Monthly Archives: December 2010

My favorite birthday memory (so far)

This time of the year is especially exciting for me because I have a December birthday. This year I celebrated in August with a cookout and I’m glad I did since it ended up snowing on my birthday. Fred sent me flowers at work, which was a nice surprise. My favorite birthday memory, though, was my 19th birthday, years ago.

I was in my freshman year at college, just home for Christmas break. My parents’ present was an autographed Christmas CD by my favorite local artist, Andrew Driscoll, and tickets to his show. My best friends were also going with us so it was doubly exciting.

Before the show started, my friends went backstage. I didn’t think anything of it because they’d worked with the local theater company before. I figured they were just popping back to say hello to everyone.

Little did I know they were plotting my surprise.

Near the end of the show, Andrew Driscoll (yes, I have to use his full name every time) paused between songs to talk to the audience. “We have a special young lady in the audience today who is celebrating her birthday.” As he spoke, someone from backstage handed him a bouquet of flowers. He walked down the stage steps and headed in my direction. “Her name is Liz and this next song is for her.” He handed me the flowers and started singing Sarah McClachlan’s “I Will Remember You.”  I could have died a happy woman right then.

Shortly afterwards, when the concert was over, Andrew Driscoll came back out and I got to personally thank him and get my picture taken with him. Unfortunately, my eyes are closed in the picture (this was pre-digital cameras) but it doesn’t matter.  I will always remember that birthday.

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Posted by on December 21, 2010 in About me


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Tip heavily and carry cash

After his book Waiter Rant came out, Steve Dublanica picked up the nickname “The Tipping Guru.”  However, he didn’t feel like the king of gratuities, beyond waiting tables, that is.  So he went on a quest to become one and he did so by interviewing those in the professions that are most notably tipped.   Not only did he want to know what was considered an appropriate tip for different kinds of services, but he wanted to know what the tippees thought of tippers.  Did they ever seek revenge for those who tipped poorly or not at all?  (Hint: you bet your ass they did.)

First, though, Dublanica tried to research the history of tipping.  Where did it come from and why did it start?  One legend is that a London coffee shop put jars on tables with a sign that read, “To Insure Prompt Service”, hence the acronym “tips”.  But there is no proof to back up the story.  More interestingly, though, is that in most languages, the word used for “tips” is synonymous with “drink money,” something Dublanica said he and his fellow waiters often used their tips for.  As for when tipping started in America, it’s even harder to pinpoint.  It is popularly believed that tipping in America became prominent in the early post-Civil War era.  The Pullman Palace Car Company hired ex-slaves to staff and service sleeping cars on trains.  George Pullman, founder and owner of the company, paid these ex-slaves wages so low that they depended on their income to derive from tips.  According to one editorial written at the time, “‘The Pullman Company [discovered] how to work the sympathies of the public…to make up, by gratuities…its failure to pay its employees a living wage…It was the Pullman Company which fastened the tipping habit on the American People and they used the [ex-slaves] as the instrument to do it'” (page 17).  There you have it: get the public to sympathize and as owner of a company, you don’t have to pay your workers a living wage, at least not back then.  Here’s the best part of that editorial: the author was Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham.

We know that tipping a waiter should be between 15 and 20 percent of the bill, but did you know that includes alcohol?  Apparently, some people are unaware of this and will subtract the bar bill and tip the lower amount.  Bartenders need gratuities, too.  And often times waiters and bartenders need to pay out other workers in the restaurant, like the kitchen staff or the busboys.  So, keep in mind that when you tip, you’re probably not just tipping the waiter.

Now, when you’re staying in a hotel, don’t forget to leave a few bucks every day for the maid.  Not only does it insure that your bathroom gets clean, but it also insures that the person who cleans your place gets the money.  The same maid does not clean the same rooms day to day so it’s important to leave a couple bucks each day.  If you use a valet service for your car, it’s best to tip half up front and half when picking up the car.  This will give you prompt service.  Bad or no tippers sometimes end up having to wait longer for their cars.  One valet admitted to sweaty butt cheeks making contact with bad tippers’ front seats.  I’ve never used a valet, but you can bet that when I do, I’ll be tipping heavily up front.

