Sunday, July 28, 2013


One part of the old world that has mostly disappeared from our frenetic age is the ethic of personal service. I don't mean the kind of service you get in stores, I mean the kind servants give to their masters. Once upon a time there was a whole class of servants who worked on highly intimate terms with the leaders of society and took pride in doing their jobs well partly because that made it possible for leaders to lead. Like the butler in Remains of the Day, who really believes that if he runs the house perfectly his master and his elite house guests may find a formula for European peace.

I was reminded of this because of this headline in yesterday's Times:
Emotional Victory for Mickelson’s Caddie of 21 Years
The story continues:
Phil Mickelson drained the last of his six birdie putts Sunday to end his long and winding road to the British Open championship. He picked the ball out of the cup and raised his arms high while his longtime caddie, Jim Mackay, calmly replaced the flagstick on the 18th hole at Muirfield.

And then one of the driest Opens in recent memory got all wet. Mackay and Mickelson embraced, with one sobbing into the other’s shoulder. Only it wasn’t Mickelson crying but Mackay, who later explained while choking back more tears, “You work for a guy for 21 years, it’s pretty cool when you see him playing the best round of golf you’ve ever seen him play in the last round to win the British Open.”
Golf caddies, it occurred to me, are one of the last survivals of the old fashioned service relationship. Professional golf depends on maintaining a superhuman level of concentration that can be broken by almost any distraction, and golfers and caddies both believe that a caddie who takes care of all his chores perfectly can materially help his boss keep his mind on the game.

Seems to me that I was once stranded in front of a television showing a little documentary on the personal assistants of celebrities, the people who answer the phone for them, keep their schedules and help them decide which charity events to attend. These folks seemed to have something of an old-fashioned service ethic. I suppose butlers and so on still exist in the White House, Downing Street, and so on. But when it comes to servants, golf caddies are now the elite.

No comments: