Tip For a Curmudgeon

 I don’t hate tipping, I hate the institution of tipping. It seems too reminiscent of a class structure that treated workers and alms beggars in similar manner. I think workers, minimum wage workers, should be paid enough to live above the poverty level. But, we all know that isn’t the case. Many of us also know that service workers are sometimes paid below minimum wage on the expectation that they will make up for the deficiency in tips. That means a tip, or gratuity if you prefer, does not amount to rewarding good work; it means the business isn’t even paying its employees the minimum wage normally required by law. Doesn’t seem fair.

I had lunch in town, not our village, recently at a popular sandwich and salad place. The food is good, and there isn’t generally a long wait. Of course, you pick up your food order yourself, and bus you table when you finish your meal.  So, while the staff is usually friendly and processes your order quickly, no one waits on you at your table. That’s fine. What bothers me, is this particular place has become pretty aggressive in trying to get customers to tip as well. Tip for what? You serve yourself. Tip because the staff is underpaid? There are tip jars at each cash register where you stand to place your order. In addition, if you use a credit card there is a screen on the card reader that requires you say “yes” you want to leave a tip, or “no” you do not want to leave a tip before your transaction is complete. At that point, you haven’t even picked up your order. It just seems pretty pushy to me. Maybe I’m a curmudgeon. I’ve nothing against the staff. I just hate the idea of tipping, let alone tipping under coercion.

When I tip, I think I’m fairly generous. I had a friend once who didn’t like to leave much of a tip. In fact, you had to kind of watch him because he would wait for everyone else at the table to contribute their share and then cover the bill with his credit card, pocketing the cash. What you had to watch out for, was whether he left an adequate tip for the wait staff or lessened the total due as a result of the generosity of others. I’ve also been in too many situations where a group of coworkers ate together and someone didn’t even leave their fair share, let alone a tip. These are cases of people simply being cheap. Dishonest might be a better word.

I think my series protagonist, Bobby Navarro, always leaves a decent tip when tipping is expected. He’s a down-to-earth, generous guy. He would never stiff a waitress, or a coworker. That just would not be in keeping with his character. I like that about Bobby. I just hate the business of tipping though. How about you? Have you ever read of a private detective or amateur sleuth who didn’t tip well? What’s your take on the whole thing?

By the way, in case you were wondering, I just think it’s good to gripe about something other than politics once in a while. Not that minimum wage isn’t a political issue. Maybe I should be more like Bobby Navarro, just tip well and never mind the rest. But then, like I said, he’s a generous guy, and not at all a curmudgeon.

Restoring Order and Moving Forward

Friday was sweltering, now it’s raining and promises to keep it up off-and-on all this coming week. Too bad. The county fair held in our village is starting, and the rain won’t be good for fair-goers. We finally got to move back into our (finished) bedroom. Of course, part of that move segued into going through a lot of clothes and boxes packed away in a storage closet, to dig out several of my drawings to hang on the bedroom walls. (I used to do a lot of pencil drawings and some watercolor paintings.) The long-delayed “Spring cleaning” allowed touching upon old memories while restoring a sense of order to the chaos of our house project. Actually, I think taking on a bit of cleanup, or tidying, can help a person regain a sense of control in life. Other things, like a motorcycle ride, can produce the effect as well. For my series protagonist, Bobby Navarro, it’s a motorcycle ride that clears the cobwebs and restores a sense of order to his life. I’ve read a couple of authors who have used cooking to this end for their protagonists. I like that, too, both cooking and the fact other authors have their protagonists cook. A good story needs problems and crises to be resolved, but sometimes it’s good to see the hero stop and take a breath, and do so in a way that seems both real and possibly familiar.

