” Hey Bart, how’s it going?”
” I have a little problem.”
“My bank account is overdrawn $33”
“How’d that happen?”
“Not sure but I think my pay schedule to pay down my overdue tax bill just kicked in so I got hit with a new $500 withdrawal I wasn’t expecting by Uncle Sam.”
“I just need to borrow 40 bucks until I get a check on Tuesday then I can pay you back.”
“No problem.”“Want to meet at the diner at Noon?”
“Thanks a lot see you then.”
The two old friends Bart and Stephan met at the diner at Twelve. High Noon. Bart looked uncomfortable.
“What’s going on? Anything wrong?”
Bart looked down at the table and then up at Stephan.
“I asked Larry the waiter if you were already here and he said something like, “oh you mean that friend of yours that always leaves a lousy tip?”
“That’s true…I am a bad tipper…but that’s because I don’t have any fucking money….should I explain the situation to Larry?”
“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea then he will know I’m the one that told you.”
Bart then discreetly handed his old friend of more than 40 years two folded sawbucks.
“Ok. I won’t say anything to Larry–thanks again…will get you back later this week.”
“Appreciate it…yeah things are good but I totally didn’t see this coming…a couple checks cleared all at the same time.”
Stephan looked around the restaurant and spotted Larry. He was a no nonsense kind of waiter. He had a habit of sharply sticking the menu into the menu slot like an employee might put a time card into a punch-clock. He was bald and wore glasses and had an Eastern European accent.
Not particularly friendly.
He had not been with the diner that long compared to other waiters like Gus.
Stephan was a regular at the diner for over 30 years.
The diner was typically overpriced but the food was terrific and the service was great. Stephan figured that if he was providing the restaurant with significant, steady revenue that he needed to watch his ancillary costs. If the restaurant was going to over-charge for food then Stephan would under-tip. One dollar per order he figured was all he could afford.
Was it really Stephan’s responsibility to provide Larry with more money?
Stephan thought about all the Ramen noodles he consumed and other ways he tried to white-knuckle it financially to survive. Clearly, what Stephan was doing was not working. Being in debt was a major problem. He needed to make more money and that could only be achieved by getting more clients or getting a new job.
New and better clients seemed like the better solution.
Stephan normally would let this revelation push him into a dark place. Depression. But for some reason he didn’t feel depressed.
Stephan agreed with Larry that he was an awful tipper but he was always very generous in other ways.
TIPS. To insure proper service. That’s what it meant.
The Chinese delivery guys a couple years ago decided that if they didn’t get $3 as a tip they would complain at the door. It led to Stephan calling the Chinese restaurant and speaking to the manager in front of the delivery person who would get super-pissed.
Then Stephan would boycott that particular restaurant for a month.
Was this the solution for the Larry situation? Was there a situation? Did the diner have any clue about his financial woes Stephan wondered.
Was he spending way too much time and money at the diner.
Maybe a boycott was in order.
And it wasn’t just bad restaurant tipping. Whenever Stephan found himself forced to take an overpriced taxi-cab he would pay 75 cents as a tip on top of the outrageous fare. 75 cents was just about all Stephan could conscience as a cab tip. Better to walk or take the subway.
Larry the waiter went about his business.
Another waiter brought the check to the table while Bart was in the bathroom.
The waiter slid the check for 2 iced coffees to Stephan.
Stephan slid it over to Bart’s side of the table.
Upon Bart’s return, Stephan said “Thanks again.” I’ll catch you later this week.
“Ok” said Bart.
The sun was shining and it was not unpleasant outside.
Stephan walked back home all the while pondering if being a bad restaurant tipper meant he was being unintentionally disrespectful.
Stephan had actually over-tipped his apartment building’s handyman for recently fixing his air conditioner. The handyman had thanked him sincerely for the generous tip and Stephan actually hugged the guy and told him,” I’m happy to do it and I appreciate your fixing that and every time it is superhot out I will think of you. Thank you.”
Stephan knew that tipping was important in some cases but not so much in others.
Larry the waiter wasn’t wrong for wanting a better tip but it was kind of uncool of him to complain to Stephan’s old buddy Bart who Stephan was borrowing 40 dollars from. It made Stephan feel kind of like a loser and a mooch and it made him realize that he needed to fix his cash-flow situation pronto.
One thing else, Stephan realized. Even if his cash-flow situation improved, Larry probably wasn’t getting any bigger tips in the future. It wasn’t Stephan’s responsibility to tip Larry more money. Perhaps, it was Steve the owner’s job to pay Larry a higher salary. Stephan thought about bringing the Larry situation up to Steve but he didn’t want to tattletale on Larry.
No one likes a tattle-tale.
Stephan had just seen a Brady Bunch episode where little Cindy Brady got in trouble for tattling on her older sisters. Yeah, tattling is not cool.
Would Stephan pull Larry aside and explain that he didn’t have a lot of spare money to tip? Would that be necessary? Really, the Larry issue was a symptom of a bigger, systemic problem. Stephan was not making enough money to cover expenses and it had been this way for a while and his efforts to correct the problem were not going that well. Not that well at all. Borrowing money from family and friends. Eating Ramen all the time and making his own iced coffee at home.
He needed to increase his revenue base.
It was time.
Stephan was grateful to Larry for helping him understand the bigger problem.
Maybe Larry deserved a “bonus” for that.
Not a tip per se, but a small bonus for having the guts to complain about Stephan’s bad tipping behavior.