August 5: woodcut extras in the passion of the christ

In the service industry (restaurants, hotels, stations)in France you are mostly served by attractive, smiling people. In the station at La Rochelle the other day there was a delightful, smiling beauty with a face right out of a fashion magazine, bright, alert, poised. And in the restaurants in Bordeaux charming hostesses lead you to your seat, serve you the grated carrot or the bloody steak with elegance and grace. And you think: I wonder what they’re earning, these accomplished performers, these convincing agents of the tourism world? But then you see them in the wings of their employ: at the back door to the restaurant; on the margins of the station, having a cigarette, looking bleaky out at the rest of the world going by. Sometimes they have their head in their hands or are striking an unintentional archetypal pose of despair, as though they are woodcut extras in the Passion of the Christ by Georges Rouault. Or they assemble in gaggles and mutter, never looking each other in the eye. Their complaints are old news to each other. This is the sorry fate of sevice personnel when their service is not required.

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