Thursday, June 5, 2014

Here's Why You Don't Tip a Dollar

I remember finding a set of keys in front of someone's house on Fiske Ave when I was nine years old. This was twenty years ago, the last time the Rangers were in the Stanley Cup. I remember that summer quite vividly, as it was the first in the Staten Island neighborhood where I would spend my formative years. Anywho, I picked up the set of house keys and wasn't sure what to do with them. The kid I was with, some buck-toothed little prick who lived around the corner named Goeff, told me he had a friend who found a set of keys once, and got a huge reward when he returned them to the owner. 

I was still a couple of years from my first paper-route (which would be on that very block), so the idea of being rewarded globs of money to blow at the candy store filled my round little face with glee. I looked no further than the house in front of me, because, well, I was smart. 

I pressed my stubby little finger on the doorbell and rang twice, eagerly awaiting what I had imagined to be a very distraught old man - not an old, crotchety man who smells like a bag of yams, but a cool dude, a Hugh Heffner-type - with a burlap, dollar sign-branded sack of cash with my name on it.

He'd fling the door wide open, a gust of wind blowing behind him that ruffled his purple, velvet robe, as a flock of white doves came through the house and burst past me. I'd hand him the keys, and his eyes would boggle, handing over the giant sack of money. I'd thank him and take off down the block, running to the tiny, family-run neighborhood store called the Westerleigh Deli (which has since been sold and sadly run into the ground). 

Being the fat little fuck I was, the first thing I'd do was dive into the freezer, which sat directly below the cash register. I'd grab every Haagen Daaz container they had, then, with every centimeter of space my hairless, moist arms could carry, I'd stack up on Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Boy oh boy, did I (and still do) love me some Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. 

As I waited for Hugh Heffner to answer the door and alleviate my fat kid desires, I turned to my chipmunk-like friend and gave him a thumbs-up. (Geoff was forced to stop hanging out with me a couple of years later because his parents caught him smoking a cigarette. He, being the little pussyfart he was, blamed it on me. His parents believed him. Because I can smoke cigarettes for other people.) 

The door opened, and I was let down immediately. What I saw wasn't a cool dude, like Hugh Heffner. What I saw was a stringy fucker, wearing an undersized collared shirt with mustard-colored stripes, khaki shorts, and thick, birth-control-like glasses. He looked like an oversized five-year-old. No doves flew out, and the only wind hitting me was the musty smell of suburban mediocrity. The man, I'll name him Irving, looked down upon me: 

Irving - "Hello, can I help you?" 

Doorman - "Ummm… hi, sir."

I looked back to Geoff, who had his right hand firmly planted in his anus. He did that. 

Doorman - "Ummm…. I… Ummm…"

I held up the keys. 

Doorman - "I found your keys!" 

His face remained expressionless. 

Irving - "Oh… those look like my wife's." 

He took them from me and held them up to get a better look. 

Irving - "Yep." 

I stood my ground, holding my hands behind my back, like a small gentleman. This would be a position I would learn all-to-well while working as a bellman/doorman - stand there, politely, and wait as long as you can for your tip. I had no idea I was foreshadowing such an integral part of my future. 

After an awkward stand-off, he actually got the hint and went back into his house. He called back. 

Irving - "Hang on a second." 

He closed the door behind him. I turned to Geoff and gave him an excited thumbs-up. He removed his hand from his anus and returned the gesture. 

Irving came back after a few moments and handed me my reward for doing a good deed:

Irving - "Here's a dollar." 

I'll never forget that moment of deflation, because it's become such a profound feeling in my life that I've never gotten used to. He very well could have had a degenerate find the keys and decide to come back later and rob the place. Instead, an honest kid rang his doorbell and relieved him of such. Then he stiffed the kid. 

Irving went back in his house and shut the door. I went back to Geoff, who eagerly awaited the outcome. I don't remember what he had to say about it, because fuck him and his feces hands. All I know is we still went to the deli despite our lack of breaking the bank, bought a package of Peanut Butter Cups, and split it. 

That was twenty years ago. Maybe I was a little naive to think someone would go ahead and give a nine-year-old more than that for doing the right thing. But I understood, even at that young age, the value of taking care of someone who looks out for you. Irving, sadly, did not. I would spend my middle and high school years delivering the Staten Island Advance to him, firing the newspapers as hard as I could at his screen door, every single day. Sometimes I'd miss and smash the aluminum siding, dropping the paper into the thorn bush below. The front of his house perpetually looked like a crushed soda can. He never tipped me anyway, maybe a dollar every few weeks if I was lucky.

I've been working as a doorman for two and a half years now, and getting a lousy tip for doing hard work never fails to sting. It's one thing if you get stiffed, that's an entirely different gut-punch. Getting a really bad tip digs deeper than that. It's their way of saying, "hey, I understand how all of this works, but fuck you, I don't deem you worthy." 

That's what my life has become. It's what I rely on to get by - a series of transactions, where I put myself out there for people and blindly trust they'll do the right thing. Just like the pudgy little nine-year-old with round glasses and a bowl hair-cut, I'm consistently disappointed in the outcome. 

