A Rant for the Scantily Clad

I get wanting to look sexy. I do. But isn’t there a line? Does anyone else think there’s a line between sexy and naked?

I fear that too few girls and women these days (yup, Imma throw out a “these days”) know where that line is. Either that or they don’t care. Either that or I’m the one that’s confused, and what looks sexy to me is really the equivalent of wearing a floor-length flannel nightgown, and what looks naked to me is prim and proper evening attire.

“But we’re young!”

So being young exempts you from respecting yourself?

“But we’re young and stupid!”

I’ll give you the stupid part. Wait – you made it into one of Canada’s best universities, so you can’t really be stupid.

“But we’re young and stupid and DRUNK!”

Ah. With alcohol involved, nothing matters. Especially your self-respect.

“Well…. we’re horny. So… You know.”

So you’re willing to look like you don’t respect yourself, put all your goodies on display for guys you don’t know, freeze your toes off wading through snow in your heels and bare legs, spend a lot of money on booze and cabs, feel like crap the next day, not to mention doing exactly what every other girl around you is doing, just for a chance at getting rubbed up against by an equally drunk and stupid stranger?

“But everyone–“

–is doing it? Sorry, hon, but that is a very old and clichéd line.

There’s something going on here that has to do with gender stereotypes and patriarchal values and the effect of the media, but without delving into much of the academic stuff, I wanna ask about something along the lines of myth and ideology: doesn’t it make you feel dirty, putting yourself on display like that in exchange for something temporary and meaningless? Don’t you know that you’re the one getting the short end of the stick?

I get wanting to feel sexy, wanting to look sexy.

What I don’t get is wanting to wear less clothes than a prostitute while paying for your own booze, then giving it all away to a random guy, for free.

“But we don’t pay for our drinks – the random guys buy them.”

WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO?! Clearly nothing else matters.

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Hey Bad Tipper: You’re Breakin’ my Heart! You’re Shakin’ my Confidence, Baby!

Five years of experience might not make me an expert, but it does make me experienced.

Those five years have taught me that I’m a better server than some, and, provided my attitude doesn’t get in the way, often deserving of a good tip. Those same five years have opened my eyes to a glaring fact that surprises me less these days, but continues to rile me: people are CLUELESS!

Okay, so maybe not in general, but in tipping, I guarantee you that the majority of people I serve have no idea what they should be doing. They have no idea that their ten-percent-before-taxes is breaking my heart, one table at a time. They have no idea that my Waitress Face is hiding my profound disappointment. We laughed, we cried, it was better than cats… until they got up to the counter and slapped me in the face with their loonie. WHAAA–?!

Clueless. That’s all. They’re not having a bad time. They enjoyed their food. They dug the music. They wanted my silver spoon handle ring. They encouraged me in my future career. They offered to send my children to school… And then they broke my heart.

I have thought a lot about what might be done to illuminate the unwritten rules of the service industries of the world. I really am no closer to a solution, other than to do what I do best and rant about it on my blog (I’ve also thought about writing something more substantial. An essay? A compilation? A booklet on how to be a good customer? … Thoughts welcomed).

So. For those NOT in the know, here are the basics:

  • An average (think: minimum) tip these days in Canada is 15%. Yup. FIFTEEN, not ten.
  • In recognition of good service (defined below), tip 20% or thereabouts.
  • MOST IMPORTANT: 10% is an insult. A letdown. A farce.

Fun fact: did you know that the minimum wage for servers is less than for everyone else because it is assumed that tips will provide the rest?

Yes, someone decided to give YOU the power to pay part of my wages! Why you gotta let me down?! Can you believe there are actually people out there who think: “I worked hard for my money: why should I give any to you?” Hi. This is me, working hard for my money. Which used to be your money. If you didn’t want to pay for the whole restaurant experience, why did you leave your own kitchen?

