I watched my first-ever episode of Downton Abbey over the weekend. It was an entirely surreal, out-of-body experience. You might first be thinking to yourself, “Lorca, you’re an English teacher and an author and a generally all-around badass…how is it you haven’t seen Downton Abbey before this?” There is a great explanation: I’m lazy. I would have had to stand up to turn on the television, and plus it comes on really late at night and I like sleep more than I like Maggie Smith. (And btw, her character plays a real sniveling bitch. Just sayin’, PBS. I kept waiting for her to yell out, “Ten points from the kitchen staff!”)
I do admit that I fully enjoyed the four and a half hours of my life that get sucked out of my soul while watching it. It’s like the British are trying to stick it to the Americans by saying, “We’ll teach you not to steal our TV shows and horde them for yourselves, acting like you are all somehow cultured for having watched it! We’re going to make THIS one have episodes that drag on forever and have no commercial breaks! Take that, you Monty Python-stealing hooligans!”
After the show went off and my eyes refocused, I tried to stand up and go to bed and the most horrible thing happened. No one opened the door for me. I swear to you I stood there waiting at my bedroom door for about ten minutes before I realized I am not actually a member of the Downton clan and therefore do not have servants who open doors. It was horribly confusing. Everyone else I had just seen for the entire episode walked up to a door and someone opened it. I wasn’t really sure what to do with my hands at that point.
Then, after kind of getting over myself for my lack of household staff, I had a truly sobering thought. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, who watches programs like that and gets all dreamy and starry-eyed about the show thinks it would have been so cool to live back then because they are mistakenly deluding themselves into thinking they would have been part of the aristocracy. Compared to the seven or eight random snots who waltz through the house having doors opened for them and sherry glasses poured for them, there were like 53 servants running around doing the opening and the pouring. Statistically, we all would have been kitchen staff or laundry wenches.
With my luck, I would have had to start my scullery career at the bottom and work my way up, you know, like being all jazzed that at fourteen years old I had been hired on in the giant mansion and my first job would have been Oven Tester, so I was the person who had to stick my head in the oven and hold it in there to see if it was hot enough since apparently thermometers didn’t come along until episode 23. If I was really good at my job, I could work my way up to Chief Butter Churner, supervising the crew of people who worked tirelessly to put butter on the table.
I do feel like I should point out to the universe that if I ever were fortunate enough to somehow end up as Countess of Something, I would be really awesome to my servants. Just in case the universe was waffling on making this happen.