Yeah can I have a Coke, no ice and a burger with no bun and I know it doesn’t say you have american but can I have american and sauteed greens on the side instead of fries with no oil on them and a side of ranch dressing and no bun on the burger and make sure it’s cooked medium RARE, not bloody though but just a little bloody and make sure the cheese is melted but not oily and be sure the greens aren’t cooked in butter or salt because I have a salt allergy? Theeeennnnkkkyawwww..

This doesn’t really have anything to do with the subject matter at hand but it takes place in a diner and Janet Jackson is so fucking kick ass in this video she makes me want to rent a time machine, go back to the 80s and tell her how lame she is now so she will stay this awesome forever.  So listen to it whilst you read.

As I’ve mentioned in previous rants, I’m in the service industry.  I took this on as my occupation when I decided to go to art school full time and I couldn’t work days anymore.  The restaurant industry worked with the schedule I had and despite the long hours and certain sleepy 8am wake up calls after 2 or 3am bedtimes, it worked out pretty well.  I only had to work 4 nights a week and I could make enough money to support myself through school.  Just had to get out of school and I’d be ready to start my art focused career…  aaannnnd 5 months later I’m still in the restaurant industry.  The fact is is that when you are an artist, you have to expect that, unless you feel like selling out and painting landscapes or portraits of peoples dogs, you won’t ever make enough money to support yourself.  The art world, as one of my more philosophical professors told me, is like a huge pyramid, with the bottom tier full of the bulk of contemporary artists and the top tier comprised of a select few artists lucky enough to get enough critical acclaim to be recognized in their own lifetime… but I’ll save the art world rant for another time.

As a result of the majority of the creative minds in this world being forced to find their income from other sources than the one they are the most passionate about, the restaurant industry is chock full of dispassionate workers schlepping their way through their jobs just hoping they make enough tips that week to be able to buy that nice tube of Windsor and Newton Alizarine Crimson without dipping into the rent money.  Yet despite the fact that most creative types don’t really love their thankless service industry job, most creatives take any job they do very seriously.  It’s a leftover vestige of the high pressure, highly productive environment of art school.  Most of the people in the service industry aren’t just bored college students who don’t know what else to do.  They are highly intelligent people who have goals that are completely separate from the restaurant industry, who are in this industry because the hours afford them precious time to focus on their goals.

"Kiss My Grits!!!"

So, you can imagine how difficult it is for a person, who is serving people all day just to make ends meet, to do this labor intensive job that they don’t even want to do and then get treated like they are less than human by a seemingly endless pack of ravenous boars… most commonly referred to as… your average diners.  Seriously, if you ever want to see how low the level of human decency can go, just go work in a restaurant for a week.  Maybe even just a night will do.  I’ve had drinks spilled on me, plates of food tossed on the floor with no apologies.  I’ve been screamed at, pushed out of the way, stepped on, again with not even an “excuse me.”  Sadly most of the time I’m the one apologizing even if it isn’t my fault. I’ve been ignored*, talked over, interrupted, and corrected.  I’ve had money thrown at me as if I were a stripper. I’ve been picked up, propositioned, sexually harassed, degraded, insulted, been called myriad names such as “honey,” “baby,” “sweetie,” “blondie,” “sexy,” “stupid,”  yes… even stupid.  It’s astounding really how low people can go, especially people from other countries where slavery might have only recently been abolished or countries where class systems are still set in place.  But the saddest part of it is that I can take all of this abuse and it still won’t be the MOST insulting thing you can do to me.  We all know what the WORST thing is that you can do… tip poorly.  You can call me blondie until the cows come home, drink some warm milk, snooze for a few hours and wake up the next morning full of ginger and fizz for all I care but if you tip poorly I WILL HATE YOU… FOREVER.

Yes… believe it or not a tip is not just some extra added bonus to my evening.  Since the establishment I am working for only gives me about $2.77 an hour, the majority of which is taken out for taxes so that when I do receive a paycheck it is usually for a zero amount, tips are my one source of income.  If you leave me a shitty tip after the hour or more that I just spent kindly serving you and treating you with patience and respect, you are basically taking that hour, rolling it in shit,  and then shoving it down my throat.  Sadly I’m not being kind and sweet as pie to you because you deserve it just for walking through the door.  I’m being kind and sweet as pie to you because you are paying me to do so.  Don’t get me wrong, I go through my whole day being kind and sweet as pie all on my own, without any expectations, but as soon as I put my apron on I am at work.  And this bitch don’t work fo’ free.  Nor does this bitch work for 10%, which is what I received last night from a bunch of girls who spent over 15 minutes going over the check just to fail miserably at compensating me in any respectful way for my impeccable service.

