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THE CHAUFFEUR

One sunny day in May, we stopped just off the motorway to fill the car with petrol when I noticed a long black limousine driving up next to us. With a smooth manner matching the polished car he was driving, a chauffeur equipped with uniform and cap emerged and proceeded to fill the sleek automobile with petrol.

Watching this scene with curiosity, I was more intrigued than usual about the human interaction relating to social position and status. My earlier interest in sociology and human behavior had once more been triggered by recent events.

No sign of a personality could be spotted in the chauffeur’s face. A neutral figure and a grey character who’s very complexion lacked color, which seemed to fit extraordinarily well with his role.

The people inside the car could see out but the view in was obstructed by darkened windows. Peering out at the general public and yet hiding themselves behind a ‘veil’, seemed quite impertinent! Do darkened windows make people feel important? When the door opened, four or five young and fashionable faces were peeping out; what a contrast to the pale expressionless face of the chauffeur. What a perfectly coordinated production! The very blankness of the chauffeur served to accentuate the dazzling stars in the car – it’s evident who will be noticed in this scenario. I imagined that many sparkling socialites orchestrate attention by ensuring they have a blank faced chauffeur. Those darkened windows were clearly perceived as a status because I’m convinced the group in the car wanted to be noticed.

In spite of the fact that all humans have intrinsic and natural characters that can’t be denied even though it may be subdued – the chauffeur’s public image was to remain bland whereas theirs was to be dashing and exciting. Why would one body of humankind be denied their natural expression while the other side displays an exaggerated and colorful caricature of high life? These extremes have become an acceptable mode of behavior, the one being grey and nonexistent while the other is vividly attention seeking. Is it perhaps an uncouth prerequisite to define the difference between them and their employees?

Does a chauffeur willingly relinquish any form of natural behavior in order to be a platform or a backdrop for the affluent performers in this show? We are constantly reminded that the act of being paid and the act of paying, command contrasting roles.

I mused on that scene at the petrol station while at the same time feeling uneasy about the bizarre and even comical nature of human behavior. Life is a theater of performers – that was my conclusion.

I remember an insightful comment made by a renowned British actor (Anthony Hopkins) after he completed a film where he played the role of a compliant yet loyal and gracious butler. In an interview – he said that it is good for a person to maintain that sense of quiet dignity and not to take it personally if their role in life is to serve others. I thought his comment was astute.

This narrative is from my book ‘Ponderings and Reflections of a Housekeeper’

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Copyright Charmiene Maxwell-Batten©2009. All Rights Reserved.

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THE CHAUFFEUR

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Artist's Description

This narrative is a reflection of social behaviour and ‘status’ in English society. It was motivated by the sight of a chauffeur driven car, stopping to tank up on gas (petrol) on a highway gas station (petrol station) in England.

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