into one of these enlightened places. I doubt we'd see a sign on the door or menu about being gender neutral, but we'll know it when we see it.

Here's a link to Grace Perry's fascinating and brilliant article.

When you have time, please take a look. Personally, I myself doubt if I could ever treat an ancient Grand Dame coming into this house like one of the guys! But I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments below.

And as always, thank you for stopping by this evening,