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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Tipping Toward Addiction

Maine State Senate President Mike Thibodeau has shared an opinion piece from the Bangor Daily News about returning the tip credit in Maine.

While I respect the writer's opinion, I feel uniquely qualified to respond with my own, equally anecdotal experience.

My mother was a waitress for my entire childhood. I can remember going in to work with her when she couldn't find childcare; the bartender would let me polish the brass in exchange for an ice cream sundae. The waitstaff would give me quarters for "helping" them by using the carpet sweeper. I'm sure I was obnoxious. I have lots of good memories wrapped up in restaurants because of my mother.

I also have bad ones.

I was five years old, sitting on the high barstools clutching a virgin strawberry Daiquiri in between my two little hands, when I watched my mother burst into tears because a couple walked out without paying for an expensive tab that included alcohol. Would you believe that I actually remember what the couple looked like? Her hurt feelings made such an indelible impression on me that I do. I watched those people laughing at their restaurant table and then I watched them walk out. My mother had worked hard, and they walked out. One table, sure, but it sucked, and my mom was young and easily wounded. She was working her ass off, too. And I know that wasn't the last table - far from it. It's just the one that I was there for.

So that's one problem I have with the way servers are currently paid, below minimum wage with the expectation that they'll make up for it themselves in tips: some people are assholes. Period. It doesn't matter how well you do your job, narcissists are takers, and they don't give two shits about who they hurt in their quest for "mine."

I also remember a childhood where I never saw my mother sleep. Yes, it's true. For awhile there I thought my mother was some sort of magical fairy who didn't need sleep. One of the reasons I loved being at her house was that if I woke up having a bad dream she would always be awake to comfort me. My dad was a mere mortal - he, like me, actually needed to sleep for a few hours each day.

Years later, my mother would explain to me that cocaine made waitressing for a living possible, and waitressing for a living made cocaine possible. There was a commercial some years back with a guy snorting himself into a circle, because cocaine makes you want to do more cocaine makes you want to do get the picture. Waitressing requires a great deal of energy and focus, and it also can generate, on good nights free of narcissists, a great deal of easily disposable cash...which is good for cocaine, which is good for staying up for another shift, which is good for...again. Yes.

So when the writer claims that the unfolding policy in Maine of paying servers, ya know, a regular, almost-living wage, is not only unnecessary, but will effectively tap into her bottom line...I question the veracity of those statements, and more importantly, I see my entire point has been neglected, by someone who works in the restaurant industry and knows damned well that stimulants make the hospitality go round. Either that or she works in the one addiction-free restaurant in the U.S.

I would like to add that I always tip at least 20%, and that my tipping amount won't change just because waitstaff might get paid a more practical minimum.

This country gets very hyperactive and happy about the great War on Drugs. How about you warmongers support paying an industry in a manner that doesn't demand sleeplessness and stimulants in order to survive?!

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