Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What Is It Like To Have Servants?

I love this question, often asked by friends and associates who daydream about being rich and not having to lift a finger to get through a day. It's like, what else is money for if you can't have other people help you with all your stuff, right? For example, what if:
  • You don't have to make your own coffee or breakfast when you wake up? Thanks to Chef it's already waiting for you on the breakfast-room table. Or if you're feeling poorly or lazy you could ask for a tray to be sent up to your room - complete with a bud vase and the morning newspaper. 
  • You don't have to make your own bed or change the sheets (ever) since the Upstairs Maid will do that for you? (my personal favorite!)
  • You don't have to dust, vacuum or mop (again, ever) because that's the Executive Housekeeper's job to assign to her assistant House Cleaners.
  • Nor do you have to do your own laundry, ironing, or shine your own shoes since the Laundry Tech takes cares of all that. 
  • Do you need to take your car(s) out for inspection, an oil change, or routine maintenance? No, that's the Chauffeurs job of course - along with washing, waxing and filling them up with petrol.
  • Do you need to call a repairman (and wait hours for them to arrive) when the air conditioning, internet, or the washing machine goes out? Heavens no, that's what your House Manager/Butler is for.
  • Is it your job to mow the grass, trim the hedges and tend the flower gardens on your precious weekend off? Not bloody likely when you have full-time Groundskeepers to do that for you. 
  • Is it on your schedule to pick up the dry cleaning or drop off alterations at the tailor shop? No, either the Butler or his assistant, the household Errand Runner will take care of that for you.
  • Do you need to dash out to Neiman's to buy a few gifts for a wedding or other such reckless events? You can if you like, or your Personal Shopper is on hand anytime you wish, waiting for your call. Likewise she/he's there for birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and the enormous task of Christmas shopping.
  • Do you need to make your own travel arrangements, acquire theater tickets, or write your own Thank You notes? Not when you have a Personal Assistant.
  • Is it your responsibility to fly your own plane or steer your own luxury yacht? Not if you have a Pilot and Sea Captain on retainer, ready to go at your every whim. 
  • When you're having a gala at your estate for five-or-six hundred guests, do you have to be involved in any way? Not really! Just turn it over to your Events Planner who will organize the Caterers, Musicians, Florists, Decorators, Valet Parkers, Security Personnel, and Party Rental companies if you need tents and canopies. Then you can arrive at your own party stress free, dressed to the hilt in haute couture, dripping in diamonds - ready to enjoy a pleasant evening!  
While this list is hardly exhaustive, you at least get the drift of what it might be like to have an army of people helping you run your busy daily life. However, as noted in the previous post entitled Privacy For The Rich, there's a price to pay for all this help. And there are some situations, no matter how rich and powerful you are, when you have to do a task all by yourself - like standing on line at the Department of Motor Vehicles to have your picture made and driver's license renewed. (Although it's not uncommon to have a servant stand on line, then the boss steps up to take his place when his name is called.)

With the narrow definition of a servant being someone who provides a service, we all have a degree of unavoidable helpers and service workers in our lives, right? Beauticians, barbers, manicurists, dry cleaners, plumbers, electricians, repairmen, tax accountants and lawyers to name a few. Some of us can afford to have house cleaners and lawn-care workers come in once or twice a week. Some of us can afford to get a facial or massage now and then. And let's not overlook all the doctors, dentists and pharmacists trying to help us live healthy lives.

But there's one area when we actually choose to have service, even if we're not rich or powerful - that being when we go out to a restaurant. Depending on the establishment of course, here's what we might have available when we dine out, to a greater or lesser degree:
  • Valet Parkers to eliminate finding a parking place.
  • A Host/Hostess to escort us to our tables.
  • A Table Attendant brings in water and a menu.
  • Then a Waiter shows up to take our aperitif orders and dinner choices.
  • Right beside him a Sommelier (fancy name for Wine Steward) steps up with a wine list, ready to explain all the fine vintages in their collection that might be suitable for our dinner selections.
  • In the kitchen we have Food Preps washing lettuce and dicing veggies, and a Sous Chef and Executive Chef arguing about recipes and how the plate should be laid out.
  • Throughout the meal our Waiter shows up to observe, poor more wine, and his Table Attendant brings more water or bread and butter as needed.
  • When dinner is over, a Busboy comes quickly to take away the dirty dishes and clean up the mess we've made.
  • And back in the kitchen, the Dishwasher cleans all the plates, flatware and stemware so we don't have to do that when we wake up in the morning.
It's a nice experience to have a hearty meal and nourish ourselves without lifting a finger, right? But a word of caution here: this is NOT the time to act silly and snobby. The way we treat our Waiter and his crew reveals our entire personality, not just to the restaurant staff but also to the people we've brought along to dinner. Playing the uppity Big Shot here only gets us bad service, and scorn from our table party guests. And trying to show off our extensive (yet still sophomoric) wine knowledge to a dedicated Sommelier is a lost cause to begin with. In fact, here's a fun and informative article from the Food Network entitled 8 Things Your Waiter Wishes You Knew!

