Tuesday, February 20, 2007

In Celebration of this Day of Days...

President’s Day.

This is the day where we honor the Commanders in Chief of our nation, both past and present. We honor their leadership and their sacrifice.
We honor them as only capitalists can: With mattress sales. Some crazy fat guy in a powdered wig and a frock coat, green-screened into a shot of a crowded store, beckons us with the promise of massive liquidation savings.
“I cannot tell a lie, these are the best prices of the year on Sealy Posturepedic and Sterns and Foster.”

It’s nice to have a day off, but what do we do to celebrate?

Some would say should we do exactly what our president would want us to do. The same thing he told us to do after the crisis in September of 2001. Spend Money. Contribute to our debts - I mean contribute to the growth of the economy.

I went to Whole Foods and bought some criminally priced steaks, what did YOU do?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Tipping: Part 2 Electric Boogaloo

gratuity |grəˈt(y)oōitē| noun ( pl. -ties)

money given in return for some service or favor, in particular, a formal a tip given to a waiter, taxicab driver, etc.

ORIGIN late 15th cent.(denoting graciousness or favor): from Old French gratuité or medieval Latin gratuitas ‘gift,’ from Latin gratus ‘pleasing, thankful.’

I’ve previously railed against poor tipping at the coffee chain, now I want to look at it from the other side.

I want to tip. I like tipping. It takes so little to impress me toward gratuity. A basic understanding of a job, the smallest effort, it doesn’t take much.

But, I don’t tip if it’s not deserved. This isn’t a Mister Pink “I’ve been here a long fuckin’ time and she only filled my coffee once…” thing.

Bottom Line: Give me SOMETHING. Smile. Introduce yourself. Call me by my name. Fake it. But give me some small reason to want to tip you. It’s not a right, and in most cases, it’s not mandatory.

At the airport curbside check in, the Thrower dutifully helps me to check my 3 pieces of luggage, charges me the outrageous amount of $80.00 for excess baggage, then takes me to a machine inside to print my boarding pass.

“Can I get a receipt for the excess baggage fee.”

“You’ll have to go to the ticket counter for that. I’ll be the one taking care of your bags, sir.” She says in the well-rehearsed expectation of a gratuity.

“You can’t print me a receipt?” I usually tip a buck a bag for curbside. I look at her thinking; “You’re abusing the whole idea of gratuity. You’re asking me to go wait in line for a receipt when I used your service to avoid the very line that you’re FUCKING SENDING ME TO!!”

“No, I can’t print you a receipt, but I’ll be the one who TAKES CARE OF YOUR BAGS.” I remove one of the bills from the 3 in my hand, sighing disgustedly.

”thank you very little…” I mutter and stomp off to the fucking ticket counter line.

The woman behind the ticket counter barely speaks English. “We no print receipt, you go to where you charged, they print receipt.”

“The agent out there said she couldn’t print my receipt and told me to come here.”

She gives me the blank stare of someone who has just reached the dark outer edge of her understanding of the English language.

“I get Manager.”

The Manager, decked out in a pressed uniform blazer, informs me that he can’t print a receipt either. He’s sorry, but he can’t. I dicker with Blazer Guy for 10 minutes, mainly citing that curbside check in, supposedly faster and more convenient than waiting inside is, in fact, neither.

“I understand. I’m sorry.” He repeats this mantra 3 times

At the Manchester Airport, the hotel shuttle driver puts my bags in the back of the shuttle, drives me to the hotel, and drops my bags on the front sidewalk. He turns away before I can slip him his gratuity. He definitely deserves it. I want to give it to him. He drives off.

I drag all 4 of my bags up the walk toward the lobby. I’m my own Sherpa, with a big duffel one shoulder, a laptop case on the other, and a large pelican case in each hand. The guest entering the doorway ahead of me looks back, holds the door for a second, but thinks better of it, letting it close.

“You worthless, slobbering pile of dog-snot! I’m 5 steps away and you close the door in my face!” That fucker saw me, too. He witnessed my struggle with 4 heavy pieces of luggage lumbering up the walk, barely able to keep balance. Eye contact was made, which is an unspoken contract with your fellow man.

I stand at the door, stunned for a moment.

“No, that’s OK, I’ll get the door.” Setting down one case as the duffel slides off my shoulder, onto the ground, blocking the door that I’m trying to open, I mutter something about bastard fucker something or other.

Some people’s kids…

At the check in counter I sign the requisite paperwork and there it is on the bottom of the form, a check box. “Would you like to have a $2 per day gratuity added to your bill for the house keeping staff?”

First of all, if there is a tip to be given, I’ll give it.