Now, I could go on and on about all the professions that Dublanica researched, from doormen to taxi drivers, from pet groomers to sex workers.  (Yes, even sex workers receive tips.)  But to fully comprehend tipping, one should really read the book.  Tipping is an intricate business, one which Americans spend a lot of money on each year.  For me, the book was not only interesting but also eye-opening.  It will make you think about all the people you’ve stiffed over the years, even if you never intended to.  But after reading the book, you’ll never not tip again.  Need to know what to tip and whom during the holidays or if you’re throwing a wedding?  Then this book is for you.

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Posted by on December 12, 2010 in Literature


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Why this atheist celebrates Christmas

Christmas is a day to celebrate the birth of the savior Jesus Christ.  I do not believe in a savior or any god, vengeful or loving.  Yet every December I still erect a tree in my living room and hand out gifts to family and friends alike.  Some may scratch their heads at this, understandably, but for me it is perfectly natural.  To me, gift giving is a way to show my love to my family and friends, tell them I appreciate them and that I am thankful they are in my life (within budget, of course).  The tree reminds me of my youth when Mom and I would decorate our tree after our Thanksgiving meal.  It makes me smile to remember the time spent with Mom, especially since I see her and Dad only a few times a year now.  So, even though I don’t believe it the man behind the holiday, is it so wrong for me to want to spread a little happiness to others and have a little myself?


Posted by on December 2, 2010 in About me


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Read, work, sleep

I typically get up about 2 hours before I have to leave for work.  People look at me funny when I tell them this but I found through the years that this is the best time for me to read.  I live alone so it’s not as if I have screaming kids from whom I need to find sanctuary.  But I do have to have my “me” time or I get rather cranky (and nobody likes me when I’m cranky, especially me).

During these 2 hours of quiet, I start by brewing coffee.  Since I drink 2-3 cups before work, I brew almost a whole pot.  (Hello.  My name is Liz and I’m a coffee addict.)  As it brews, I ignore the dishes piling in the sink and instead dive into one of the books I’m currently working on.  Sometimes my cat, Albert, will hop on my lap and demand my attention.  Other times she* ignores me like I’m her sink of dirty dishes.  Other times, like today, I will write my blog.  If I’m really tired and don’t think that any amount of coffee will keep me awake while reading, I surf the internet.  Rarely do I go back to sleep, as I will only wake up more tired and I will not have drunk my 3 cups of coffee needed to get me through the day.

After my “me” time, I get ready for work.  Nothing exciting there, just the typical shower and brushing teeth.

For those of you new to my blog, I work at a bookstore in the receiving room.  Sometimes I am called to cover the book floor, which is fine because it’s a change of pace.  Even though I work in the back by myself, I still interact with people all day, mostly delivery men and coworkers but sometimes customers as well.  The boxes come in, I open and unpack them.  If I have time at the end of the day, I pack some books up to go back to the warehouse.  It doesn’t sound terribly exciting but I enjoy it because I get to see all the new books when they come in.  I’m also the first to open the Advanced Reader’s Copy of not-yet-published books.  Most of the time they are of no interest to me but every once in a while we’ll get a good one** and I call dibs.  (Okay, so there’s not typically anyone back there when I open those up, but I can’t go rushing to my locker every time we get something I want.  Instead, I claim it with a Post-It with my name.)

The unwritten job description of someone in my position is psychologist and sounding board.  Because it is one of two rooms off the selling floor, receiving acts as a shrink’s office to the workers.  It’s a place where they can get things off their chest without worrying about offending a customer.  And I’m their shrink.  I listen and nod, all while still working (it’s not easy; sometimes I lose focus).  Sometimes I give advice, or try to make them see the other person’s side.  Mostly, though, I just listen, which is what most of them want when they come back.

I don’t mind it most days.  There are times when it is too much, in which case I’ll just clam up.  Sometimes hearing all the negative comments, especially from the same people day in and day out (you know, those people who are always negative and rarely have something positive to say), gets me down.  But depressed or happy, tired or energetic, I still have to do my job, written and unwritten.

After work, I go home and make dinner.  I consume it while on the couch, the TV turned to whatever show.  When I finish eating, I either craft while I watch/listen to the TV or I hop on the computer to check my email (and to see how many hits I got on my blog).  Once my legs have stiffened from sitting, I no longer have the motivation to clean or do laundry that I thought earlier about doing.  And so, it is time for bed.

*Yes, you read that right.  Albert = girl.  No, I didn’t name her that.  The man I adopted her from liked boy names on girls.  I’m just glad his wife named their daughter.

**In the past we’ve gotten Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Weiner, and Emily Giffin, some of my favorite fiction authors.

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Posted by on December 1, 2010 in About me, Everyday Life