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  1. When we last left off:  I was in Kumquat (not the real name) restaurant. After finally getting my order I had the task of wrestling an intimidating vessel of black bean with kale soup.  In spite of being blindsided by the surprise ingredient, numerous chunks of succulent chicken, I valiantly tried to consume the delicious contents of the foot tub size bowl.  Sated and pleasantly overwhelmed, I conceded the win to several golf ball size chicken chunks bobbing victoriously in the remaining savory bouillabaisse.  Content, I sought my check.  The hostess passed within arm length and I caught her attention with a finger at half-mast. 

     “The soup had chicken, lots and lots of chicken.” 

    She paused perplexed.  I continued. 

    “I’m not complaining.  It’s just you said black bean with kale and the soup had lots of chicken.”

     She fixed her face and said,

    “Yes, there’s chicken in it, but that’s the way it’s written up, black bean with kale.”

    "No problem, I'll take my check."

    Two emails later my server Kira, appeared at my table.

     “How was the soup?” 

    “Actually it was very good, but there was a lot of chicken in it.  It was more like chicken soup with black beans and kale.” 

     “There’s chicken in it but that’s the way it’s written up, black bean with kale, anything else?” 

    “No thank you Kira.” 

     “Have a good night.” 

    And with that, Kira placed the check on my table and left.  

    The check was correct. $6.00 for that gigantic tasty bowl of soup, with 53 cents added for tax.  No problem.  And how nice, just above the 10% discount incentive offer was the suggested tip: 16% = $1.08 and 20% - $1.20.  I decided to leave $1.25 on the table, pay the hostess at the door with a twenty and get on home.

    The hostess had been at the door when I rose from my table, but where was she now?  No hostess, no Kira, but the bartender might be able to help.

    “I’d like to pay my check.” 

    Her face said, “This is not my job”, her mouth said,

    “I’ll get your waitress.”  

    I checked four email messages until Kira returned from the hidden world where servers… well, hide.  From behind the bar Kira took my check and $20 dollar bill.  From the cash register she handed me two 5’s, three one’s, a receipt and went on her way.  The receipt total read $6.53 and I had thirteen dollars in hand.  I have math anxiety so I counted my money several times and used my fingers to confirm. Yes, I was short forty-seven cents. I offered the bartender my hands, receipt in one, the money Kira had just given me in the other. 

    “I’m short forty-seven cents change.” 

    Sighing, she said,

    “Since the waiters don’t carry nickels and dimes on them, they just round up.” 

    That’s when one of the voices in my head, Penny Pincher to be exact, shouted “What the fuck???  Bitch just took that money out the cash register behind the bar, don’t tell me there’s not forty-seven god damn cents in that register!!”  I ignored Penny’s uncharacteristic profanity riddled outburst and quietly reiterated,

    “I’m short on my change.” 

    “I’ll call your waitress.”

    The bartender sighed. When Kira finally appeared on my side of the bar, I calmly said

    “I’m short my forty-seven cents change.” 

    Readers, I kid you not.  Kira tilted her head and said

    “We round up.” 

    Now I’ll admit I’m still catching up to the 21st century, but when did restaurants rounding up your bill become the new norm? 

    “You round up without mentioning it to the customer?”

    Kira set her jaw, veiled her eyes but not her tone of incredulity

    “You want me to break a dollar?” 

    Penny Pincher stomped her foot, rocked her neck and started looking for the nearest exit out of my head; the better to throttle Kira.  I calmly replied

    “Yes.”

    In my head Penny shouted, Break a dollar Bitch!!  Step on a crack and break your momma’s back!  I said

    “I gave you more than the suggested tip didn’t I?” 

    “Did you?” 

    Kira shot back at my feeble attempt to reason with a wait person who might possibly handle my food again as she swiftly left my side.

    For a reality check, I turned to the two bar patrons who’d been sitting silent witness to the exchange.  Under my gaze, a sister silently adjusted her Trini braids

     and sipped her Appletini



     like she had no dog in this fight;  I said in their general direction

    “I’m short forty-seven cents because they rounded up.  I want my change.” 

    The brother at the bar lifted his burger and murmured from behind a shield of beef, lettuce and bun

    “If that’s what you want.  It is your money.” 

    Ignoring the hint of disdain (or was it dismissal?) that dripped from his burger, Penny Pincher in an effort to rile up the other voices in my head chanted, “It’s my money!  It’s my money!”  Kira appeared before the other voices could pick up the mantra.  With a sullen thump, she placed a dollar and forty cents on the bar.

     “This is yours.”  

    I pushed Kira’s dollar aside and pushed Penny Pincher to her corner.  I palmed the forty cents on the bar and seven cents short made my way into the night.  I was reminded in uncomfortable bold relief how teen-age me had resented and been so embarrassed  my mother’s never ending and quite vocal outrage at rising prices and her tight- fist efforts to economize on her domestic worker wages.



    Did that rounding up incident really just happen to me?   Did I miss the breaking news flash that restaurants agreed, for whatever reason, to round up the customer’s bill?  Who gets the profit?  Is that accumulated currency shared by the staff or does it go straight to the owner?  And why did Kira sound befuddled asking,

    “You want me to break a dollar for you?” 

    “Hell yes Bitch, if it means I get MY MONEY!”

    Penny Pincher hissed from her corner of my mind where she sat drying Abe Lincoln pennies she’d picked up from damp rest room floors.



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  2. 7 comments:

    1. I actually was hoping you would name the restaurant so I can be sure to never go there. I do not want to give my pennies to bitches like that. I come from people who earned more on the scale of your mom. Worked hard for that. There were moments in your blog that I was rooting for Penny to come on out.

    2. BB said...

      This story is very funny. Can you make it into a one-act play? see link
      The two people at the bar, IMHO gave you more encouragement than people on line behind or near you usually do--mostly they make faces, ignore you or even side with management--your antagonist.
      As far as our mothers, I remember many times having to go back to the store because I brought home the wrong change LOL.
      http://books.google.com/books/about/One_Act_Plays.html?id=0ex-8n4jO6IC

    3. Rhonda said...

      BB I will check out you suggestion. Mindy I've got to hold those voices down to a roar!

    4. She So Funny said...

      In all of my years of waitressing, we NEVER rounded up... in fact if we did "round", it was to the customer's benefit... i.e. if the change due was .97, we gave them a dollar. That being said, I want chicken soup now. ~S

    5. Good for you, Rhonda! Make it into a play... please!!!

    6. Lisa Harmon said...

      Many restaurants are run by greedy people - read about their successful efforts to keep service worker minimum wage (different from regular minimum wage) down. It is a form of legalized slavery that affects mostly women and children. This story doesn't surprise me. That's an old ploy to make you feel like a jerk asking for what's rightfully yours.

    7. loislane911 said...

      Next time you should PAY your restaurant bill ENTIRELY IN PENNIES. It's the best revenge/pay-back. (Make sure to make lots of noise as you put your pennies on the table or bar, and you tube the transaction.)

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