Gratuities

I haven’t worked in a job that included tipping since 1981. In 1979 I suddenly became a single parent and needed a second income. I soon learned about tipping as a part of making a living. I was the Senior Chaplain at The Enid State School during the day, and three or four nights a week I worked as a waiter at the Peppermill steak house. It was a fascinating life as I moved from a profession where I lead a team of eight, who provided pastoral care to over a 1000 people, with every variety of developmental disabilities, to waiting tables. Once a month I received a check from the State of Oklahoma and every night that I worked at the restaurant I would leave with a pile of cash. I would make as much in four nights waiting tables as I would make in a month doing ministry. I learned very quickly that there is a direct link between customer service and what we call tipping. I have often thought it would be helpful for anyone who eats in a restaurant, to have sometime worked as a server.

With my first Lyft tip there was a 35 year gap between gratuities. Lyft allows electronic tipping which is clean and easy. However, many folk prefer the old fashion cash tipping method. When I got my first cash tip I decided I would start a little pile and let it grow. 14 months later I have a 2″ thick stack of ones, fives, tens, and twenties which total over $1,250. Am I a hoarder? I don’t think so, it’s just that many of those bills tell a story. When I decide to spend it I plan on doing something really fun that I might share with the world.

Now hear the story of seven one dollar bills residing in the middle of my stash. I will call her Felicia. I picked her up in NW Denver and she was going to South Federal Blvd. I tried to begin a conversation with her and she said, “My English is very bad.” I replied “That’s okay, mi Espanol es muy malo.” She laughed. Then I said, “But my Spanglish rocks”. We were off and running. She told me she was here on a work visa and was headed to work at her sister’s bar. I shared that I had recently been to Puerto Vallarta. We pieced together a lively conversation. At a stop light she showed me pictures of her one year old little girl. In the parking lot of the bar she got to meet all my nietos (grandkids) via my IPhone. She left my car with a giant smile and handed me seven dollars. Me calling it a tip is too small a word. I heard my Mom whispering in my ear of stories that Jesus told about women who gave almost recklessly.

I will keep you posted on how I will blow my “tip stack of cash”. Sometime this summer when all my grandkids are together here in Colorado we will figure it out. When we do I will celebrate waitresses, painters, baristas, programmers, musicians, artists and students, to mention a few. It will be an open invitation event, and maybe even you can join in. Today I am grateful for the Felicias of my world whose generous spirits make me want to be a better man.

Onward and Upward (and gracias)!!!

Mark

3 thoughts on “Gratuities

  1. Great story. Thx for sharing. When I was in high school, I waited tables at Green Gables Country Club one summer here in town. That is where I learned the correlation between customer service and tip amounts. My coworkers did not and they were resentful. Hard work plus my customers and coworkers were not always pleasant – but good life lessons. Another summer, I worked at Wyatt’s Cafeteria, also here in town – started as a tray girl, waiting at the end of the food line to carry trays for the elderly, physically challenged or parent’s juggling infants & toddlers. I really enjoyed meeting & getting to know those people before I was promoted to cashier. I had a favorite elderly couple that came in every Sunday. They were in their 80’s and still so in love with each other. She always wore a big brimmed hat. All of us referred to them as Mr. and Mrs. Hat. They always tipped me $5 for carrying their tray which was a lot of money in the late 60’s, more than necessary for their ticket total. Whenever I protested that it was too much, they reminded me they had worked for tips in their youth and appreciated my assistance. Told me to save my money for college. That tip money helped pay for books at Phillips U!

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