December 27, 2011


The November 2011 edition of “Town & Country” had an article by writer Jonathan Reynolds that recounts his abridged training at butler’s school – an institution which began in New York when a wealthy woman woke up in her mansion one morning and decided she needed a wife (“At Your Service” pg. 160). Who doesn’t? I’ve uttered the same wish myself during times of spring cleaning or when attempting to boil something other than an egg. The woman’s response was to open a school for butlers where the impeccable skills of domestic service would be taught — the kind service one expects to find at Buckingham Palace or in dramas like “Upstairs/Downstairs,” “Arthur,” and “The Remains of the Day.”


In his article, Reynolds reveals a few trade secrets about protocol, including the fact that there are several types of forks which can be used when serving bib lettuce. I didn’t take notes on this esotery but I did sigh to think that this level of care existed. It won’t be found at McDonald’s or in the local nursing home. 

Having reached the age of 75 I know with diamond clarity that service is what I value most in life, not possessions. I don’t want a car with all the bells and whistles. I want a chauffeur. I don’t want the latest culinary implements, I want a cook. I don’t want to try on clothes during the sales. I want a personal shopper. If I thought it was possible, I’d get someone else to take my annual physicals, too.

We Americans are a gadget crazed society. We have machines for many, many tasks. I especially love the remote control for my television. But robotics doesn’t have the flexibility or charm of personal service, especially from a person who takes pride in his work.

Reynolds writes in his article that Prince Charles of England has a personal staff of about 80 and that the man has probably never gotten a glass of water for himself in his life (pg. 163). That, perhaps, is a bit more service than I require but after reading the article, I’ve decided to make a New Year’s resolution. I intend to be especially good myself and will choose human over mechanical service to the degree my wallet can afford. Maybe I’ll find someone to shop for me or get I’ll indulge in a massage or even get my fortune told. I don’t need to justify these simple pleasures. After all, I’m helping the economy by giving someone a job, aren’t I?