Category Archives: Expectations

It’s January, Tip Generously

Near the end of December, as I skated toward NYE, I realized my digestive system, liver and wallet needed a break. So, on December 30th, I hastily declared I would do the Whole 30 January challenge. It checked all the boxes of what I needed to recover from an over abundant holiday season.

Eat whole foods? Check.

Save money and cook at home more? Check.

Give my liver a alcohol break for a month? Check.

Refocus on health and fitness? Check.

Honestly, I had no idea what “being on Whole 30” actually meant, but on December 30th I jumped on the wagon. Starting January 1, I loaded my shopping cart with tons of expensive, compliant ingredients that were justified by the fact I wouldn’t be spending money eating out or ordering pricey drinks or even making trips to the liquor store. It’s true, I made some lovely meals on this plan and the groceries were certainly less than the appetizer plus entree plus dessert plus two or three drinks per person night out.

And when I did eat out, the stunningly cheap bills at the end of a meal sans alcoholic drinks was refreshing. It was also surprising. Dang, how the hell does a meal with drinks cost more than 2x than this? It was eye-opening.

While all this was good for my wallet, January is a very tough month for servers at restaurants. Newsflash, EVERYONE is on a resolution diet. Even if you are eating out less to simply make up for overspending during the holidays, you are on a January diet. That means there are way fewer people eating out right now and this who are, are eating and drinking less.

Yes, restaurants know this lull is coming and they plan accordingly. They slim down food orders and adjust menus for a more health conscious crowd, but one of their big ticket items is labor. So, they cut shifts and they send staff home early. That’s the business.

For people who rely on tips to make ends meet, that makes January really hard. Sure, they made extra money during the holidays when we were all indulging. Sure, they too can plan for a lull in January by saving those extras. Sure, they could have skipped indulging in the holidays themselves, but before we start admonishing and judging their choices, let’s be realistic.

The Federal Minimum Wage for tipped workers is $2.13. It has been $2.13 for TWENTY-SEVEN years now. It was $2.13 when I waited tables in two restaurants while trying to pay for college. As I was trying to start a new semester and pay my upcoming tuition bill, I watched my wages dwindle in January.

Of course, that was my experience as a college student, but let’s be realistic. There are more than 3 million people according to the US government, more than 4.3 million according to the Economic Policy Institute. working for tips in the US. According the EPI, “Tipped workers are predominantly women (66.6 percent) and disproportionately young; however, the majority are at least 25, and over one in four are at least 40 years of age.” That means, many Americans are working for tips as a long term profession.

I have great deal if respect professional servers. To make a living putting up with every variety and flavor of asshole you can imagine, is impressive and commendable. For any of you who have had the pleasure of dining at a location who uses professional servers with years of experience, you know why it is important to have professional servers. They make a good dining experience great and we all know no matter how good the food is, if the service sucks, it takes it all down.

Professional servers are important. Period. Full Stop.

Furthermore, as an Obama-era regulation gets rolled back, tipped workers may have to give up part if their earnings to other non-tipped employees who make more than $2.13 per hour. That is not saying those other employees are making a living wage. And yes, I know tipped employees can make good money on tips; enough money to push them above the regular minimum wage threshold other staff may be getting. But, let’s not make this a zero sum game.

All these workers should make a living wage. Period. Full Stop.

So, until we move beyond this archaic system of tipping rather than just paying a liveable wage, this is the system we have. This blog post is certainly not going to solve that.

So, this is where we are. It is January. Tipped workers still make $2.13 per hour, as they have since before I earned a high school diploma, a bachelors, a masters, worked in industry for 12 years, earned another masters and started this blog. They still have to pay their bills in January when everyone is dieting, cooking at home, spending less money and drinking less. They have to do this on fewer shifts while diners order less than half the food and drinks they did just a month ago.

I already tip generously. So, let’s revise that title.

It is January, tip even more generously. Tip as if you ordered appetizers, desserts drinks and all. Period. Full Stop.

Happy cooking and happy tipping!

Day 25: Medford Lakes to West Hartford – The Garden State

Close your eyes. Think New Jersey. Picture it in your mind’s eye. Take a mental snapshot. What do you see?

Years ago, I stood on a train platform in New Jersey watching train car after train car zoom by. I think it was a trash haul. It smelled like a trash haul. I’ve driven the New Jersey Turnpike in awe of the 16-lane wide interstate lined petrochemical storage and industrial facilities. There are so many lanes, they have dual exits – one at the right and one at lane 4 flying up to an over pass. I’ve stayed in a bed and breakfast in Jersey City that took a measure of bravery and luck to safely reach on foot from the subway. But until Day 25 of this ride, I never really knew what put the “garden” into the Garden State.

