Monday, March 24, 2014
dennis: JOAN & THE PROTOCOLS—THE TRAY, ESSENTIAL TO SERVICE
Looking back, I can see that my second day with Joan was much tougher than my first. There were many more skills to master and not much time. Bu the much tougher day was also a reflection of Joan’s quickly running out of patience with me. By Her own admission, She’d been too easy the day before and was going to accelerate the pace. There were no formalities, no chat, just work and lots of it.
The Tray, Essential to Her Service
Joan gave me a fantastic gift, a sterling silver serving tray. “you’ll use this for the rest of your life.” She said, adding that “everything is served and removed from a tray.” The tray and its use have spawned numerous protocols, many of which i learned and practiced that magical first day:
§ It was mandatory that my tray be cleaned and polished every day; a tarnished tray was unacceptable.
§ My tray travels with me on any trip where I might expect to serve the Women of the family.
§ Everything was served from and removed to my tray; even something as small as a pack of cigarettes or a book of matches required a tray.
§ The tray was to have a linen napkin placed on it; only a dry, clean napkin was acceptable.
§ The tray was to be carried elevated above my head using my left hand; i could use two hands only when loading the tray in the kitchen; when serving from the tray or placing items on it, the tray had to be chest high.
§ Having a tray was not an excuse for slow service; i was expected to master the tray to the point where i moved competently and quickly. The benefit of wearing suede-soled ballet slippers was now obvious.
§ Making multiple trips to the Women being served was not permitted; all of a table’s requests had to be delivered on one tray, at one time, so as not to leave any of the Women without being served.
§ Carrying the tray was mandatory anytime i was serving or when initially approaching Female guests. The tray was always to have something on it—practical items such as ashtrays, linen napkins, silverware, matches, cigarettes, and so on. i might also include a mixed drink if, for example, i was serving [my Mother-in-law) Sue and a Woman friend and was aware of the friend’s preferences. Having these items allowed me to anticipate needs and provide more efficient service. Note that while service was expected, the Women also demanded that it be as unobtrusive as possible, thus the need for me to be as efficient as possible.
§ Upon reaching the entrance to the room i was to present myself with proper decorum. This meant that i was to stand in such a way that the Women could see me, but far enough away that i wouldn’t be seen as intruding. I was to wait until one of the Women granted permission with nod or a gesture, so I had to pay attention. When and only when given permission was i to enter the room. When i did, i would have my tray overhead, stoop, and slightly extend my apron with the right hand and greet the Women: “Good afternoon, Ladies! How may i serve You?”
§ If i was taking an order, i was always to start with the Matriarch, continue with the Women of the family, and then their guests. This was rarely more than six Women, thankfully, since i had to commit the Women’s orders to memory; writing anything down was forbidden. As Joan said, “you are a servant, not a car hop!” It was also helpful that i kept a mandatory journal—subject of an older post—since it contained many preferences for most of the Women i’d be serving. Before leaving to fill the Women’s orders, i was to check to see if anything i had on my tray was needed—an ashtray, perhaps. If so, only then could i lower the tray to chest height and remove and place the object on my tray. As will be noted below, there was a proper way to place and remove and ashtray.
That first day with my tray was a very busy and painful one as Joan had me moving about the house properly holding my tray. She had me place a variety of items on it, including glasses of water, to allow me to practice loading, holding, balancing, and serving from the tray. Joan followed me as I moved with my tray between the kitchen and living room, encouraging me to avoid mistakes and increase my speed.
Joan had me doing dress rehearsals into the evening. She sat in the living room and summoned me using a bell. i was to imagine that Joan, Sue, Judy, and Jane were there and each needed to be served; a tent card with each name was on the table. Joan ordered for each Woman, sometime changing orders to keep me on my toes—which i already was, physically speaking. When i went off to fill the order, She would rearrange the tent cards, inhibiting my associating orders with a seat at the table; I was to associate them with the Woman. i made a lot of mistakes—painful ones! Joan was demanding and not at all patient; Her slapper was indeed busy! i served drinks and Hors d'oeuvres, removed glasses and dishes, placed ashtrays, and lit cigarettes. Over and over I practiced the essential skills of service, often with Joan's brand of motivation.
Gradually, with all the practice, i improved. Finally, late in the evening Joan asked that I prepare two smoked salmon salads, bring Her cigarettes, and make two rum and Cokes. Of course I did Her bidding, and was shocked when She invited me to sit with Her; the seconds of everything were mine! It was indeed a privilege! It was a rare treat to enjoy a drink and a cigarette with Her; my smoking was usually done outside, not in the presence of the family Matriarch! But i had established a rapport of sorts with Joan; i think She sensed i genuinely adored Her—and i did!
