Wednesday, July 21, 2010


What I don't get is tipping etiquette these days.
When I was younger, and not paying for my meals, I never paid much attention to tipping. Although I must admit, there is an incident I remember where my dad didn't tip the waitress and I was mortified. I thought it was so rude and that we'd get in trouble.
Even today if I leave a bad tip, I have visions of the waitress running after me and berating me about being a complete jerk. I'm still very hesitant to not leave some kind of tip, but I'll be damned if it's not because there are times when people don't deserve nothing. I am a pretty easy person to figure out in order to get a tip. Get to me quickly, be friendly, get my order right and get my cheque quickly. It's really a pretty easy thing from my perspective though I get that everyone has a bad night.
The best service I had was a fantastic bistro in Grimsby. My guest and I had a fantastic server who was friendly, funny and really catered to us. I had no problem leaving him a $20 tip. But contrast that with the woman I had last night. She was prompt in coming to us, getting our drinks and reasonable in getting the food, but the problem was getting the bill. THis was a big issue because I was trying to get to another store before it closed and that store was about 60 km away and I had to travel over 3 different but extremely busy highways that could be dead stopped at any time. It took 20 minutes and me flagging the waitress down to get the bill.
Me: "Can I get the bill please. I've been waiting like 20 minutes "
Her: "Oh sure. Here you go," she said pulling the bill from her apron pocket. "I didn't hear you ask for it."
This didn't sit well with me for a number of reasons.
  1. It was a single bill and my friend, who was in the bathroom when the waitress finally gave me the bill, had asked for split bills.
  2. The very fact that we both said we didn't want anything else and the fact we asked for a split bill should be indication that we did in fact ask for the bill - 20 minutes prior.
It was this incident that really made me question whether she deserved a tip. Left to my own devices, I probably would've left either a small tip (a huge insult from what I've heard from waiters on call-in radio stations) or none at all. I brought the thought up to my friend and she said, "Oh I don't care. I just press the %15 and let the machine figure it out."
Well, if one of us is going to tip and the other isn't then I really feel like a cock. I suck up my reluctance and tip the %15, which was only about $3.50, but I really felt like she didn't deserve it - especially because she blamed me/us for her cock up!
And this is the other thing about tipping that I really hate. The fact that if you're paying via credit card or debit, the waiter brings you the "debit machine" and stands beside you as you pay your bill and face that fateful moment when it asks how much you want to tip. IF I don't want to tip at all (keeping in mind my mind's eye vision I described earlier) I feel awkward and a huge pressure to tip something - and if it's low to run like hell. I really do hate it.
I hear in Europe tipping is an offense punishable by a slap with a fish Monty Python style. And maybe that's something we should start to adopt here. Tips are expected here and we're made to feel guilty for giving a bad one or none at all, but honestly there are times when they just aren't deserved. Here are some examples of times when I dont think tipping is necessary: bad service, when you pick-up take out or when you only get a single beer or drink. If all you have to do is pour one beer, which is part of your job, why should I tack on an extra $1.50 to an already over-priced drink just because you did that? There is one thai place that I frequent and often times I just order take out - be it I call it in or show up and order - and all the waitress has to do is write the order down and bring it to the back. She doesn't really have to wait on me. I have a real problem tipping when I'm spending my gas to get my dinner and not taking up a spot in your restaurant and forcing you to wait on me. I feel a bit guilty, but damnit, it's just madness.

I realize that the tips are the lifeblood of not only the waitress, but often times, the hostess, dishwasher cook and bathroom cleaner. I get that. I get that perhaps an extra $3.50 to me is really not THAT much, but it means a lot to the waitress - including possibly making their rent, but that should just ensure that they do their best to meet my simple needs.

I know full well that it's often times a thankless and horrid job. It's often performed by people who are simply trying to get by or pay for school. I get all that, but I really think that should make them more determined to ensure they get a tip and not rely on society imposed guilt to get one.

I just don't get tipping anymore and how others deal with it. Let me know how you deal with tipping.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Friendliness of neighbours

What I don't get is why a state of friendliness is a fleeting thing.

