Sunday, May 29, 2011

Christians and tipping

Today, my boys and I went out to eat, and it cost us $7, although I spent $12. We went to Friendly's, Graeme's favourite family restaurant, when they were running a special. Buy one adult entree, get a kid's meal free. I also had a coupon, one that clearly said it couldn't be combined with other coupons but said nothing of special offers, that had the same deal. So, we paid for my meal, but got three of them.

I thought it was a pretty clever deal but as soon as I presented it to her (and eventually to her manager, who didn't think the coupon applied), I saw that she was displeased. She thought she knew who I was. I was a Sunday Christian.

Brothers and sisters, I've worked in restaurants and the stories about Christians being lousy tippers are not just stories. I counted cash, which included tips, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, meaning that on Monday I was counting up Sunday's money. Tips average around 4% of the total bill, when the rest of the week they averaged about 10%. Yeah, you could argue that the Christians, who came in wearing their Sunday best, sometimes staying for hours and debating theology over free drink after free drink after free drink, were just the most visible cheap diners, but I disagree.

One afternoon, a deacon from my own church came while I was covering a server's shift. We had a nice conversation as I took his order, and I quizzed him about the Sunday School I was missing. He let me know that a lady at church was looking for me because she needed a city for Friday. It was friendly. My tip, on his $40 bill? 41 cents. Cheapskate.

For those who don't know, waitstaff make less than anyone else in the kitchen, at least based on hourly wage. The difference in their actual rate of pay and what they need to live is made up by tips. It's an inefficient system, true, but it's what we have to work with. I'm of the opinion that if you're budgeting to go out to eat, you budget in at least 10% for tip, more for nicer restaurants where the servers have to do more work. Consider it part of your bill, even if it's not on the receipt.

So, this waitress had decided who I was: a Sunday Christian. She was still efficient and polite throughout the meal. Brandon's meal was delivered with the wrong kind of fries, so she immediately got another plate. When Graeme ordered a soda with his meal (he doesn't like soda), she offered to replace it with another drink he did like free of charge. I never saw the bottom of my water glass. When she stopped, whether to drop off food or just check in (which she did frequently), she talked to the boys as much as she did to me and seemed genuinely interested in the conversation. She was excellent, frankly.

I'd completed my calculations prior to the bill's arrival and determined my tip. I gave her a 20 for the bill and she gave me the change while Brandon still madly attempted to finish his double ice cream cone.

She came back to clean up the table before she left and saw a $5 bill, a little more than 12% of what the bill would've been without coupons, sitting on the table. I told her, "God bless," and the boys and I took our leave.

I don't know what impact that had. I really only did what a good diner ought to do, nothing more, but it's more than some might do. She seemed pleased to see the tip, and I hope that I had some small effect, that I was able to slightly erode her perception of the cheapskate Sunday Christian.

Monday, May 23, 2011

An Open Goodbye To The Event

Goodbye, you stupid show.

No, no, I don't just mean that as a simple insult. I'm not resorting to schoolyard language rather than using my grown-up words. You, as an actual show, are stupid and have been from very early on.

You played cagey with whether The Event was a plane disappearing in midair, which we'd seen on Lost, whether it was the attempted assassination of the president, which we've seen on almost every season of Lost, whether it was a vast and ancient secret society watching over us, which we've seen on Fringe with a much cooler secret society, whether it was the revelation that there are aliens living among us, which we've seen on Roswell . . . I'm going to stop there. As a science fiction, I don't think there's anything much worse than being scooped by Roswell, unless you're also scooped by Wolf Lake.

So, goodbye, stupid show. You ignored basic history civic history. I counted six times that anyone in the same room as the president should've - not could've, but should've - had the president arrested and taken out of the room on the spot for violating basic rule of law. You ignore science. H1N1 didn't come from avian flu. Accelerants don't work that way. You're a science fiction show, so I can deal with a few violations of the laws of thermodynamics and a somewhat quirky interpretation of the uses of wormhole technology, but get the basic stuff right or, well, get cancelled.

Goodbye to your stupid, convoluted, hackneyed subplots. It's pretty customary for a cancelled show to leave a few thread hanging, but I think you might set some kind of record. And I don't care about any of them. I don't care about the aliens coming to Earth, I don't care about the secret society, I don't care about the assassin who's learning to love, I don't care that Jason Ritter's girlfriend has the funny syphilis. It's all been done before, and done better.

Goodbye to your terrible dialogue.

I'll give this to you, though, you had some cool location shots right at the beginning there. Really, the desert scenes were great, and I loved the setting for the disappearance of the plane. It felt very open and real in a way that most shows seem to actively avoid.

I know, this is the part where is seems like I'm having a change of heart and any minute now you're expecting I'll say, "It's not you, it's me." Well, if I do that, then I must be feverish, because it's not me, it's you. You're stupid. And goodbye.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Day After

ETA: The story mentioned in here is true, basically, other than that it appears to come from a one-on-one interview with Marilyn and Michael Moore. The link to "money quote" is here. The post will remain as is because I'm lazy.

