I saw you and your lady friends the other day at Chez Fifi in Montparnasse struggling to decide who ate most of the brulee ganache in order to allocate l’addition equitably. I chuckled when you yanked the extensions from that left bank Lolita’s hair after she shook her calculator at you in a threatening manner and began singing verses from Edith Piaf’s Mon Legionnaire woefully off-key.
Rest assured, you jeune filles are not the only ones struggling with tipping protocol. Let me tell you what my close personal friend and macroeconomic adviser, part-time etymologist E. Hobart Calhoun, Attorney At Large, did to me recently at the new Megabucks Coffee and Truffle Shoppe on Lowerline.
“My God, man, leave a decent gratuity,” E. bellowed, loud enough for everyone to hear.
“The waiter ignored us for thirty minutes,” I argued, “then called me a duckbilled platypus when I asked for a menu. Aren’t they extinct?”
E. scowled, causing me to suspect that the species may still be viable. No matter. I pulled out a large bill and dropped it on the table. The waiter sneered, scooped it up and burst into maniacal laughter.
I pulled my coat lapel over my face like a politician on a perp walk, scurried out and kept running. Catching my breath at the transit stop, I waved to E. as he passed in his Lamborghini. A man resembling Juan Valdez joined me to wait for the Uptown bus. His burro nudged me.
I followed Juan and the burro onto the bus, gave the driver my fare, and experienced a moment of clarity. I was floating toward a bright light, looking down on my body…, wait. Wrong moment of clarity.
Anyway, exiting the bus I gave the driver a $2 tip and trilled, “Magnificent performance. Excellent cornering.”
I strode confidently past gawkers on the sidewalk, relishing my awakening. Co-opting Queen’s tune “Another One Bites The Dust,” head held high, I sang my new mantra at the top of my lungs.
BOMP. BOMP. BOMP. BOMP. EVERYONE GETS A TIP.
Two days later, after my colonoscopy, I awoke refreshed from the propofol I had purchased at a garage sale, gave the startled nurse a twenty, and asked to see my gastroenterologist. When Dr. Haustra appeared at my bedside to compliment me on the lovely fuchsia hue in my sigmoid, I did a quick calculation and handed him a thick roll of hundred dollar bills. He studied the money a moment.
“Twenty per cent. You did an excellent job. I am recommending you to all my friends with colons.”
I was ravenous after the procedure and proceeded immediately to the deli in my neighborhood Schmogers.
The Reuben-sandwich-esque beauty behind the counter winked as she handed me my salami on rye. I gave her a ten spot. She beamed and stuck it in her see-through shower cap.
Later that day, I picked up my car at Milo Field’s Garage and gave him a $200 tip. He tried to refuse it, telling me the gratuity was already included in the bill because I had more than six items to service and the total was over a thousand dollars.
“I insist,” I said. “I want you to know how much I appreciate the work you do for me.”
Milo cocked his head to the side and looked at me the way my late Golden Retriever, Oswald, used to. It was an adorable pose, so I gave Milo another c-note.
My groundbreaking tipping custom has been liberating, but is not without drawbacks. Carrying large amounts of cash requires frequent ATM stops. Yesterday, a mugger whom I recognized from our non-denominational bible studies group relieved me of all my folding money.
I had some change in my pocket, but not enough to give him a decent tip.
Michael Henry is a writer in Oxford. A graduate of Tulane and Virginia Law School, Henry published his seventh novel, Finding Ishmael, in April 2014.