So, here I am, at my mom and her husband's time-share/fractional condo/cottage dealy and it's given me some time to think.
Within hours of arriving on Monday my first action was to walk to the small lake (big pond?) behind this set of fractional condo/cottage dealies with my camera and take some photos of landscapes - OK, not landscapes per se, but water lilly shots. Hey, I was tapping my inner Monet (which sounds wrong!). The water lillys looked best just off a small dock that must've been built for some previous cottage. Just a little ways down the lake-pond is a small beach owned by the owners of the cottage/condo dealy. Here, on this small beach, are the essential Muskoka chairs, picnic tables: a couple each of canoes, kayaks, paddleboats and row boats. I walked over to this area only to find a couple of kids swimming and their dad lounging in the aforementioned muskoka chair. I wanted to take a look at the canoes because, since they were there and I needed to tap my inner portagers (word?), I wanted to take a boot in the canoe. Still clutching my camera with it's large pro lens, the dad started to talk to me about photography. It was an in that I hadn't expected. We didn't exchange anything more than small talk - hell he could probably learn more about me from Facebook (if their stupid privacy controls hadn't made me remove almost all my information) then he did from our conversation, but it was a friendly conversation: one that most likely wouldn't happen in my regular neck of the woods outside of a camera show or something of that ilk.

As I walked back from the lake-pond to the cottage/condo dealy, I saw another Dad with his two sons walking towards the lake-pond; fishing polls in hand. A quick friendly smile and hello was all that was warranted, nae, required as deemed appropriate by society, and was all that was given.

I got back to the cottage/condo, put on my swim trunks and made my way back to the lake-pond. I selected a life jacket from a nearby shed and the red canoe and pushed off into the still waters of the lake-pond. Canoeing is great. I hadn't done it since I was a teenager when my dad taught me at a cottage that he and my mom used to rent. It's a great way to get back to a simpler time and inspired me to rent a campsite and get all Louis Riel (appropriate reference?).

As I paddled around the lake-pond and across the lake-pond, I couldn't help myself from being neighbourly and paddling over to the fishing dad and his two sons who were occupying one of the rowboats. Our conversation regarded whether they had caught any fish and whether there was any competition between the two brothers for most fish caught. While the dad seemed a little, uncomfortable, the kids were happy to gab about the fish they'd caught and quick to denounce any kind of competition.
It was a pleasant, friendly conversation. Are you noticing a trend yet?
After finishing paddling around the lake, I returned to the cottage/condo dealy and happily reported to my mom and her husband that I had "met the neighbours." My mother was shocked. "We've been coming up here for 2 years and never met any of the neighbours," replied she.
Knowing my mother and her husband, this wasn't entirley surprising. But I will admit to all of you, that what was surprising, is that I had.
I can't help but believe that were I back in the city that these kind of interactions would never happen (or at least rarely) or that I'd have any interest in indulging in them.
These are people I will never see again. Most of whom I couldn't tell you their names, but for even just a few minutes, we as cottage/condo dealy neighbours are engaged in the quickly-dying social contract of "good neighbours".
Hell, that same night my mom and step-dad and I took our rented speedboat out on a proper lake and as we passed people on their docks, they smiled and waved creating and honouring that sense of community that in the city and suburbs is dying.
It's just so refreshing to have these small interactions that paradoxically mean so little and yet so much. It helps me push myself to be social and, dare I say it, pleasant! And, I think what's most important, is that it helps perserve the social aspect of life that, despite Facebook, is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Why does it take a remote cottage/condo type dealy to create a neighbourhood and friendly social atmosphere when in the city and suburbs we're so much closer and yet so much farther apart?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Street Advertising

