I'm not sure I'm buying into the gender-based understanding that women, generally speaking, prize marriage and babies above all else while our male counterparts measure themselves against the gold-standard which champions power, supremacy and fortitude. Personally, I'm aboard the Sheryl Sandberg ring of thought - marriage, babies and the career to boot. However, having failed to take the savvy IT/Engineering route, opting instead for the romantic notion of reading the classics and venturing headlong into the abyss that is literary theory, offers of a prosperous, flowering career are, needless to say, pretty slim on the ground. As a BA graduate, I waitress to supplement my writerly income - that is to say, I waitress to fund my life full stop, keenly aware of the fact that my years of reading Derrida, Eliot and Chomsky have led me straight into nowhere-man's land. Happily, I'm not alone in my plight. There are thousands of us disheartened wandering souls milling around sprinkling parmigiano-reggiano on your Conchiglioni and plopping olives into your dry martinis wondering how the devil we ended up in this humanities-laden wasteland.
As for marriage and babies, well it seems I have been taking my Granny's words of wisdom too literally. Oozing sass, wit and glamour, Granny would preach to us on any given occasion: "Shop around, girls, shop around." Having acquired no less than three engagement rings, she finally joined the married ranks at 30...no teenage war bride was she, for she knew her mind and settled for nothing less - my hero. Now, I fear, from her seat on high she is shaking a perfectly manicured finger down at us saying: "Ok, ladies. Enough browsing, make the purchase". Problem being that eligible, footloose, appropriate-aged men aren't exactly plentiful around these parts.
Misemployed and single - am I living my life in reverse?
To have been techy-minded with a deep-rooted interest in coding, I could now potentially be within the obscenely profitable industry best represented by the likes of Google and Facebook. But no, I spent my youth jumping off piers rather than in front of a computer, reading anything and everything (backs of cereal boxes included) and preferring to this day to write in longhand with pen and paper. I am not of the digitally-forward, app-building breed. And so it is this floundering around within the hospitality fold - my eternal 'buck-buddy' - which leads me to the question of tipping. Yup, that old chestnut! And the means by which we lowly servers can afford a life while plucking away at our true calling.
Some of the smartest, most talented people I have ever met has been while tending tables. Working in a chain restaurant on Edinburgh's Royal Mile between my ski season escapades alone I met Jamie, an award-winning photographer; Matthew, a flourishing musician; Aturo who was constantly going oversees to film his own movie scripts and Stella who received a First in Fashion Design at Edinburgh University. Big creative guns to be reckoned with. Yet the scorn, distaste and superior manner we were met with on a nightly basis was shocking to the point of comical. And therein lies my problem. Simple fact being you have no idea what your server's story is, why they are there or what their minimum hourly rate of pay is struggling to fund and support purely because the flexible hours works best around their main focus.
I don't necessarily believe in the crazy tipping culture (can we raise tipping to culture status?) that is rife throughout North America, but where the US leads the rest of the world follows, right? Tipping should merely demonstrate the diner's appreciation for being politely and efficiently looked after with a dollop of banter thrown in to jolly proceeds along. Unlike the States your tip does not make up our pay packets but they do go a long way to making our job a damn sight less sufferable and your dining experience subsequently a helluva lot more pleasant - with the right attitude in both camps it's sure to be a win/win situation. You get out what you put in as the wise man once said somewhere. But the table who kill us with compliments only to stiff us on departure leaves little in the way of future incentive to go the extra serving-mile. We see your sharp exits, averted looks, bowed heads and hasty shuffles - telltale signs of your inner struggles of guilt and embarrassment at leaving nada. Jamie the photographer phrased it best: "If you can afford dessert, you can afford to tip". Your kindly placed gratuity means the misemployment of the creative, sensitive souls out there can meet rent while tentatively moulding and shaping the future of our cultural domain. It's dinner, dessert and supporting the arts in one tasty act of goodwill. Now that's soul-nourishing food.