Speaking of Places Where I Can Never Show My Face Again

Ultimately, I think all I want is for everyone to like me, so I don’t understand why I insist on constantly making this goal so unattainable for myself.


From imgflip.com


Yesterday I went out to eat with some friends after going to the gym, an experience that I chalk up to 10% perspiration, 20% imagination, and 70% participation. We’d had trouble finding restaurants around campus that were open Saturday at 10:30AM—they really know their audience here—and mainly were discovering this trouble only after showing up at the door and seeing “Closed on weekends.” Ultimately, we made it to this small local brunch place called Arturo’s Underground Café.

I’d been to Arturo’s twice before and loved their veggie scramble, so I was pleased with the spur-of-the-moment decision. The guy behind the front desk sat the three of us outside before giving us time with the brunch menu. There were probably less than twenty options, but for some reason I hadn’t decided on one by the time he returned. Classic benedict or breakfast taco? I opened my mouth. Taco. Benedict. Benedict. Taco.

Me: I’llhavetheveggiescramble. Uh, please. Thanks?


Me: *quietly* Dammit.

What’s important about this interaction—me having something in mind and proceeding, for some godforsaken reason, to not do said thing—is that I firmly believe it set the tone for what happened later.

After the meal, the guy dropped off the “receipt,” a slip of paper with our three prices, at our table. Friend 1 offered to pay the whole bill with card and have me and Friend 2 pay him back through Venmo (a mobile cashless exchange app that’s popular on college campuses. It’s like PayPal.) I insisted that I pay and get reimbursed because my Venmo balance was at $2.

Inside, I handed the guy my card and we chatted as he set up the transaction screen. He accidentally entered in $3.19 instead of $31.90, and I made the requisite joke of that being perfectly all right with me, and we smiled at each other. Shared a nice moment, you know? Of course, it was physically impossible for me to leave things at that.

He was using Square, that card-processing reader small businesses use for payment. Square’s easy to use; you just swipe your card, sign your name, and indicate how much of a tip you want to leave. The thing is, most places that use Square are businesses where tips aren’t applicable; you pay up front at a food truck, for example, where you don’t have a waiter who services you. The tip option’s there for social pressure. Thus, as a discerning customer, I’d gotten used to pressing “No Tip.”


From engagdet.com


Only after I’d completed the payment with no tip did I realize that the guy in front of me wasn’t just a cashier; he’d been our waiter. He’d gotten our drinks, taken our orders, delivered our food, bussed our table, been a pleasant person, and had done all the requisite waiter things. Instead of just saying something then, I panic-closed the tab and fled outside to where my friends sat waiting.

Me: We need to leave. Immediately.


Game of Thrones, anyone?


 Friend 2 was still working at his home fries. While I was still explaining the situation to them, the waiter I’d unintentionally stiffed came over and took the plates from Friend 1 and me. We thanked him. He didn’t meet our eyes.

Me: Oh my God, he knows. Why didn’t I just say something at the counter?

Friend 1: Does anyone have cash? I’ve only got $20, but that’s a bit much.

None of us had change. I don’t think I’ve moved so quickly in my life. Five minutes later, on the way back to my apartment, I wondered aloud why I hadn’t just said something at the counter when it happened. Or at the table when he came back. Or gone back in with Friend 1’s $20 and just asked for change. In hindsight, we’d had so many chances to be good people and taken none of them.

Friend 1: Well, the food was really good. Thanks for bringing us.

Friend 2: Yeah, too bad we can never go back there ever again.

Me: Only if you wear sunglasses. Or a dramatic haircut. We’d need to be unrecognizable.

Friend 1, a ginger: I guess I’ll dye my hair.

The two of them went on to discuss Portland mohawks. I figured they’d probably forget this incident within a day or two. As for me, I ruminated on how what I’d done would probably keep me awake at night for anywhere between a month and the next ten years. Maybe by then I’ll have partially atoned.

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15 thoughts on “Speaking of Places Where I Can Never Show My Face Again

  1. Of course you can go back. Definitely go back. Go back prepared with an appropriate tip in cash and seek out previous waiter. Give him the tip before you start saying “Oh I’m so glad you’re here. The last time we were in I didn’t include a tip on my transaction and didn’t even realize it until I got my statement. I’m so sorry about that.” You’ll endear him to you so much you’ll be treated like royalty from then on. And if you aren’t, stiff him good.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Guilt is such a buzz kill. Old folks tend to carry cash for just these reasons. We’ve been embarrassed far too often to not plan ahead. He’ll get over it and probably wouldn’t recognize you as the stiffer next time. Probably happens a lot more than we’d think.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You have my deepest sympathies about the situation! I’ve been in a number of situations where I could have spoken up but felt too embarrassed about asserting the mistake.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fortunately in the UK we don’t have this expectation of tipping (and the awkward situations that can ensue), though prices are fairly high in restaurants and bars. I personally think ditching the tips system altogethe, paying for everything up front, & paying staff proper wages is a good thing because it’s more user-friendly & simple. The right-wingers will argue that proper wages will dis-incentivize businesses to take on staff if they have to pay them properly. My response to that is, look for other ways to save small businesses money, like business-rate relief, tax relief to those below a certain turnover and particularly those that have a community value. Not the same order of magnitude as the problem of sending men to Mars.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh dear, I didn’t see this comment (along with so many others,) sorry! I definitely agree that the tip system is broken but am not sure how to go about fixing it individually–probably warrants a lobby.


  5. I was hooked from your first sentence. Sorry to laugh at your misery, but what a hoot! Thank you for turning your pain into art for us. Looking forward to binge-reading your posts!

    Liked by 2 people

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