Recently I had one of those days when I had a real impish feeling. You know, light-hearted, happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care. And I wanted to do something out of the ordinary. Maybe a little silly. So I set out.
I arrived at a café. The waiter asked if I wanted coffee. I don’t drink coffee. Well, I do, but not very often. I like tea. I said, “I like tea.” He said, “Uh huh.” Then I said, “Can I have some?” “Some what?” he said. “Tea,” I said. “Sure,” he said.
Surly, I thought, and so I began calculating what tip he was going to get from me. I usually start at 15 percent and knock off points for deficiencies. Then he said, “What kind?” I said, “What kind of what?” He said, “Of tea.” By now I had him off about three percentage points. “Do you want hot or iced tea?” he asked. “Oh, I see,” I said, “hot.” He said, “I’ll be right back with that.”
Well now I had to recalculate and so I decided to push him back up to 14 percent.
While I was waiting for my tea, I noticed that this tete-a-tete had taken a little edge off my good feeling. I was disappointed with myself and I decided to forget what happened and to start over. I came into the cafe feeling festive and I didn’t want anything to spoil that.
The waiter was back. As he put down my cup and saucer and the pot of tea, some of the water splashed out into my lap. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he said. “That’s okay,” I said. It was one of those awkward moments. (But 14 percent was now down to 11 percent, if you know what I mean.) “Let me refill that water for you,” he said. “Okay,” I said.
I ordered soup. It gave me an idea. It’s that old joke where a guy calls the waiter over and says, “Oh, waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.” And the waiter says, “Well don’t talk so loud, everybody will want one.” I always laugh at that.
What I thought I’d do was to call the waiter back and say, “Oh, waiter, there’s a polar bear in my soup.” Wouldn’t that put him in his place; he’d have nothing to say.
In time my soup arrived. As the waiter began walking away I sprung it on him.
“Oh, waiter,” I called. “There’s a fly in my soup.”
“Oh, yeah? So now I suppose,” he said a little testily, “you want me to say don’t let everyone else hear you because they’ll want one too.” He stared at me.
“Wha…oh, no,” I recovered, “I meant to say there’s a polar bear in my soup.” I started to laugh but he cut me short. He looked down into my soup bowl and said, “No there isn’t.”
After I ate my soup and sandwich I determined that seven percent was more than justified.