There's a story - probably apocryphal, but most useful stories are - that after the Columbine shooting, Marilyn Manson and a bunch of talking heads were sitting around jawing about the incident. Manson was there because, of course, his music was somehow implicated in the incident.*

The question came up, "What would you say to those kids, if you had the chance?" The talking heads gave their answers and Marilyn (can I call him Marilyn? not sure on the protocol there) replied, "I wouldn't have talked. I'd have listened."

Regardless of the story's truth, like any parable, it makes a good point. When someone feels isolated, alone and depressed, as those boys did, it often does no good to just talk at them.

Tonight, beginning at 6 pm EST, Harold Camping believes that the Lord will be coming back to take away his faithful remnant. He has taken an already well-stretched eschatology and added into it his own special mix of numerology, Zionism and governmental conspiracies and concluded that the world will be coming to an end shortly afterwards.

 The world will end, eventually - maybe in fire, maybe in ice - and it could sneak up on is, but the smart money says that he's wrong, which means that tonight and tomorrow morning every one of his followers is going to feel a little like those lost boys of Columbine: isolated, alone and depressed. And so tonight and tomorrow morning and for many days afterwards, we're going to have show them compassion.

You can argue that they brought it on themselves. I mean, no one forced them to believe Camping's lies, and surely a moments sensible though would have told them that is was utter foolishness, and one could argue that anyone so willfully deluded isn't worthy of compassion. I'd argue that it doesn't matter, that if compassion is to have any real meaning, then it must be given to those who need it and not to those who deserve it.

One of my co-workers has bought into Camping's line of bunk. On Monday morning, she's going to show up at the office, something she never thought she'd do again. All week I've been thinking, "I wonder what I should say to her." I think I've found my answer. And hopefully you'll find yours too.

* Of course, a lot of people, including me, listened to Marilyn Manson without shooting up a high school. I also listened to Stabbing Westward, Consolidated, Nine Inch Nails and a lot of other music that explains why to this day I tend to listen to music on headphones. I presume that I just wasn't listening to it in the way that makes you crazy, or perhaps Rich Mullins and Jars of Clay serve as some sort of harmonic antidote.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why I am no longer interested in watching Law & Order: SVU - Caution: Explicit Content

I am a fan of the L&O franchise. I even liked the redheaded stepchildren of the genre, the shows that never really got a chance to catch on or, if we want to honest with ourselves, kinda stunk. That "chung-chung" sound is enough to make me sit in a chair for an hour and come away entertained and, in some cases, kind of thoughtful.

In the past few years, though, I noticed that, for whatever reason, I was no longer able to sit through an entire episode of SVU. It wasn't the nature of the crimes - I'm a grown man, and a fan of true crime and books on crime and punishment, I know people do horrible things to other people - but I just found that whenever the show was on, I'd find a reason to be elsewhere, even if all that meant was reading a book while sharing the living room with my wife.

I know I wasn't interested in the show, that something was actually driving me away from it, but I couldn't put my finger on it until tonight.

I never really caught the plot of the episode, but at the end some college boy who bribed another girl to hide up the fact that he raped and apparently murdered a girl is told by an assistant district attorney that in prison, he'll learn what it's like to be raped on the bathroom floor.

The implication is clear, and it disgusts me.

I'm not a fan of criminals, nor am I "soft on crime." I just think that an office of the law being pleased at an impending act of sexual assault, regardless of the repugnant nature of the person it's going to happen to, is an offence. I appreciate the desire to see the bad guys get their comeuppance, to "get what they deserve," but the purpose of justice isn't vengeance, or at least shouldn't be.

So, sorry L&O:SVU. If it makes you feel any better, thanks to you I'll probably finally get around to finishing House of Leaves.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thank you, Mythbusters

From the very beginning, when your producers seemed to think that people were actually interested in watching folklorists talking more than watching stuff blow up, I loved Mythbusters.

It's gone through some times that I didn't like it as much - in one season, it seemed that every episode had to end with a bigger explosion than the last - but it's always been a fun show. And what's always kept me interested is what could be the motto of the show: failure is always an option.

I love that they fail as often as they do, as spectacularly as they do, and don't just learn from the failures but revel in them. The learn, they adapt, they laugh and joke about complete and abject failure. I mean, they have the usual frustration that comes from experimentation, the times when they can't even get to the point where they have the option of failing, but, for the most part, they just seem to love what their doing.

On tonight's episode, they mocked up a few crude (Syrian) torpedoes. They put in a rocket motor that, well, blew up. The torpedo became a missile. It was a total failure of the concept of the myth, but rather than getting frustrated, both men were excited by it and set about fixing the experiment to make it work.

Thanks, guys. I love that there's a show out there that I can use to show my boys the joy of failure.