Okay. Good service. The twenty-percent qualifying round. These are things a good server does (watch for them!):

  • Greet you in a friendly manner
  • Get to you as soon as they can (sometimes that means they’ll get to you to tell you they’ll get to you as soon as they can)
  • Keep you in the loop (specials, soups, what the kitchen is out of, any delays, where the bathroom is, etc.)
  • Explain the menu, if it’s not self-explanatory
  • Ensure your drinks and food arrive in a timely manner, or, if there’s nothing that can be done, keep you in the loop about it and give you updates about what’s happening
  • Double-check to make sure that you got what you ordered and that everything is as it should be, you have the condiments, utensils, drinks, napkins, etc. that you need.
  • Check on you after you start eating to ask if everything is okay, or if there’s anything you need
  • Keep your water glass more full than empty
  • Notice when your drink is low and ask if you would like another
  • Clear your plates in a timely manner (the best servers often wait until everyone is done: it’s more polite that way)
  • Offer you apres-dinner items (drinks, dessert, etc.)
  • Make sure you are good and done before speaking of/presenting the bill
  • Process your bill in a timely, professional manner
  • Try to avoid mentioning anything about a tip. That’s just tacky!

My Condensed Idiot’s Guide to Being a Good Customer will have to wait for now. I have papers to write. Meanwhile, don’t forget: you are part of your restaurant experience. If you are being annoying, chances are your server will be less inclined to give you good service. Are you doing it just so that you’ll have an excuse to give him or her a lower tip? Hmmm.

You know that adage, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? Think of your server as Mama, and life gets better for everyone.

 

Bottled Water: Why are we so lazy?

I have to apologize ahead of time, because I haven’t officially started my research yet, but I am starting to work on a short research paper about water, specifically drinking water that gets stored, transported, and sold in plastic bottles.

I have realized that we are lazy. Yeah, that’s the truth of it. We’re damn lazy! We are so used to having the convenience of everything we want, anytime, anywhere, and we often don’t have a clue about how we will end up paying for it with our bodies and our environment, let alone wasting our money on it now.

Bottled water. Why are we so obsessed? We want clean and safe water, yeah, I get it… but why do we (here in most of Canada and the US) distrust our (treated and safe) tap water so much?

The argument about bottled water tasting better might be a good one… if there wasn’t such a thing as a water filter that you can attach to your tap while filling your glass or reusable hard plastic (BPA-free, etc.) or stainless steel bottle. I completely get the issue of the taste of the water–I am a self-declared water snob, after all.

However, when you dig a little deeper into the issue, you will discover that, a) bottled water is simply glorified tap water; b) it takes SO much fuel to transport water around, when almost everyone has perfectly good water coming out of their tap; c) bottled water is basically a money-making gimmick, a commodity invented not with the goal of getting clean water where there is none, but with the goal of making a profit; d) the plastic bottles leech chemicals (BPA, antimony and others) into your drinking water, making it less healthy for you than your tap water. Really. True, some companies have eliminated tap water from their individual-sized bottles, but not from their big ones (the big blue ones that you refill and use with a dispenser at home or in the office); e) not only does it take a lot of fuel to truck bottles of water everywhere, but you know those little plastic bottles? They’re made with oil! That’s right, they’re a petroleum product–there goes even MORE of our non-renewable resources!

I am on a bit of a mission to educate myself and in turn rant and rave a bit to those who will listen that it pays to buy a bottle, one reusable bottle (okay, maybe more than one), and refill it. Plan ahead. You can do it, I believe in you! It pays in many ways: your wallet will be heavier, your body will be healthier, and the environment will benefit from having less plastic products tossed into its backyard and be able to hold onto more of one of its essential fluids, oil.

If you MUST buy a bottle of water (let’s face it, every now and then, you’re desperate and you forgot to bring a bottle and you don’t trust that homeless guy’s cup), FOR GOD’S SAKE RECYCLE IT!!

Christians=Al Quaeda?

Yesterday, Jian Ghomeshi (host of Q on CBC radio) interviewed a homosexual columnist named Dan Savage about his response to the recent trend of gay teenagers committing suicide. Mr. Savage decided to reach out to these kids who are struggling with their identity and bullying by starting a YouTube video project called It Gets Better, where celebrities, etc. are adding their own stories of encouragement to these kids/people.

Unfortunately, Mr. Savage did a very stupid thing by way of defending the bullied teens: he blamed the death of these kids on the church and Christians, saying “They’d rather have dead kids than gay kids… their blood is on their hands”, basically equating “Christians” (he mentioned “fundamentalist” a few times, but didn’t always qualify like that) with the extremist Muslim terrorists that have attacked the USA.

This appalls me for two reasons: a) That there are people that think all people calling themselves “Christians” behave like the the Phelps family and the Westboro Baptist Church, the people that picket soldiers’ funerals with the message that God killed the soldiers because he is punishing America; b) That there are people out there calling themselves “Christians” and behaving egregiously towards other people!

Why? Why do these people persist with their ignorant hate?

And why do other people refuse to find out the objective truth about the majority of the Christians before ignorantly labeling millions of people in a manner similar to the stereotypical “Republican” way of viewing all Muslims?

Life in the H.C., Part 4: Dangerous Drivers, aka: Cocky Buggers

Dear Huron County Driver,

I’d like to say you know who you are, but I am not at all sure you do. Here’s a clue: if you see no problem following the car in front of you so closely that you can dig earwax out of the driver’s ear, I might be talking to you. Or if you think those bumper stickers that begin with the phrase, “If you can read this…” are part of some sort of literacy outreach program, I might be talking to you.

Even with my amazing new snow tires, it seems only prudent to me, seeing as how I value my life, to exercise caution when driving on snowy roads. When I say “exercise caution”, I am mostly referring to slowing down below the speed limit (If you’re saying “What?! Who DOES that?!” I am definitely talking to YOU!) and occasionally taking my foot off the gas pedal or, heaven forbid, even braking every now and again!

I understand there are some people who didn’t get the chance (or simply didn’t bother) to take Driver’s Ed, and they might try to use this as their excuse for believing that driving 3 feet behind the car ahead of them is okay, but I’m here to tell them it’s SO not! Did they really want to be collateral damage if I hit an invisible snow drift?

It boggles my mind how some people drive in winter, and, honestly, it scares me. I don’t care who you are or what driving super-powers you may have, I believe I have a right to peace of mind on the roads. If you’re driving behind me, I expect you to respect that. When I flash my brake lights a few times at you, please take the hint: “Back off! I’m uncomfortable with you being all up in my grill!” If you don’t get it the first time, my attitude toward you will NOT improve, and, in the privacy of my own vehicle, I’ll be saying mean things about you, and my impatient brake-light flashes will mean, “Hey jerk! You may not value your life but I do mine! Back the h— off!!”

Yours in fear of her life and limb til the snow departs,

Sarah Koopmans

On Being Single, Living Alone, and Having Hardly any Single Friends

1. Your back gets patchily tanned and/or burned.

2. There is a distinct lack of motivation to wash the dishes.

3. Nudity can happen frequently at home.

4. Solitude aplenty. Solitude in abundance. Solitude to the extreme!

5. 10 AM seems bright and early.

6. Going alone to the beach is unavoidable.

7. Clothes, magazines, shopping bags, wine bottles, bags of chips, iPod cables, newspapers, mail, and water bottles on the floor in every room is just normal.

8. No one reminds you when you’re road-raging about that tailgater that you just committed the same offense on the way home yesterday.

9. You can drink water, wine, OJ, and coffee every day for a month without running out of clean glasses (at least, I can).

10. Never mind the old adage that you should take off one piece of jewellery before you leave the house; in my case, I have some I can’t put on before I meet up with other people.

11. The things you have in common with your girlfriends (now married with children) grow less and less. And less (something just happened as I wrote this that really drove the point home).

12. Stigmas about Old Maidendom get closer to home, whether in your eyes or others’.

13. Wanting to go out means you either a) scrape together the nerve to go by yourself (not likely); b) wait until that one single friend you have is available on a Saturday night; or c) play the anti-social card. Again.

14. Items of clothing with buttons up the back are, sadly, not for you.

15. You’re the first person people think of when someone asks them for a pet-sitter or house-sitter.

16. Without a man, you really have no idea how to care for your car and just hope nothing happens.

17. No one helps you dig your way out of your driveway in winter.

18. You can only have Housewarming parties so many times. Besides that, what can a single girl register for to get stuff like engaged and expecting girls do?

19. Fashion means more to you.

20. The baby behaviour, baby stuff, baby growth, baby names, and baby care references get old when you’re the only one without a baby.

21. Master of the fake smile you are.

22. You fear the cat-lady reference yet admit to being a candle-lady.

23. Eating in is a novelty.

24. Cooking for one isn’t. You begin to long for NYC, where everything can be delivered. Or, perhaps, to hire someone just to have someone else to cook for.

