Yesterday I found another reason not to carry a gun.
As I was heading out the door of a busy shoe repair shop I have regularly patronized for over 20 years, one of the middle-aged shoe shine fellows barked, like an unsmiling dog: “We take tips here!”
At that moment if you could have harnessed the energy in my flash of anger, I would have lit up the White House Xmas tree… with enough energy to spare to power all the bug zappers in Mississippi.
To put it succinctly, he was lucky all I was carrying was a tune.
And, of course, you are probably wondering why.
I mean I could have just barked back at the shoe-shine fellow. In the same stentorian tone he was demanding a tip I could have simply replied: “Bet Fancy Dancer to win in the fifth!”
And actually, that’s what I did.
My problem is the whole belligerence and arrogance of tipping. It isn’t a courteous art in this country. It’s an entitlement. It’s a command. It’s an expectation. It’s practically prescribed. And it’s pissing me the hell off. Has for years now. And especially yesterday, when I probably felt a little embarrassed, unnecessarily.
Last time I looked, gratuity had something to do with paying something additional for receiving above and beyond what you expected to receive for a job done better than expected.
You following me here?
That’s why it’s called a tip. It’s not supposed to make you rich – only enrich you. What’s more insulting is that in this country where everything cost way more than it should we have no style, elan, insouciance. We’re just pigs screwing one another. In Georgia, that’s called: Makin’ bacon.
Even the unwritten rules don’t say anything about a tip being a ridiculous, guaranteed 18% of the overpriced dinner bill. Or a $3 mandate for a $6 dollar shoe shine. Or $5 for the stiff doorman.
I am fed up with it – especially in the US of A. It’s more outrageous here than anywhere. If more folks had the guts not to tip – or at least to rein it in — we could start putting on some brakes to wrassle down this run away stage coach.
But we don’t.
I do. Well, sort of. I wasn’t tipping this time – when I usually do upon patronizing the shoe shop and getting monthly heel plates and shines — because I didn’t have any cash left.
But I didn’t feel I had any need or reason to explain. Why should I?
And that’s what yanked my nose hairs.
It doesn’t just happen in the shoe repair shop with the shoe shine boys. But everywhere.
For the most part we don’t know how to give service here in America. What we give is attitude. Especially when it comes to a bunch of college kids not understanding to keep your glass full and the breadbasket loaded.
I tire of waving at them and feel awkward when another diner at a far table finds herself also waving. Hell, everybody is waving at one another. Trying to get the waitress or waiter to attend to our dining pleasure.
Think of it this way, when you buy a car, or some jewelry or even a tennis racket you don’t expect to tip the salesperson for bringing the merchandise out to you.
So why are we supposed to be tipping the delivery-person for bringing us a beer, or a steak?
Do you tip the UPS person?
Tradition and customs are wonderful explanations for the unexplainable. But traditions and customs are often thick headed. We just do it this way because it’s always been done this way. Otherwise we have no bloody idea why.
For instance, we buy a piece of raw land for $50,000. We make improvements, build a $500,000 house. So why is it we are now paying taxes on a piece of once raw land with a house we built, valued at $550,000?
We do these things because that’s the way it is done. Has been done. Allowed to be done. Yet what do we get for it? Do we get more or less privileges than the guy in the older house next door?
Well, it’s not a privilege for me to be paying for things that are wrapped in the cloak of a tip, or a gratuity.
I think what really bothers me is that not only do we not appreciate the grandeur of service in America, we don’t understand that we are not suppose to reward mediocrity at any level.
And yet our standards have succumbed. We reward people above and beyond for merely – and sometimes, barely — doing their job.
When that U.S. Airways pilot flopped his airplane in the Hudson River three years back he was merely doing the job he had been trained for his entire flying life. He did it well. But nonetheless, he was just doing what he was supposed to do – his job.
I do have the tendency to tip people well if I find they have done their job well. And that could simply mean paying attention to my beer glass, or finding that unique sweater in my size and price range, or providing me with some truthful insight into the car I am about to buy.
We all enjoy people who are insightful and have taken the time to be knowledgeable about their product. Even when it comes to describing and recommending tonight’s specialties.
Any slug can show up and be a bloody boor. I want some quality for my dollar. Or at least, perceived quality. Hell, most women already know that the more cleavage you show the bigger the tip.
It ain’t that difficult. But breaking conventions is often socially horrifying to folks. David did it when he didn’t wait around to cross swords with Goliath. T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) did it when he crossed the desert. Einstein did it when he crossed the universe. Hugh Hefner did it when he crossed the line of social mores.
If all we’ve got to offer in America is service, then, by golly, let’s do it right and the American way – bigger, better and cheaper.
And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony…