Friday, December 27, 2013

Getting Tipsy

I have opinions about a lot of things.  Some of them are popular, like how I believe everyone should be able to have a good job if they want to and earn a lot of money.  Some of my opinions are unpopular, like how I believe in order to keep that job, people should actually come to work on time and perform the tasks they were hired to do.  I usually will only share my unpopular opinions if I feel like I have good solid facts to back them up.  So I don't often admit that I believe zucchini made a deal with Satan.  How else do you explain why people eat it despite its terrible taste and why there is always so much of it?  I can't prove it, but it's totally true.

This brings us to the popular practice of tipping, and why it is stupid.  There's a pretty good chance that you worked in the food service industry at some point in your life, which explains the tremor I felt just now as you attempted to reach through your computer to strangle me.  That would be consistent with the reactions I get from others when I start to explain my enlightened views on tipping.  Almost everyone I know worked for tips at some point, and they don't want to hear me suggest that the one thing they liked about the suckiest job they ever had was undeserved.  Of course I never actually suggest any such thing, but once I approach the subject, all they can hear from me is, "Blah blah, derp de derp, tipping is stupid and so is my face." 

So if you're still reading, here is what I really believe.  Employers should pay their workers a fair wage, should provide incentives for doing good work and additional rewards for going above and beyond.  Workers should not have to rely so much on customers, who only glimpse the tip (so to speak) of the iceberg.  Workers also should generally not receive a huge reward simply because their customer can't calculate percentages in their head.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, I do tip when tipping is expected.  I do it grudgingly because I believe the system is broken, but I'm not going to punish my server simply because their employer chooses to use this inefficient method of compensating them.  This is also the only way I know how to spend the Canadian coins that I sometimes end up with. 

When I go to a restaurant, I expect two things: 1) Bring me what I ordered, and 2) my Dr. Pepper should never be empty.  If I ask for no capers and my pasta has capers, is that the waitress's fault?  Maybe, if she neglected to tell the cooking staff, but I have no way of knowing.  Also, capers are delicious, so I was foolish to ask to have them left off in the first place.  When I suck down my first Dr. Pepper in 30 seconds and have to wait twice that long for a refill, is that the waitress's fault?  Yes, probably, but maybe her shortsighted employer has her working too many tables and she can't reasonably keep all the drinks filled.  Plus she's trying to get the guy at table 6 drunk so that he'll start to think she's hot and leave her a 2,300% tip.  She didn't invent the system.  My waitress doesn't know this, but I'm going to tip her the same amount no matter what she does because it's not my job to motivate her.  That's her boss's job and he's doing it stupidly.  I wish he worked for tips so I could snub him. 

There's a restaurant in Utah called Blue Lemon, and they have the right idea.  You order your meal at the register and pay for it right then.  You seat yourself, get your own food when it's ready, and you fill your own drinks.  It's impossible to be more than about 50 feet away from the soda fountain, and if you don't want to walk that far to get a drink, then you should just take the plunge and get a rascal scooter already.  Blue Lemon regularly hires students who are going to culinary school.  They pay them what I assume is a reasonable hourly wage.  If my clam chowder comes without any clams, I can tell someone and get it fixed and no one has to lose their rent money over it. 

Then you have buffet style restaurants like Chuck-A-Rama.  Lois, incidentally, used to hate it when I would drag her to Chuck-A-Rama with the boys.  She'd get embarrassed when we'd run into people we knew.  I'd have to remind her, "They're eating here too, it's no big deal.  Hey, watch me put this whole scone in my mouth."  Oh... I think I just understood something.  Anyway, that's beside the point.  My point was, you have this place where you get your own food, get your own drinks (unless your "server" happens to be going that direction anyway), and they still expect to be tipped.  Why should I tip you for pointing out where I can get my own plates and food?  Yes, I can see the pile of fried chicken from here, thanks.  But once again, I know that their employer is only paying them $2.13 per hour, so I will do my part to make up the difference.  But I'm totally sneaking out with my pockets full of rice crispy squares, just so you know. 

In New Zealand, no one tips at restaurants.  Maybe I should move there, or at least go on vacation there and eat a lot.  They also let you bring your own food into the movie theaters, which is another thing I have an opinion about.  I'm not going to tell you what my opinion is about that right now, but trust me, it's the one and only true opinion.

When you get a haircut, tipping your stylist is so awkward because you can't just secretly leave the tip in the pile of hair (they don't like that).  You have to look that Fantastic Sam's employee right in the eye when you hand it over.  "That's right, I like you in the amount of exactly three dollars.  I hope you didn't think you were better than three dollars, because all I have is three dollars. And this Canadian nickel."  What if you get a bad haircut?  Withholding the tip is not going to fix it.  What does it do?  Teach the stylist a valuable lesson?  That might help the next guy, but meanwhile your three dollars is not going to make you stop looking like you cut your own hair.

So, tipping is stupid and now you can blah de derp derp blah blah I have a stupid head.  

You've been a great crowd, I'm here all week.  Don't forget't forget to tell your waitress that she's hot.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


4:43 AM

Something wakes me and my eyes fly open.  The house is completely still, but there's something ominous in the silence.  I lay quietly for a few moments, listening to Lois's even breathing.  An early robin calls out, warning of something known only to itself.  It should be another hour or so before he starts his birdsong in earnest, waking Lois.  I decide to get up, trying to fool myself into believing that an early start means I'll get to come home on time.  But I know full well that there's always something that will keep me late. 

As I step into the bathroom, the west-facing window gives me a clear view of the full moon shining through some wispy clouds, bringing back a recollection of one of the worst days possible in my line of work.  It has been years since The Incident, but when did I stop tracking the lunar cycles?  I wonder whether I have been foolish to let my guard down.  It's surely not an omen, but I decide to hurry anyway. 

I dress as silently as I can, but Lois is already awake, the robin having decided to belt out his dawn song before the dawn.  "That bird!" she calls out sleepily.  Her cry startles me away from thoughts of the ill-boding moon.  I fix a smile on my face as I grab my jacket and gear from the bedside and lean down to kiss her goodbye. "Good luck at work," she mutters and smiles back.   An odd turn of phrase.  Lois knows what my job is, but she doesn't really know what I do.  As I leave the room, I arm myself mentally for the day's work ahead. 

I pass the boys' room and turn back upon a sudden impulse.  I nudge the door open and tiptoe in.  I peer through the dark into the top bunk.  Empty.  My heart lurches and starts pounding.  A scream roils in the pit of my stomach and stops short, lodging in my throat.  Years of training did not prepare me for this.  But then I notice blankets draped down, covering the openings of the lower bunk.  I part the blankets to find Buzz sleeping soundly at one end of the bed, and Rocky curled up on the other.  I reach for the bedpost to steady myself and take a few deep breaths. They're okay. 

I drive to work on mental autopilot, my mind racing, strategizing, preparing for any eventuality I might face today.  I barely notice the traffic around me.  As I pull into headquarters, I see the usual few cars parked in the lot.  It will be hours before most of the staff arrive.  I scan my badge at the side door and take the stairs two at a time to the third floor. The motion sensors light the corridor ahead of me as I make my way to my cubicle. 

All is still.  For now.  Whatever comes, whatever happens, I will be ready.  If I'm home later than I'd like, I'll be home in time for Lois's vegan lasagna.  I am...the Human Resources Manager.