Ever since the previous chauffeur, in service with me for a decade, absconded with the motorcycle
I’d provided him for commuting, a six-month advance and a light-fingeredness with the garage accounts that came to light following his departure, my family has been merciless about my inability to draw the line over staff incentives and benefits. For most part, I ignored their jibes, even when reminded of the driver I once hired who had no sense of direction at all — surely a necessary skill for the task at hand — so I’d navigate the route to and from office every day, but the thought of sacking him never once crossed my mind. The ignominy was that he chose to leave me because he considered my navigational skills not sound enough.
At any rate, the new driver, by providence, seems a steadier person — polite and well-mannered enough to please the missus, and ready to run whatever errands the cook unreasonably demands. But it appears that a family conference was held behind my back to ensure there would be no more repeats of the previous incumbent’s shenanigans, and that I was not to be trusted with managing the chauffeur’s training. I have been entrusted with paying his salary but now realise that none of the benefits of employing him accrue to me.
My requirements from a driver are simple: To ferry me from point A to point B without, if possible, breaking traffic rules, keeping the car in reasonable shape while leaving me to read quietly, catch up on office work, or simply gaze out at the city’s traffic during commutes. “But he must know about the places we frequent,” my wife said to me, suggesting she’d be happy to take the lead in the matter. Thus, she purloined his services, scheduling her lunches and teas and kitty get-togethers, her kitchen-garden and bonsai and sundry other classes, her gossip rendezvous and alumni meets. He soon knew where he had to go to collect Madam’s clothes, who her creditors were, and where she liked to shop, visit or drop by for a casual tête-à-tête. I, meanwhile, was left to hitch rides with a colleague, or use taxis, to get to work and back.
You’d think that I’d at least be permitted to use his services in the evenings, what with my wife’s very busy social life to which I was required to be dragged for the sake of propriety, but here the children posted an opportunity claim over him. “Our parties last longer,” my son advised me, “so we need the driver more than you do,” echoing his wife’s sentiment that his parents should cadge a lift off friends, failing which, given our age, we ought to stay at home anyway. I, at least, was thankful I wouldn’t have to worry about their driving under the influence, but it made my wife cross. “Who are they calling old?” she objected, completely missing the point as usual. On other evenings, my daughter requested the driver to take her to her friends’ cavalierly late parties. On these occasions, the sleepless driver would request reporting late for duty the following morning along with his overtime. So, yes, I find myself paying for his extra hours of duty — even though I don’t get to benefit from even the primary ones.