Vegetables From the Garden

Vegetables From the Garden

Outdoor living-outdoor work

When I think of outdoor living I usually envision hiking, camping, fishing, and outdoor recreation in general. I’m just completing a couple of backyard projects, redoing a fence around our garden and making a surround for the mulch pile. Since I decided to bury some half inch mesh to keep out the burrowing critters, I dug a trench a foot deep around the entire garden to handle that part of the project. Somewhere along the way it seemed like a lot of work. Certainly not recreation. On the plus side, it looks great now, and we have vegetables planted in the raised beds inside the fenced area. Now I’m looking forward to fresh salads and meals on the deck. That will seem more like outdoor living. Of course, being outside brings its advantages. You get to see more wildlife, if you stop to notice once in a while. Yesterday we discovered a nest belonging to a pair of Baltimore Orioles. That has been a treat. Golden finches have been visiting the yard as well. They are so brightly colored this time of season. I haven’t seen them nest yet, and have wondered if they tend to nest in small flocks the way they seem to go about their normal daily routines.
I haven’t decided whether my Murder on the Road series protagonist, Bobby Navarro, is interested in birds yet. It’s funny, but the writer can give a protagonist some traits, but others seem to emerge. At least, that’s how it has worked for me. When the protagonist’s traits show up, seemingly on their own, they fit the character well. That’s important, so I think I’ll let the bird thing evolve on its own. I do see Bobby appreciative of migrating geese because he shares their wanderlust. I think he would find crows and ravens interesting because they are at home in the woods, on the plains, or in the desert, another shared quality. Since I’m setting my next Bobby Navarro mystery in Florida, Bobby will be seeing some birds he doesn’t normally encounter. I’ve got to give some thought to his reactions to them. Actually, I’m suddenly just curious to see what they turn out to be.

Lettuce in the garden

Lettuce in the garden

A Plan for Healthy Eating

Last posting I talked about the snowbirds leaving the south and looking ahead to our garden and all the good eats it will provide. Well, this post is from out cottage in upstate New York. We just accomplished our semi-annual migration ourselves, at least the trip north. We are still in the throes of unpacking and settling in. One of the things our moves spur us to take a look at is all the stuff we really shouldn’t be carrying back and forth. We also take a look at things we haven’t used and probably can get rid of. But that’s not all. Like New Years, our semi-annual trek encourages us to give consideration to what we are eating. You see, we tend to work hard,  exercise less, and eat things we shouldn’t because of end-of-season get-togethers, a need to boost our energy, and because eating on the road is hardly diet-friendly. Invariably, the change of season move results in a weight gain–followed by a renewed resolve to eat a healthier diet. So this is it, the semi-annual resolve.

Actually, I enjoy most of the process. New beginnings can be fun. The splurges leading up to a need for a new beginning can be fun as well, although I keep telling myself the better answer is learning how to better limit those splurges. Forever an optimist, I even enjoy the thought I might succeed in this endeavor, after all, I think I am learning how to eat healthier and enjoy it.

I’ve tried an assortment of diets, most of which pointed out that the plan was to change the way we eat, not just lose a few pounds. They generally worked to lose some weight, but did not become a life-style change. I love good bread. Why not? I’m a sourdough aficionado. I love pasta. I love baking.  I love eating. I love the foods I associate with cold weather, wood stoves and campfires. So adopting a diet plan that substitutes artificial flavors for real food hasn’t worked, no matter what the form. That leaves limiting caloric intake, which has been a problem too. Did I say I love eating?

On the other hand, all has not been for nothing. I’ve made little gains, no pun  intended. I manage to keep some of the weight off. I have also made some changes in what I actually enjoy eating, and what I can cut way down. Bread, good bread, is something I won’t give up at this point. I have discovered I don’t need to eat nearly as much of it as I assumed was essential. For example, I used to think two pieces of toast with breakfast was a minimum. Now, I realize I don’t need toast at all a good part of the time. I’ve discovered that savory, old fashioned oatmeal is a delicious compliment to a breakfast egg. That’s right–an egg. An extra large egg, but just one nevertheless. Savory oatmeal is also an excellent alternative to rice or potatoes as well. In a future post, I’ll share my recipe for cooking and flavoring it. I’ve also learned I don’t need as much meat as I used to think I did. This even helps eat a little healthier on the road. A SMALL steak and a big salad is terrific after a long day of driving. Of course, it helps when you love oil and vinegar as a salad dressing.

So, my spring resolve is to exercise more, eat a little less, and eat better without giving up my love of good food. I’m almost eager to begin. Oh, did I mention. . .? The biggest contributor to my seasonal weight gain may have something to do with enjoying a good martini before dinner and wine with. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained–or, in this case, nothing ventured, too much gained.