Which brings me to this story: 

Now, I don't have much to take pride in at work, but I understand that those five parking spots in front of the building are my real estate from 3-11pm. I manage it. It's mine. It's how I make a living. If someone, who isn't a co-worker or friend, wants to take up one of those spots for a lengthy period of time, they're going to have to compensate me for it. Parking in New York City is expensive, and here it's no different. Only I offer the "hand me the keys, I'll do it for half the price and everyone wins" discount. 

This cocksucker pulls up like he owns the joint. He gets out of the car, right smack in front of the door, knowing full-well that I'm going to have to move it up to prevent it from blocking my guests. He's about my age, maybe younger, with a cold, Eastern-European demeanor. I'll name him Hugo. 

Hugo - "I'm doing business in gift shop." 

He hands me the key and walks away. 

Hold on, asshole. 

Doorman - "Hang on, man. Do you want to leave it here for a little bit?"

Inconvenienced, he turns back to me in a huff. 

Hugo - "Yes, I will be back in little while."

Whatever, fuck it. It was a slow enough day and I was willing to roll the dice on him to make a few bucks. You never know.

Doorman - "Ok, my friend. Take your time."

Notice the structure of that sentence. I've completely mastered the undertone of what I'm going for here. Whenever I give someone leeway to take up one of my parking spots for an extended period of time, I always deliver that line, verbatim. What I'm saying reads simple on paper, but my tone of voice is delivering, "do what you gotta do, keep the car here as long as you need, just be sure to hit the ATM on your way back."

He says nothing and disappears into the hotel.

That was at 3:30pm. Fast forward through three hours of guest fuckery.

Just after 6:30pm, he exits the door with his briefcase in one hand and a rolled-up bill in the other. Looks like a lone bill, which is always a welcomed sight.

Doorman - "How's it going, buddy? Get everything done?"

Translation: Your car is here, without a ticket or scratch on it. I've held up my end of the deal. Pony up, fucker. 

Hugo - "Yes."

I dig through my pockets and find the key.

Doorman - "Here you go, pal."

I hand him the key. He hands me... a dollar.

Maybe it was the bad week I was having. Maybe it was the fact that he looked so fucking smug in doing so. Maybe it was because he's a peer, treating me like a nine-year old fat kid with round glasses who was looking for a hand out.

Whatever the case, he caught me at the wrong time, and I left him have it.

Doorman - "What is this?"

He stops in his tracks.

Hugo - "What?"

I hold up the dollar.

Doorman - "This! What the fuck is this?"

Hugo - "This is for you."

Doorman - "A dollar? Are you fucking kidding me?"

I stuff it back in his hand.

Doorman - "Do me a favor - never park here again. If you see me standing here, find a spot in the street or at a garage."

His icy demeanor doesn't change.

Hugo - "I am working with gift shop."

Doorman - "That means nothing to me."

Hugo - "I'm working man, just like you."

Doorman - "So you should understand the deal."

He waves goodbye.

Hugo - "I appreciate your help."

Doorman - "Well, you could appreciate it elsewhere."

That line really didn't make sense, but I was angry, so... whatever.

He turns to his car and opens the trunk. Unable to let it go, I begin speaking aloud to myself.

Doorman - "Fucking guy is driving around in a Lexus and he gives me a dollar."

He bites back.

Hugo - "It's company car, but okay."

I snap my head back to him.

Doorman - "What? WHAT?!?"

I think at that point he wanted to just get the hell out of there before it escalated. I'm glad he did, because I wanted to open-field tackle him. He continued to quickly put his shit in the car.

Doorman - "A word of advice - you're better off giving nothing than giving a dollar. It's insulting."

He says nothing, jumps in his vehicle and takes off.

Did I overreact? Yeah, probably. I usually do. Do I regret telling him off? Absolutely not. Here's why:

First and foremost, when he said he had a "company car", there's no way in hell his company lets him drive around Manhattan all day and pay for his own parking. He likely gets reimbursed for parking expenses, or a daily allowance. He used my services to make his life easier, and I should be compensated. You want to avoid having to walk to a garage, wait for them to get your car out, then have to tip the attendant anyway? Let the doorman watch it. Then take care of him for saving you the time.

Secondly, giving someone a dollar for extended services is an insult. Is it appropriate for certain situations? Absolutely. Do you give a bartender a dollar for opening a twist-off beer with a bottle opener? Yes. Do you give a doorman a dollar for flagging down a taxi? Fair.

Do you give a bellman a dollar for humping eight monster suitcases from the storage room to your car? No. You're better off stiffing him.

Seriously, if you want be a scumbag and knowingly give someone a dollar for a task in which you know calls for more, don't even bother. Tipping is arbitrary. They'd rather believe you're ignorant about the situation than know you're intentionally lowballing them.

This is New York City. It's 2014. A dollar gets you nothing. Maybe a bottle of water, if you're lucky. 

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