Here’s a helpful hint:  If you can’t afford to tip 20%, don’t go out to eat.  If you can’t do simple addition, don’t go out to eat.  If you are a stingy bastard with your money, why would you even bother going out to eat, I mean its such a waste!  Just stay home and cook yourself a nice meal and watch a movie or something.  But please, don’t come into an eating establishment expecting prompt and efficient service from a trained and knowledgeable waitstaff and expect to leave less than at least 18% in gratuity.  I’ve spent hours and hours of unpaid time, time I’d rather be painting, learning about food, beer and wine so that I can make your visit an enjoyable one.  When you leave me 10% it wastes that time I’ve spent.  It makes me feel even more worthless than I already feel, doing a job that isn’t my true calling in life.

Don’t get me wrong… I’ve had shitty service before.  But it’s kind of like how only ballet dancers truly know how difficult ballet is, because it looks so effortless to the rest of the world.  I know how hard service is.  You have to be a multitasking maniac with the knowledge of a chef, a sommelier, and a mixologist all rolled into one.  And don’t even get me started on how many free therapy sessions I’ve given to crazy couples in fights or the lone diner crying over their bowl of soup.  But yes, as previously stated I’ve had shitty service before and shitty service isn’t service that is slow because the restaurant is slammed with people.  That’s not shitty service, that’s overwhelmed service and that is not the server’s fault, it’s the restaurant’s fault for over seating.  Shitty service is when the waistaff sits around talking while you are trying to get their attention, or treats you rudely when you ask for a simple request.  Shitty service is forgetting about your food allergy or neglecting to bring you your drink while it sits there and melts at the bar because they are text messaging.  But no matter how shitty the service gets I will never EVER leave less than 20%.  It’s just not something I will do.**  I will, however, speak to a manager when necessary because despite the fact that service isn’t my calling, I still take my job very seriously and I don’t want someone running around giving servers a bad name.

So please… save what little sanity I have left and tip your waiter.  Everyone knows that if you tip your waiter well a kitten gets saved.  Don’t make me tell you what happens to the kittens if you don’t…

Disclaimer #1: I realize that there are some “lifers” out there.  These are people who plan on spending their whole lives in the service industry and (somehow) enjoy serving people.  By writing this I mean no disrespect to those individuals.  It must feel good to work in an industry that you find satisfying.  If I were satisfied cleaning toilets for the rest of my life, I’d do it too.

Disclaimer #2:  Yes I know, tipping is retarded.  I get it.  I didn’t invent the practice.  It’s been around since the Romans started making coins and people started handing them out for services rendered.  I realize there are plenty of places in the world where restaurant work earns you a living wage.  Sadly America is not one of those places.  When I go to visit a foreign place, I make an attempt to learn the cultural practices of that place.  Just because they don’t tip in Morocco doesn’t mean you are allowed to come to America and leave me a shiny quarter on a $20 check.  Learn the customs, people.

*one of the most popular forms of “observation failure” that happens during the course of an evening is when a server approaches a table and one or more of the people continues talking as if the server isn’t standing there in plain view waiting to greet them.  This often causes other individuals at the table, who realize the server is a living breathing human with feelings, a large amount embarrassment, thereby creating an environment of unease right off the bat.  Don’t do this… please.

**I know some of you are horrified by this and think leaving no tip on bad service is totally acceptable.  Go ahead and judge but as a part time believer in karma… I refuse to tip less than 20%.  Also, despite the fact that this person did a shitty job waiting on me, they still came in hours earlier to set my table, fold my napkin, cut my bread, polish my silver and glassware, make my coffee and multiple other tasks needed to run a restaurant, all while not getting paid a single dime.  It’s unfair of me to even enter a restaurant and use any of the items placed at my table without compensating the person who set it.  I’ll leave the punishment up to the management.

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