I guess the bottom line is that professional servants take care of needed, legitimate jobs in this world. Not because our rich employers are little Gods on this earth and feel entitled, but for a fat paycheck or a big tip in a restaurant! Abuse, whether it be physical, verbal or emotional, is not allowed - illegal in fact, and can be prosecuted. Arrogance on the other hand might be tolerated by those of us in service - that is, for awhile and to an extent. But it gets tiresome and reveals the true character of the person we're working for -  and provides a big clue as to whether we need to move on and get away from such a self-centered person at the first opportunity.

As always, thanks for stopping by this evening! I hope this post wasn't too tedious, but it's always fun to write about the master/servant relationship. Especially with so many instant and clueless billionaires popping up these days all over the world - like corn kernels on a hot skillet.

Andrew


8 comments:

  1. Wilhelmina NettersheinWednesday, 30 May, 2018

    Hello Mr. Williams I am writing to you from Berlin to say I enjoyed this post very much as I always do but this time you touched a nerve. That is because my father-in-law acts so superior when he takes me and my husband out for dinner. I cringe when he snaps his fingers to get a waiter's attention and I can see the annoyance in the waiters face. Thank you for writing about this. It is like a cathartic release, if that is the right English words.
    Mina

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    1. Hello Mina! Yes those are the correct English words, and I must say your English is far better than my German. I cringe for you as well when your husband's father snaps his fingers at a waiter! It must be a generational thing, let's hope, as this type of behaviour is no longer acceptable in the modern world. Thanks for writing, and please do stop by anytime.
      Andrew

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  2. I have a feeling if they could delegate everything to servants or Butler’s they would. “Andrew, have a heart attack for me would you ?” Let us hope that your employer if it’s still the same one is acting a tad bit more tolerable these days these days . Chris

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    1. I couldn't agree more Chris. They'd dump everything on our shoulders if they could. Yes, I'm still with the same employer. I told him three months ago, in a moment of anger, to replace me. But he backed off and things have been much smoother lately. Time will tell I guess?

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  3. As usual, I tend to focus on how the servants mostly take on tasks that wouldn't exist if the rich didn't complicate their lives so much with large houses, lots of stuff, and big events. I suppose that's up to them, but I would imagine the most coveted billionaire trick is having the ability to be alone and private as much as possible. This may be why certain tech elite (Gates included) seem to focus a lot on automating their household via technology, so they can tell the servants to leave.

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    1. I know, right? All this money and freedom, but then get bogged down in day to day busy-ness, and endless complications? Makes no sense to me either.

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  4. I hope I'm not writing this question too late to get a response, but the anal in me really wants to know: What differentiates running an estate home from a regular large home? I've done many searches on this and can't get satisfactory answers (or any answers), so I was wondering if you could help or point me to the right website/book/blog etc.

    I wasn't raised in the US, and middle class in my country means household staff is the norm, not the exception. So while I'm used to having live in help, I have no idea what it's like when it's at your level. It's the little things that have me stumped.

    For example, when you're managing a 10+ bedroom home, how do differentiate them for use, cleaning, whatever. Do you assign each bedroom/bathroom a number, name, color...what?

    If one ensuite bathroom has a wonky toilet, a bulb needs replacing in another and the air isn't working in yet another, do you say 3rd door on the right, the gray bathroom or bedroom #9? How do you differentiate?

    How do you go about assigning guests to a bedroom? And how does the staff go about knowing which room each guest is in? When you have a packed house and guest Y asked not to be disturbed until noon, how do you get all the staff to know which room he's been assigned to so they can leave that particular bedroom alone?

    And to that end, when you have that many bedrooms/bathrooms to oversee, does each suite get assigned its own set of linen or do you put whichever sheets you want to on whichever guest bedroom mattress they fit on? What about towels?

    When guests visit, how often do the sheets/towels get changed and bin get emptied?

    Basically, what are the things one does differently when running a staffed mansion (and should know about doing in a mansion) that one wouldn't consider when running an upper middle class home.

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    1. The difference is a House Manager/Butler runs a single home, whereas an Estate Manager runs multiple homes. As for cleaning, it's called Zone Cleaning. Each day all rooms are normally attended, but one room each day is deep cleaned - flip the mattress, vacuum under beds, clean the windows. That way the entire house is deep cleaned within a onth - on a rotational basis.
      As for the "Do Not Disturb" requests when there's a full house,some homes may accommodate this silliness. But in this particular house we pay no attention to that, this not being a hotel. Breakfast is on the table at 8:00am. If they don't want to come down, that's their problem. :)

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