Monday, August 18, 2014

The $30 tip

It's finally happening. I think my stitching is starting to come a little loose around the edges.

Inevitable, I suppose.

We were enjoying our Angus beef hot dogs and brew at the Town Tavern in Blowing Rock. The Tavern is a restaurant on Main Street that used to be Tijuana Fats several reincarnations ago. I loved Tijuana Fats back in the day, especially the location in downtown Greensboro. The arroz con pollo there was unbeatable and it still remains a tasty memory all these years after the business closed its doors.

Kim and I still have discussions about Tijuana Fats' arroz con pollo.

The Fats in Blowing Rock, by contrast, was never as good as its sister locations, I thought.

And neither were the succession of restaurants that followed in the same building. At least two, maybe three other restaurants have tried and failed there. All within about 10 years or less.

The Tavern, however, seems to have it right. It's a sports bar that offers comfort food at reasonable prices. It's not a place that's trying to be something it's not by throwing in some goat cheese on its franks wrapped in toasted ciabatta or red-eye gravy on its pub chips.

So I thoroughly enjoyed my hot dog, which was longer in size than the usual frank and maybe a little shorter than a footlong. It was good. Very good.

When we finished our meal, the waitress brought our check. It was for something like $16.40, and I thought a twenty would cover the meal as well as provide a nice (20 percent) tip. So I absently pulled a bill from my wallet.

"Are you sure about this?" asked the waitress.

"Sure," I thought to myself. "You did a good job. Twenty per cent is about right."

"Yeah," I actually said.

"You just made my day," she said and happily pranced away.

"Uh-oh," I thought to myself again, my something's-not-right detector finally raised.

"What did you give her?" quizzed my wife, a former bank employee who knows a thing or two about money matters.

I checked my wallet again. Air rushed out of my lungs. I'd totally forgot about the $50 bill I had in there, innocently hiding behind my twenties. I don't usually carry fifties; I don't much like them and unless you're making a big purchase, like paying for a motel room, there's not much use for them, I think. Plus, the "50" on the bill kind of looks like a "20" at first glance. Try it sometime if you don't believe me. At least, try it when you're 63 years old.

At any rate, I leaped from my bar stool like I was ejected from an F-100. I found the waitress, standing with one of her colleagues. I could just imagine the conversation they were about to have.

"Ma'am," I said, and she turned to me. Then she smiled. I didn't have to say another word.

"I was pretty sure you didn't mean to give me that," she said.

"I wish I could," I said, and we exchanged the fifty for a twenty, making everything right, including the tip I meant to give her. I felt embarrassed for myself and sorry for her, mostly because I'm sure I just unmade her day.

She was incredibly understanding, though. I guess she could see the stitching coming apart.

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