Last night a young dude who’d tipped me a dollar a drink for his first two vodka-tonics came up to the bar towards last call and ordered a third. He handed me four bills, which, as he began to stroll away, I unfolded and found to be a fiver, two singles, and a Benjamin. Morality swooped in instantaneously, prompting an internal struggle in my buzzed head. Should I stuff the big bill into the tip jar, and act as if nothing had happened? Choose a middle ground by maintaining silence and setting the hundo aside in case the young blood returned to reclaim his unintentionally gigantic tip? Or do the “right thing” by getting the guy’s attention and giving him his money back? Bar three-deep with thirsty knuckleheads screaming for drinks, I had to act fast. I went with my gut, hollering “Yo!” several times, but amidst Madonna’s “Ghosttown” blaring from the speakers and the skeleton-shaking bass machine, my call went unanswered. Unwilling to abandon my lofty cause, I jumped over the bar and chased the fellow out to the patio, tapped him on the shoulder as he lit up a Parliament, and said, “Are you ready?”
He looked at me like, “Wha? Huh?”
“Did you mean to tip me one dollar or one hundred one dollars?”
He stared at me, raised his eyebrows, smiled. I handed him his hundred, said, “Remember me, brother,” and walked away.
Every night, some people tip me exceedingly well, whereas others stiff me. The majority fall somewhere in the middle, tipping a dollar a drink or fifteen to twenty percent on tabs. I could have easily justified keeping the hundred and sealing my lips, for the greater good of my own coffers and those of my fellow bartender and bar back. Yet, at the end of the day (or, in my case, night) I was able to go home and sip a single malt Japanese whiskey at peace with my actions and my decision. I pray to the bartending gods that the global drinking collective will give back to me for being an honest drinkmonger.