Serving the Women
Having learned the basics, it was time to put my newfound knowledge into practice. Once the drinks are mixed and orders filled, it’s time to serve the Women. The Protocols and my training ensured that i’d get it right!
i was to approach the group, slightly bow in their presence and begin serving. The tray was to be held high until i was in position ready to serve; only then could i lower it, but only to chest height.
The Matriarch is to be served first, no matter where She is seated; if this is the first time serving Her on that particular day, She is accorded a slight bow. Then stoop when serving and, slightly above a whisper, use an honorific courtesy such as “my pleasure, Madame!” Then serve the other Women in order of their rank within the family. Serve drinks to each Woman and quietly announce the drink while doing so—“Rum and Coke, Madame!” Knowing a Woman’s rank, drink preference and the like is obviously important; again we see the necessity of a progressive gentleman’s keeping a journal.
Once the Women were served, i was to remove any extraneous items and return to the kitchen; men were not to intrude on the Women’s space! But first, it was my habit to leave a bell on the table for the Women to summon me if anything were needed; we earlier made a post here about this, “I Hear Bells.” While of course i look in on the Women from time to time, the bell allows my periodic visits to be less frequent while still maintaining a high level of service. The bell Protocol makes me more efficient and less intrusive to the Women.
Other Useful Reminders for Serving the Women:
Serve with appropriate decorum: serve from the right, take from the left; serve the Matriarch first, then female guests; men are NEVER served and should be serving, not seated with the Women.
After removing or placing items, the table is always touched up with a linen napkin; the napkin is used only once; I am expected to have napkins on my tray or person at all times; those deep apron pockets are so handy!
In the event of a spill, the Women are to be quickly relocated to another table and served; only then is the cleanup addressed. The Women come first!
Nancy and Sue love scented candles, and it’s one of the requirements of service to have them available and place them as the Protocols prescribe:
§ Scented candles are to be placed on the table at which the Women are being served. The size of the table dictates how many scented candles are needed; the larger the table, the more candles needed. A small table requires only one candle, a coffee table, two, and a larger table, three. The man serving is required to enter the room once the Women are seated and light the candles. The lighter is brought to the room on his tray.
§ Should a candle burn out, it is to be immediately replaced.
§ After the Women leave, candles are to be extinguished and discarded. Candles are not to be reused.
§ As housekeeper, i am to ensure that an adequate supply of scented candles is on hand at all times. i make it a point to have a variety of scents on hand and try and determine a Woman’s preference to incorporate in my journal. When She visits, i will use Her favorite scented candle.
§ Scented candles are to be used only for informal gatherings. For formal dinners, full-sized candles are to be used as prescribed elsewhere in the Protocols.
§ The candle protocol has been adopted by a few of our female acquaintances in FLRs. It used to be rare to see men in candle shops, but not anymore. Progressive gentlemen are not only fulfilling a duty, but learning to appreciate another Feminine thing typically looked down on by men.
While it sounds like a trivial task, removing and placing ashtrays has appropriate formality attached to it:
Ashtrays are to be kept clean; an ashtray is to be removed if it has three or more butts in it. Anytime i serve the Women i look at the state of the ashtrays and remove them if appropriate.
If multiple Women are smoking, additional ashtrays are to be placed for their convenience.
There is only one type and style of ashtray in the home; all have the same diameter and all interlock.
Removing an ashtray involves a total of three ashtrays and two steps, removal and placement. The Protocols dictate that I have two ashtrays on my tray; one is placed over the used ashtray and covers it as it is taken off the table and placed on my tray; this covering ashtray is identical to all the others and interlocks with them. The clean ashtray can now be placed on the table.
If an ashtray had more than three butts, it must be removed; failure to do so comes with consequences.
Lighting a Cigarette
§ Lighting a cigarette for a Woman should be a common courtesy that all men engage in; in our family it is a time-honored ritual. There is a proper way to light a cigarette.
§ i always carry a silver lighter in case the opportunity to light a Ladies cigarette arises. A cheap plastic lighter is NOT acceptable.
§ If a man sees a Woman pull out a cigarette, he may ask for the privilege of lighting it: “Madame, May i?” Or She may motion him to light Her cigarette. In either case i am to bow to her, striking the lighter as i do, placing the lighter to the end of the cigarette, then withdrawing my lighter and remaining bowed while She takes Her first inhalation and exhales. Since my own smoking is limited, I love Her exhalation, which gives me just a bit of tobacco thrill.
While all these serving skills paid dividends within the family, i was to find that they also had numerous benefits outside our home.