Prior to hitting the road that morning, I toyed with the idea of riding the full length of Manhattan to Montauk and catching a ferry there. I was talked out of that, in perhaps rightfully. I knew I had no desire to ride the petrochemical stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike. So, Margo and I hatched a plan for me to head straight north out if Medford Lakes along the New Jersey boarder then cross into New York at the Newberge bridge and head to Connecticut. Google maps didn’t care for this idea, so I had to rely on my brain to get me past Trenton, avoid the New Jersey Turnpike, skip the Garden State Parkeway and head north into New Jersey farm country. It does exist. Really, it does.

My head buzzing with a whiskey hangover (look at the horrifying picture and know my hangover was strong), I parted ways with my spirit animal on the promise that soon we would gather with other bad ass women adventure warriors to break bread, talk story, plot new adventures and probably drink more whiskey. Ouch, no more whiskey for now. I tee-up the appropriate New Jersey soundtrack. Nope, not the Boss, not some Jovi, but the best New Jersey Album you never heard of – Meadowlands by Wrens – a melancholy little rock album that was fitting for the morning.

Headed north from Medford Lakes, I had my hang over and a running list of memorized directions to contend with. North on 206, past the on ramps to the New Jersey Turnpike (for fucks sake, don’t get on the New Jersey Turnpike). Take a left at Dunn’s Mill Road by the Wawa store. Suddenly merge onto It 130 then take 295 around Trenton to Route 31. Then, turn on the map and plot an off-highway route to Newburgh, NY. And, most importantly, don’t get your ass flattened by those New Jersey drivers while your at it.

I don’t totally recollect that part of the ride except that riding the morning rush hour around Trenton was an abrupt awakening to the fact that I had fully crossed into he urban north east which is chalk full of north east drivers. A special bunch with special skills.

Despite having put more than 4000 miles on two wheels between myself and the west coast, I did not look forward to riding with the drivers of the urban north east. Until now, most drivers had offered at least a small moticum of respect for motorcycles. Not in this part of the country. They are aggressors. They don’t believe in personal space on the roadway. They don’t signal; it’s a sign of weakness. They don’t offer nicetities like not tailgating or not cutting you off or not letting you know their thoughts with finger signals and fists. They like their horns. Don’t get me wrong, in a car, I generally like this. I am one of them, really. But on two wheels, I finally realized why “Motorcycles Are Everywhere” is so prominent in the north east. The drivers here, that’s why.

Perhaps the extra shot of adrenaline was good for sweating out the whiskey toxins because when I emerged on the other side of Trenton, well the other side of the many northern suburbs of Trenton, I was rewarded with the late-September ride of a motorcyclist’s dream.

The air held the promise of the coming fall- still warm, but tinged with a chill. The sun, in full retreat from the long-ago summer solstice, stayed high above my my back and warmed me even if my fingers lingered just on the cool side. Everything seemed to sparkle with contrast. The few trees starting to change stood out while I chased my shadow along the blacktop. These were long stretches of New Jersey farmland that made it the Garden State. It was complete with winding roads, rolling hills, cows chewing cud, farmhouses and quaint, idyllic towns. It’s a shame you pictured the crowded, smoggy, industrial, urban part of New Jersey when you closed your eyes earlier because this is much better.

For miles, a pair of touring bikes followed along accompanying me in silent acknowledgement of the perfection of the day. When we finally stopped in a single traffic light town, they asked “Did you ride that from California?” As the light changed, I shouted back “Yes!” I noticed, in my review mirror, he raised his hand in a fist pump acknowledging my accomplishment. We later split at a fork in the road. I headed toward Interstate 84 and they to more farmland probably. We parted with a sort of salute of solidarity. Good to share the road with you, my friends.

Although I could have extended my farm country jaunt into New York then Connecticut, the day’s ride was waning on and I had friends, a hot shower, a cozy bed and a beer waiting for me in West Hartford. So, I scuttled out of the countryside and onto the highway.

I will spare you my rant about New York drivers, see above only dial up the aggression and tighten up your size of acceptable personal road space to mere inches and you get the idea. To save my sanity, I alternated between highway and side roads.

What might have been 5 harrowing hours along the New Jersey Turnpike and I-84, turned into a day of stark contrasts – city, industrial, countryside, small town, highways, and side roads. And my longest day in the saddle – 9 hours.

Worth it.

Happy cooking and happy holidays.