What I don't get is why certain companies think that hiring some poor shmuck, handing him or her a sign and putting that person on the edge of the road to wave and dance like a goof is considered good advertising?
Ok, run-on sentence aside, has anyone, I mean, anyone ever driven past one of these poor people and said to themselves, " You know, I didn't realize how much I wanted a $5 medium pepperoni pizza until I saw this person holding a large orange sign. I'm going to stop and get one!"
I only bring up the major pizza chain as an example because I see these people pretty much every day on my drive home.
I find it amusing to say the least that there are two categories that the people who do this for a job fall into. The first is the person (probably the first and only time they do it) that actually stands and waves the sign like they're trying to swat a bee: the second type stands there with the iconic white headphones sticking out and try their best to imitate a telephone pole.
These jobs can't possible provide much in terms of income, which is why typically, though certainly not always, it seems to be high school students that do it.
I remember trying to get my first job and the whole paradox everyone frets about regarding needing experience to get a job, but you can't get a job to get experience. I get that this is (possibly) something to put on the resume. But what, may I ask, are the skills that one picks up doing this?
Interviewer: "So, I see here that you worked as a sign holder for (big pizza retailer name here) for...3 days. What do you feel this taught you and how do you think that experience will help you with the duties that you've applied for here at (insert typical major corporation beginning job)."
Interviewee: "I, uh, learned to hold a sign, drink lots of water, keep my iPod charged and wear sunscreen. Oh, also, you need a really good text messaging plan to kill boredom that I'll surely feel at work."
Interviewer: "I see. Well thank you for coming in."
I don't mean to be a jerk, but seriously, is there not a major hamburger distributer hiring somewhere? At what point do you have to realize that you've exhausted all the other typical starting places and figure, "I'd be a really good sign holder!"
Perhaps it's not a matter of intelligence or aptitude but one of attitude then? "What is the one job out there where I can get paid to do the least amount of work possible?"
The answer dear readers (if there happen to be any) is not sign holder, but sign up for a government job. There you don't have to do a damned thing, get benefits and can't get fired no matter what you do.
Having said all that, I don't hold it against young people that they take that job. What I don't get are the adults holding the signs for Golf Liquidation sales. Again, it must pay like crap and surely a part-time gig at any fast food restaurant would give you the same (or better) income and a starting off point for your resume. I seriously don't get it. Especially because, at least to me, this kind of advertising is just so ineffective. Really how is it any different than renting a stationary sign (or buying one)? Hell get one where the lights circle on and off. At least the sign won't slack off and talk with friends and you don't have to worry about giving it breaks.
If someone could please explain this marketing to me I'd be grateful.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Newfoundland Sticker

It's been a while since I've seen one of these, but I saw doozie today and it inspired this blog.
What I don't get is the Newfoundland sticker that is seen on primarily trucks, but also on cars. These can range from a small outline of the rocky Canadian east coast to a decal that effectively replaces the rear windshield.
I honestly don't get it. Why is it that people from Newfoundland feel the need to advertise this in such an overt way. I mean it's not as if the Newfie people, with all due respect, have a particularly good stereotype. Most are considered dim-witted even if it's not true. I know they're damn hard-working. But still, it's not like you see people from B.C. displaying a cutout of their province and sure as hell no one that's come from Saskatchewan would ever brag about it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think I have ever seen someone from any other province decorate their automobile with a sticker of the province they once lived in. I was never inspired to put up an Ontario sticker on my car while living in Alberta - partially because I'd probably be run out of town by a gang of angry cowboy-canola famers.
This isn't the same thing as those idiotic World Cup flags, where everyone is suddenly proud to be Italian or Uruguayan - until their team loses at least. This Newfie pride permeates throughout the year.
When I lived in Alberta, these stickers were so prevalent because so many people came from Newfoundland to work in the Oil Sands. I only ever really talked to two Newfies; one was my boss, who seemed pretty with it and didn't have the accent; the other was another woman who I worked with. Let me tell you, nice lady, but I wouldn't want her doing any NASA computations any time soon. To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, "You might be a Newfie if..."
My boss now if from Newfoundland and, at least thus far, doesn't have one of those stickers on his car. But he sure as hell is proud of the fact he's from there. In fact, during the completion of my duties one day I ran into another Newfie who I had to refer to my boss. I overheard my boss tell another co-worker that as soon as they talked they were best of friends because they were both from Newfoundland.
Is there some kind of brotherhood or provincial pride that comes from having been born in/lived in/visited/married someone from Newfoundland? I have never had the privilege of going. I know it's supposed to be gorgeous in terms of scenery and, Newfoundland had Vikings, which in this bloggers opinion get's them +20 cool points.
Someone please enlighten me as to why there is such a pride of being from Newfoundland.
Meanwhile, I'll continue to drive behind these cars and wonder if they can see out their back window.

After saying all this I'm going to have to remove the Wales decal in my back window. I've been there, my grandfather is from there, and it inspired a mechanic to give me a detailed account of his family history, but in the end it's no different than a Newfoundland decal...but smaller.