Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tipping the Right Fantastic

Ah...the conundrum that is the elder generation.

My mother is a giving old gal. She appreciates any little kindness shown to her. If she takes my sister and me out to lunch, she calls later to thank US for a wonderful time. If an old friend offhandedly mentions that she loves my mother's fudge, Mom whips up a batch and drives thirty miles to deliver it. Even though the recipient is not supposed to have fudge. When she has to call me at school about twice a year, she bends over backwards to thank the secretary. Which brings us to today's tale.

Genius was expecting a package to arrive at the post office Thursday. It contained a precious camera lens that he was itching to experiment with. Unfortunately, that was the day of the first meeting of the Academic Team. Genius and The Pony attended. I left school as soon as contractually possible to run errands two towns over. Genius planned to leave the meeting by 4:00, whether it was over or not, in order to dash into the post office before the 4:30 closing time.

I mentioned the predicament to Mom Thursday morning. Sometimes she will pick up packages for us. I knew she had a doctor's appointment that day, but wondered if she could stop by on her way back through our town. Mom was concerned that she did not have time to get the orange package notification card from me. I told her not to worry, that Genius had an alternate plan. Thanks anyway.

Seventh hour, the school secretary called to say that my mom was on the line, and she was transferring the call. Mom had picked up the package, a story for tomorrow's blog, and was planning to drop if off right after the final bell.

Friday morning, Mom told me that she would be running over to school to give the secretary a little gift for being so accommodating. She was fresh out of Chex Mix, the bartering tool of choice, but had a chippy alternative. I told her that was thoughtful, but not necessary. That transferring that call was kind of what the job of school secretary entails. That this employee is paid a plum salary, with benefits, for doing that very thing. All day long. For many people. Not that I begrudge her a special treat. She is pleasant and efficient and very good at her vocation. Fantastic, actually. A better individual we could not possibly find to run that office.

But Mom insisted. She drove over and delivered the treat. The mutual admiration society kicked into high gear, and I heard the details of the exchange separately from both sides. It was a real feel-good story. But here's the thing: Mom will not tip a waitress to subsidize a living wage. No matter how fantastic the service.

Every time we go out, Mom leaves a tip of two dollars. No matter what the establishment. No matter what the service. No matter what the bill. Two dollars. And she thinks she is being kind. Generous. Doing the right thing. I would never tell her that she's not. It would hurt her feelings. Embarrass her. But it would not changer her tipping ways. Two dollars. No matter how much I explain that waitstaff do not even earn minimum wage. That they are expected to garner the difference in tips. And that they have to pay income tax on the minimum wage, even if they don't earn that much.

Mom doesn't understand that, in effect, she is heaping extras upon one individual for simply doing her job, for which she is well-compensated...and neglecting one who does extra, like bringing a plate of pickles to the table for no charge, who skillfully treads the line between hovering and neglect, between friendly banter and smarmy solicitousness, all in hopes of upping her salary to minimum wage status.

The elderly. So generous. Yet so clueless.


  1. Maybe she needs one of those contraptions that figures tips. I know where she could get one.

  2. My mother leaves a dollar tip in restaurants and also thinks she's generous.

  3. Sioux,
    I hope you're talking about the Wizard that Jerry gave his dad, Morty. Not the knock-off Willard that Kramer got from Bob Sacamano's dad. Because my mom cannot be tipping $5 for a BLT.

    That's because back in the day, a cup of coffee cost a nickel. So they think they're giving the waitress twenty cups of coffee. Which would be a tip of about $40 these days.

  4. It could be worse, my brother-in-law's aunt loves to go out to eat, but only with groups. Seperate checks. This way, after all the the people at her table have their bills, she can excuse herself to go to the restroom, conveniently letting hers fall to the floor. She does not tip, she never returns to the table! My sister usually picks it up and pays it.

  5. Kathy,
    That is some premeditated BS right there!