Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, November 2018, The Butlers Speak

Steven FerryThe Butlers Speak

by Steven Ferry

Many Horses in these Horseless Carriages, Part II of II — Chauffeuring

It seems chauffeuring is a common task these days for butlers, one that is not too fraught with difficulties. In one household where there was no dedicated driver, the challenge was scheduling and organizing the various staff to come off their normal duties in order to meet the occasionally high demand for chauffeuring services to schools, airports, shopping, restaurants, etc. at all times of the day and night, making sure they had petty cash to eat and drink.

For several others, driving employers or their guests who suffered from some form of dementia was the main challenge: One butler had one man trying to exit the Jaguar at a stop sign; another “used to drive the Mrs., who used to think she was driving and so was given to making various hand gestures. When in Miami, I had to ask her to refrain from doing so, explaining that some people in the area were not only uninsured motorists but could also be armed.”

Looking for advice concerning chauffeuring, one butler shared, “Invest in training! Every driver should do a skid course and even an advanced tactical driving course—not only useful, but also fun to do—as would be special training for armored vehicles, in the event the employer has one.”

Other butlers tackle the issue of what to take when driving and how to behave: Charger cable if you have a Tesla, drinks in a cooler and any snack that the passengers may enjoy over the anticipated length of the journey. Start with a full charge and or tank of gas/petrol. A working GPS in one form or another; phone/pad charger cables; the correct address and phone number for the destination. Being a good representative of the employer in appearance and refraining from having any smells, good or bad. Conversing if the passengers desire it, otherwise, eyes forward and drive. Pre-planning the route and allowing enough time to reach the destination, so no speeding or weaving; and leaving enough distance from the car in front, so no swerving or hard braking is needed. Turning off one’s telephone, not texting while driving. Holding open the door, always using a hand to protect their head when they are entering or leaving the car, watching their clothing to ensure nothing is touching or dragging. Placing garments and packages gingerly in the car.”

Another offers: “Know the house rules, your employer’s likes and dislikes: 75% of the time, my employer does not talk much in the car. I do not take it personally. The car is not the place to air any concerns, either, just because the employer is a captive audience. If another is driving, it is really helpful receiving an ETA from a chauffeur to be able to greet an employer returning home or a guest—a previously written text saying ‘10 minutes out is all it takes.”

To wrap up the survey, the butlers were asked if they could share any anecdotes concerning their employer’s vehicles or driving them. Here are a handful of the responses that came in.

Ms. Mary Pickford standing on the running board of an automobile, as her chauffeur holds the door open.

“One of my former employers had a lovely car collection, including limited edition sports cars; unfortunately, when I first arrived, I found that nobody had been caring for them, so I was shocked to see them under a thick layer of dust, standing on flat tires, and with flat batteries. What a shame! My current employer has a lovely collection that is cared for well—most of the time…. One day, a young driver had to take one sports car somewhere, and decided to test the horses under the hood. Not thirty seconds out of the gate, he lost control and launched the vehicle into the wall surrounding the estate. A total loss—luckily, nobody was injured, but it was a good lesson for all the other drivers: Do not play around with the boss’ toys.”

“One employer was backing his old VW Beatle out of the garage with the door ajar and damaged it. All I remember saying to myself was, ‘Thank goodness he did it and not myself.”

Another butler tells of an employer who was in a foul mood and insisted on driving the Rolls Royce even though he was on his mobile. With the alarmed butler now in the back, constantly looking to see if they were about to be rear-ended by a truck, the employer punctuated his screaming invective with furious jabs on the brake and accelerator that had the vehicle randomly switching lanes while proceeding at speeds ranging from 20 mph to 120 mph, and the butler’s lunch following a similarly erratic course, instead of its normal route through the digestive system.

An household manager shares this: “My fourteen page non-disclosure agreement limits how much I can share, but there is one experience that some mutual friends were privy to concerning a gentleman who bought a beautiful brownstone property in one of London’s wonderful squares, roughly twenty minutes walk from Buckingham Palace, from a former employer of mine. Roughly six months after the conclusion of the sale, the household manager (who was retained by the new owner, a Russian “oligarch”) called to say that he had arrived at work to find the Bentley and the Range Rover, roughly $450,000 worth of vehicles, in the swimming pool, which was located in the basement directly below the garage. During the evening, the floor had given way under the weight of the vehicles. Those same vehicles had been parked in the same spot for years without any indication that the floor was under stress.”

One has to wonder at the efforts required to remove those vehicles from the pool. And maybe also at the prospect that MI-6 and the media of one stripe or another would find some tie-in between a putative act of sabotage and President Putin.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.