I sat next to a gentleman at dinner a week ago. I’ve been pondering our conversation ever since. By any normal standard, this guy is a huge success. From owning his own business to exotic cars filling his garages. He has an impressive boat and hundreds of acres of land. And how do I know so many facts about his life after only meeting and interacting for two hours? Because he told me. In great detail. Over and over.
And then came the check. I should mention that this dinner was at a pub. A casual birthday party for a mutual friend. We’re not talking about lobster or filet or something French I cannot pronounce. It was bar food. Cheap, easy and deep fried. And of all the middle to upper middle class couples sitting around the table, the only person to complain about the automatically added 20% gratuity was easily the wealthiest man in the room. I mean, when you think about it, 20% of bar food is peanuts. Literally and figuratively. But nevertheless he was upset.
I know what you’re thinking, “Chris, that’s why he’s so wealthy! He thinks about every dollar and makes sure he wastes none.” And that very well may be true. But I should also mention that while this fiscal blowhard was recounting his trips all over the world and describing his disdain with a certain Ferrari dealership and their rudeness, I noticed that our server didn’t seem to be having such a great night. She had the sole task of waiting on our party of 15-20 among other tables. She seemed melancholy at best and extremely short in the patience department. Something was clearly wrong. Maybe she always acts inconvenienced by guests she’s waiting on or maybe, just maybe, her father was in the hospital with some incurable form of cancer and she’s working three jobs just to help her mom deal with the never ending stack of medical bills. Honestly, it didn’t matter either way to me. This girl was having a rough night and needed some cheering up.
As we left, we tipped the server. We tipped her on top of the 20% automatically added. We tipped her enough to cover us and the affluent tightwad next to us that refused to give her a penny more than what she “already decided to keep for herself.” I may not have a Ferrari, or boat, or acres of land, but I have more than I need. And if I have my way, I’ll leave this life having given away anything extra.
I guess when I’m poor, I’ll know I’ve arrived.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Jamie McCaffrey