25. Plant-and-candle lady?

26. Things stay where you put them. Ordinarily.

27. You flip-flop between wanting to nest and wishing you’d never stopped to roost.

28. No one cares what time you come in at, and no one cares what time you come in at.

29. Only you face the consequences for too much shopping.

30. There’s no one to blame for anything else, either.

MYOB

My sister used to say that when we were asking questions she didn’t want to answer: “MYOB!!” (Mind Your Own Business) Who could say what inspired her. I can’t remember if she would have been old enough to be familiar with the acronym BYOB, but I’m guessing so.

We used to laugh and ignore her. At least, I don’t remember paying much attention, busy and snobby older sister that I was. Still, her silly acronym stuck with us, or with me, I should say, not able to speak for the rest of my siblings.

I had a conversation with a friend earlier this week, about an experience of hers that falls under the category of topics to which one might wish to reply with an indignant and more-than-a-little-impatient “MYOB!!!!!” (to all of my friends who are mothers: this is a third-party rant, her experience, as shared with me, embellished perhaps a tiny bit, not me claiming first-hand knowledge!)

Lu is pregnant, due in August. Like most women who are expecting, her belly is expanding, along with some other womanly parts.

Because pregnancy has to do with the miracle of life and everyone loves babies and if a woman can’t have her own she wants a piece of someone else’s and if a woman has already had her own she thinks she knows everything there is to know or even if a woman hasn’t had her own but her adopted daughter has she is entitled to claim the experience as her own and therefore freely dispense advice and unsolicited comments, Lu often gets told she’s big. And that she looks bigger today. And they thought she’d look bigger by now. And wow, that top makes her look so big!

Then there are the well-meaning but perhaps slightly overbearing grandparents and older siblings who insist she needs more onesies. And a high chair. And those special educational toys. And a set of bottles of all shapes and sizes, just to be prepared. And thingamabobs and whatchamacallits and whosits and whatsits galore!

(insert breath here)

Don’t let me forget the day she threw on a maternity shirt she’d purchased a few years ago, just to have something to cover her growing belly with. Everyone told her she looked cute in the flowered baby doll top which definitely covered her growing belly. Feeling un-cute, she however decided to accept the praise for what it seemed to be and feel cute as well. Imagine her chagrin when she caught a glimpse of herself in a shop window, only to find that the garment in question made her look like a mix between a beached whale and a 12-year-old. Cute? What were they thinking?!

And just once, couldn’t someone please start a conversation with her that isn’t solely inspired by her thick middle? Or ask her how she’s doing, instead of simply using her as a channel to get a baby fix?

Despite the miracle of procreation, people, shame on us for forgetting the woman in our haste to welcome her offspring.

MYOfreakin’B!!

The Joy of Tipping

This rant has been a long time coming, so my apologies to those who I’ve mentioned it to who have come here to find me procrastinating. As usual.

Diners of the world, hear ye, hear ye! Servers of the world, unite!

Together we approach the possibly controversial topic of tipping. Having been a full-time server for almost a year now, you’d think I’d have ranted about this long before now, but it’s only recently that I’ve noticed just how stingy some people are.

Fact: Servers don’t even make minimum wage.

Fact: Servers put up with a lot of picky, ignorant, cheap, snotty, and “special” people, and good servers like me keep smiling anyway. Usually.

Fact: A twenty percent tip is considered good; a fifteen percent tip is considered acceptable; a ten percent tip is considered bare minimum albeit ignorant because that was considered good about 10 years ago and hello, have you SEEN gas prices lately?!; and less than that is just plain mean and backwards.

Fact: In a place that has candles on the tables, jazz playing during dinner, $9 glasses of wine, and delicious, if simple, food, a ten percent tip is a slap in the face.

Wikipedia has this to say:

Though by definition a tip is never legally required, and its amount is at the discretion of the person being served, in some circumstances failing to give an adequate tip when one is expected would be considered very miserly, a violation of etiquette, or unethical.

