Let me just start this way…
The true beauty in the act of giving is simply the act itself, with nothing expected in return or recognition sought. Just an offering to lighten the load of your fellow man. (Hah! Well tell that to George Costanza and your friendly bartender!)
Now this one I’m not too proud of, dear reader, but it must be shared nonetheless, if for no other reason but again show the genius of Seinfeld. And Larry David. And to tell myself I’m like everyone else when it comes to the act of giving, or at least like those who are not the purest of hearts.
There was no one at the bar on this Wednesday night, it was nigh on one a.m., so I switched away from the sports and stumbled onto “Seinfeld”. It’s hard to avoid these Seinfeld re-runs, they’re airing both day and night, but I for one am glad ’cause they still hold up. They’re still funny, they’re still smart, and as long as we humans are still incapable of getting out of own way as far as our egos go (which is forever) they’re still timely. So once the remote finds a “Seinfeld” I’m there for the duration.
The episode that held my attention that night was George in the Italian deli, buying calzones for Steinbrenner, where he wound up getting 86’d because of a tip thing. Remember? It happened when he put his tip in the jar (which he did with elaborate gesture… high, wide and swoopingly), and the counter man looked away at precisely that moment. And in order to try and correct this fate, this rip through the very fabric of George’s (munificence?), he decided to extract the bill and try it again. Well of course, even if you haven’t seen this episode you surely now know what happened, he got caught extracting the bill and accused of stealing. Out the door and no more calzones for Steinbrenner!
Now here’s where life pathetically imitates art.
Many years ago I stopped in a place called Runyon’s on 2nd Avenue, it was always my Friday night stop after finishing my shift. The bartender there was a friend of mine, he went much later than me, so it proved the perfect oasis to wind down my week. And though billing itself as a sports bar, this place, which it was on six TV’s, it also featured a piano player working in the front. Go figure, right? But despite how odd that combination sounds… Bar-land meets Birdland… the mix of the two really proved to be quite successful. Rick who sang and tickled the keys (he’s one of the best in the city) and Tommy behind the stick with his “one-of-a-kind” rap, worked their crowds beautifully from two different universes.
And I of both of those universes… I’d sit with Tommy yet appreciate Rick… was thus in the required protocol of tipping both “players”. Or at least I thought I was. (See, bartenders have a problem like that, they’ll tip a guy for merely telling them what time it is!) So every time I readied to leave I’d pay my tab and tip Tommy, then make a drop for this Rick on my way out the door. Nothing elaborate, just a five or a ten for the cause to show my appreciation. But on this particular night, outside of my usual modus operandi I’d requested some songs from Rick (I’d been chatting up a woman at the piano), and felt that a five or a ten was insufficient. So when it came time to make my grand exit I pulled out a twenty dollar bill, and in “high, wide and swooping” fashion dropped it into the fish bowl… and lo and behold the gods of Costanza got me. For just as my arc made its downward swoop Rick dropped his eyes to the keyboard, and my twenty dollar bill wafted anonymously into the salad. Drats!!!
Now please let me say this wasn’t intended to act like I’m some kind of big shot, it was simply a case of him knowing that I was the twenty. That’s all. Because I really did appreciate his work and wanted the man to know it, and being his biggest bill would certainly say that. But he has to see me leave it, for crying out loud!
I know, I know, but before you pass any judgment know it gets worse.
So I bit the bullet and said “Good night” on that night of non-recognition… I sure didn’t do a re-tip!!!… but the next time a twenty was proper I pulled off a beaut. (I’m blushing right now as I type this!) When it came time to drop my tip in the bowl, then mosey on up the road, I decided to skirt the fish bowl move altogether. That’s right, I waited for Rick to finish his song, leaned in and shook his hand, then laid my twenty on the keyboard and made my exit. (Does it get any cheesier?) And it’s not like I gave him a hundred or something (which Rick has certainly received), it’s just that… it’s just that… hell, there is no freaking “just that”, other than having a George Costanza moment! (“Credit, Jerry, credit… I want the credit!”) How embarrassing. How pathetic. How absolutely Larry David-esque, or at least that’s what I thought when I watched that episode.
So in closing, dear reader, and to end this tale of “Whoa!”… the next time you want to leave something large to show your appreciation, and the donee looks away the moment you do so, please try and show a little more class than me and the mythical George, or shoot off a flare the moment you make your drop!
Over and out from Bar-land… see ya’ next week-end.