Second of all, I haven’t even SEEN this room yet. I check NO. Are they going to ask me in advance for a tip at the bloody restaurant as well?

Once I check in, I’m told that I’ll be getting back on the shuttle to get to the building I’m staying in. It’s the Bed and Breakfast around back. “Great, I can give the shuttle guy his tip.” He comes back, loads my bags into the shuttle and drives me to the other building. Dropping my 4 bags on the sidewalk, he points to a doorway about 50 feet away.

“Go up that ramp there. You’ll have to use your card key to enter.” He does an about face and takes off again before I can give him cash.

“Dude!” I would have tipped him $5 just to help me through the fucking door.

I 2-trip it up the ramp, through the door, load a luggage cart and trolley down the hall toward my room….

Well, not exactly to my room. To a narrow Old New England stairwell with a sign pointing up to where my room would be. No fucking elevator…

“Sunova… (deeep sigh… finding my cave… power animal… happy place…) Fine. Fine, whatever.”

It’s almost 9PM. I haven’t eaten since 1. I call the front desk for room service.

“Only the main building has room service, sir. You can place an order for pickup.”

I call out for Chinese. I order General Chicken and 2 egg rolls.

“Minimum order 15 dollar.”

“How much is my order now”

“12 dollar 15 cent.”

I ordered a crab Rangoon, and meet him downstairs 20 minutes later. I must have be the last order for the night, since his family was in the car, all decked out in kitchen clothes.

I tip him $4 dollars, since he put forth a little effort for a customer by driving back to give me my receipt.

At 8am I wake to the email that the event here has been cancelled and the office will get back to me on my fate for the rest of the day.

I call the front desk to ask where breakfast is being served.

“We don’t serve breakfast there anymore.”

“Oh. I was confused by the sign out front that says Bed and Breakfast.” A silent pause. “So, it’s just the Bed, then?”

“Yes. The restaurant serves breakfast until 10 am.”

10 minutes after 9. Still have to shower…

“When do you start serving lunch?”

“We don’t serve lunch.”

“OK, when you start serving dinner?”

“The bar opens at 5 and the kitchen opens at 6.”

“Does the bar serve food at 5?”

“Yes.” Another pause.

“What do they serve?”

“I don’t know. Bar Food I think.”

“Right…” This conversation can only get ugly. I have to commit to it, or walk away.

I have to eat, shower or no, so I trudge off across the barren wasteland toward the restaurant.

The Funeral-Home-Quiet is deafening. Two couples quietly eat their meals, and 2 single older men sit at their respective tables. I wait to be seated.

And wait.

For over 10 minutes not a soul comes out of the back kitchen. No waitress, No hostess, nobody.

I wait some more.

It’s like everyone in the restaurant is serving detention. No one speaks, just the soft clinking of silverware on china and the mildly disturbing songs of mastication.

A tall, pale, Concentration-Camp-Thin woman with long, dyed black hair walks out of the back, saunters really. A slow, loping gait that says “I’m so over all of this, I could just puke.” She takes no notice of me, straightening up an already straightened table on the other side of the room. A long, slow, laborious arm sweep to make sure that the tablecloth is absolutely free of any offending wrinkle or pucker. Lazily placing the unlit candle, salt and pepper shakers and the packets of sweetener in the middle of the perfect sea of white.

She eventually makes her way over to me.

“How many.” Her squarish black plastic frames don’t even rise to meet my gaze.


“Follow me, Please.” she mumbles, taking 6 lethargic steps to my table. She drops the menu and ambles away. She comes back a few minutes later to ask if I want any coffee. I take the opportunity to order as there is no telling when she might return from her next walkabout.

Moving at the speed of Lithium, she gets my Hash and Eggs to me, never coming back to ask if everything is ok. (In actuality she does only fill my coffee cup once.)

A little attention to a detail or two would make a world of difference. If coffee is the first thing I order, chances are that it’s pretty important to me. Keep an eye on it. (Isn’t this waitress 101 stuff?) I don’t need her to keep coming back again and again to ask if everything is ok, but she wasn’t busy and she didn’t come back, even ONCE.

I know that waitresses don’t make great money, and their job is pretty hard work. The tips are most of their take home pay and I think of a standard 15% as rent for taking up space while I eat, although I almost always go 20%.

It comes down to this: If your take home pay depends on tips then getting tips becomes part of your job. One smile, or a ‘Good Morning’, one lousy ‘Is everything OK?’ is all it would take to get a tip out of me.

I tip this waitress EXACTLY 15%.

She deserves far less and I usually give far more.

Before checking out I leave some cash for the cleaning lady who gave me extra coffee packets and an additional box of tissues.