Read This, And Here's Five Bucks...

Making a better world one tip at a time.

I should be rich. Ridiculously rich. If I were rich, I wouldn't spend my rich life buying up companies and firing everyone like rich people do these days. No, I would use it to solve my biggest problem . . . tipping.

I left my dentist's office recently after a double appointment (first, a cleaning and then a repair of a broken tooth...)  It took a bit longer because the people who work at the lab where they made the replacement part for my broken tooth obviously were drunk and wrestling with each other instead of paying attention to making my replacement tooth and that is why they sent the wrong one to my dentist.  

So after a few hours of drill sounds, gurgly swishing, anguished screams and muffled swearing...  I made another appointment to do it again. I walked past the nosy patients and crying kids in the lobby who pointed at me and said "that's the guy who was making all that noise," and went out to my car to go home. My car is one of those with the headlights that stay on even in the daytime which is a safety feature to make sure the headlights burn out once a month. Usually the lights turn off when the car is turned off, but sometimes, scientifically known as Random Moments to Screw Around With Humans, the lights stay on. And as I squinted through the arctic-cold, hurricane-force gusts of that day last week...I was able to find my car in my dentist's parking lot.  

It was the one with the lights on. Barely.

Lucky for me, I have the AAA  Triple A. The Connecticut Motor Club. I call the number on the card in my wallet and they send a guy out to fix my car. Best investment I ever made. Not so good for them. If the AAA accountants ever do the math, they will see it makes more economic sense to shred my card, change their phone number and move their offices rather than continue letting me be a member.

I'll get to the tipping part in just a minute, but let me say this about the Connecticut Motor Club; they are an excellent bunch of people over there. It works like this: I get the AAA Plus which costs about a hundred dollars a year (or approximately the price of lunch at McDonalds for C.C. Sabathia of the New York Yankees,) and for that hundred dollars a year, I can carelessly run out of gas, lock myself out of my car, or run over a box of nails and they come out and take care of it. But after all my calls, I'm sure it's costing them more than my hundred dollars and I'm worried they will send out one of their AAA undercover assassin guys to really "take care" of me for good.

So there I was, in my dentist's parking lot, looking at my car with the dim lights and the dead battery, trying to talk to the nice lady at AAA over the sound of the howling wind and cracking branches.  Then I went back inside to my dentist's office to stay warm and alive. I read past issues of Fortune, Sports Illustrated, and Frontline on Tartar Control...until the AAA guy showed up.

I met him at my car, and he came around the side of his truck holding a set of sparking jumper cables, and I looked him in the eye and said "so this is how it ends, huh?... in my dentist's parking lot... just make it quick and don't put those on my..." and the guy looked at me and said "which side is your battery on?" and I breathed a sigh of relief, pulled the lever and popped open the hood.

But it wasn't over. While the guy made some more sparks under the hood of my car, a nice lady braved the icy wind full of broken sticks and pelting sand to nicely start nicely yelling at the guy because his truck was blocking her car and she had a baby in it.  The guy tried to explain he would be done in a few minutes but the nice lady had apparently been instructed by her baby to get out of the car and be nicely rude to the guy no matter what the circumstances, so he had to undo everything and move his truck so the nice yelling lady could leave immediately to go be nice somewhere else. He came back and made some more sparks and got my car going. I wrote down the "I have a baby in the car" excuse for future use for myself to get around service vehicles and maybe even military roadblocks.

Then it was tipping-decision time. I always tip the AAA guys. And because this guy turned out not to be an assassin, and he put up with freezing winds and a nice yelling lady, I was going to tip him more, maybe even write him a check. Turns out I only had a five dollar bill in my wallet, so I rolled it up to look bulkier... and gave it to him as I shook his hand. I said "rough one, today" and he said "yup."  I thanked him for the sparks and he thanked me for the tip and that was it.

And that is why I should be rich. If I were rich, I wouldn't have to think about who I should tip, and how much. I would just tip EVERYBODY. I would have tipped the AAA guy a lot more. I would have tipped the nice yelling lady and her baby in the car. I would have gone back inside and tipped the staff in my dentist's office for letting me read their magazines. And I would find out where that dental lab was that made the wrong replacement part for my broken tooth, and I would have tipped them. As soon as they sobered up and stopped wrestling with each other and made my damn replacement tooth correctly.

Brian Smith, a Milford resident, is the same Brian Smith who was on your radio in the morning for years on the original WPLR-FM, and in the afternoon on WICC-AM.  He is now a freelance writer, producer, actor, and even the emcee for Fairfield University basketball games, so say hello.  He is also a regular contributor to Patch.com, and DoingItLocal.com.  Visit his website at BrianSmithRadio.com and email him with your tip advice at BrianSmithRadio@yahoo.com.

Bill Canfield February 28, 2011 at 12:51 PM
When I was a Car Salesman at Stevens Ford, I once got a $300 tip from a customer. Wow!!!
Laura-Jill Goldwyn February 28, 2011 at 01:46 PM
Be careful what you tip for. Years ago on a very hot summer day, my husband and I went for a bite to eat at a local diner. The gust of cold air was refreshing after the blazing heat baked us during the lengthy trip from the car to the restaurant some 15 feet away. Well it seemed lengthy at the time. Man oh man, it was HOT! Water. That was all we could think about. Water. As the kid set two tiny water glasses on our table, my husband gave him $10 and said we would really like two tall glasses of water. I guess he isn't used to such a handsome tip for just setting the table and was happy to quickly get us the requested water. Then again, refilling our glasses. Then again and again and again. In fact, every time we returned to the same diner, there was our personal water boy with our 12 tall glasses of water. We never had the heart to tell him, "Enough!"
Denise Buffa February 28, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Very funny, Laura-Jill! Very funny!
kelly February 28, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Even as a young adult, commuting to college, I was taught to tip any tire changers (lucky for me, most refused...I must have looked pretty helpless...lol) As an adult, I have tipped a casino dealer $250.00 for a straight flush on the caribbean stud poker table.
Jim Gallagher March 17, 2011 at 10:01 PM
I'm going to date myself, but I used to deliver the Bridgeport Telegram & Post when I was a kid. The bill for seven days was $.52. Most of my customers gave me $.55. Some waited for change.


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