And:

In countries where tipping is the rule (for example United States), complicated social rules and etiquette have developed over the exact percentage to tip, and what should and should not be included in this calculation. In other cultures where tipping exists it is more flexible and no specific assumptions of the tip amount exist. In the United States, it is acceptable to tip anywhere from 15% to 20% if the service is good to superior, and less or even zero for mediocre service. In Canada, a 15% tip is customary for good service.[8]

Some establishments pool tips and divide them to include employees who lack customer contact. At some restaurants, agreements among the staff require the servers to tip out members of the support staff (kitchen, bartender, and busser) at the end of their shift;[9]; this means that servers pay a certain fixed percentage of their sales (most often a portion less than 15 percent of total sales) to the other staff. Thus when a patron leaves a small tip, it results in the server having to receive less from the tipping pool than other staff.[10]

Lately, I’ve had so many people tip me less than ten percent, it’s sickening. If you’re one of those people, give yourself and your wallet a shake! Do I have to launch into my Principles of Generosity lecture? Also, if I’m truly that shoddy of a server, do you think they would’ve appointed me Dining Room Manager? So. Since your bad tipping habits don’t reflect on my skill, it must be an indication of either ignorance or stinginess on your part. (If you’re a good tipper, please disregard these comments 🙂 )

I’d like to continue this rant, but I think I’ve actually covered all the ground I want to. I’ll leave you with this thought:

Wouldn’t you rather err on the side of generosity?

Frustrated Incorporated

It’s 3:42 am, and, while I did just go to bed a little while ago, rather than relax and go to sleep, I found myself planning a conversation with a particularly annoying regular customer of mine, and my heart beat faster rather than slower, and I was inspired, and I had to get up and write!

D is an only child. Me being an over-capable oldest of six, finding out that fact was the equivalent of “‘Nuff said”. D’s wife died of cancer at the end of last summer (for mercy’s sake, you can insert an “aww” here, but only a tiny, pathetic little one), around the time that we found out Mom had cancer in her brain.

For a while, then, it seemed like there was a bit of stuff we had in common. That little while was before him and one of my coworkers started, well, hanging out A LOT, and before he got seasonally laid off from his job. Doom approaches.

It began when D started making awkwardly smug overtures along the lines of helping me through the season of my mom being sick with cancer. He offered me books, which I at first politely and noncommittally said I’d read. Thankfully, they never materialized. Some time later, from his preposterously central (and unavoidable) perch at the bar, accompanied by an attempt to send me a secret message through a certain waggling of his eyebrows and a pointing of his eyeballs, he again offered books. I played dumb. Books for what? Did I ask for books?

“Well, for you know!!”

“No, I’m sorry. For what?” (I’m being barely polite now)

“Well, because your mother’s sick, and…” More waggling and exaggerated looks. “… and then we can talk about it.”

Neither the gestures, the words, or the intent were having any affect on me, however, and, between customers, I knuckled down and told him that I was grateful for the thought, but I really had no interest in reading any books or talking to him about it. Ever. Not even under duress. Okay, I didn’t actually say that, but I probably thought it.

“Oh, so you’re in denial.”

“Maybe. But I have my own people to talk about my denial with.”

Now, after a few months of his being off work and weeks of my seeing D every day, twice or three times a day, topped off with lewd comments about women, asking me to smile, and sitting for hours sipping wine and rubbernecking as I work the room, as if I had grown a third breast (sorry for being crass), I’m more than ready for that work season to begin again. I hope it brings with it interminably long days.

Only a dimwitted person would be oblivious to how little I esteem this particular patron. While he gets a terse, “Glass of wine?” (how dare he make me ask him every time?), the person next to him gets, “Hi! How are ya? What could I get for you today? Lovely day, isn’t it? What brings you to town?” (Exaggeration helps sell a story).

Then the other day came the icing on the cake. Between D’s second and third terrorist attacks, he called to ask in a very roundabout way whether I had the ability to translate from Spanish to English or not. Too soon afterwards, he resumed his perch and his vice, envelope in hand, greeting me with, “I’m going to owe you big-time”. (Just how much, I wonder, could this be worth to him?) Within the envelope was a letter written in Spanish. I wasn’t given any context or back-story, just handed an entree of gobble-dee-gook which I happen to understand, and some expectation on the side.
Hypothetically, if you were a pathetic middle-aged man in an albeit small town with several bars and you were a firm believer in the Spread the Wealth concept, and it was painfully obvious that only one person could stand you at one of those several bars, that one person not being any of the ones that have to serve you at the bar, would you in your right mind not only go three times in one day, but then, without reasonable introduction or explanation, ask a favour worth $50?!

Honestly!!! (Sorry for the multiple exclamation points. My face was seriously expressing that much shock and surprise.)

It being 4:17 am currently, I hope that I have sufficiently put this matter to rest for tonight, and will try to retire. Thank you.

The Turkey, The Tension, and the Giving of Thanks

It