I did it, by “George”!

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.

Here goes…

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.

14 Responses to “I did it, by “George”!”


  1. 1 rick September 18, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Well done, Sir! You have a keen eye for life imitating art!!! Thanks for the generosity….

  2. 2 scribbler50 September 18, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    rick: My pleasure, and the twenty was worth the fodder for this week’s post. Glad you checked in.

  3. 3 Comrade PhysioProf September 18, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    I’ve always figured if I’m known as a decent dude, then if on some occasion I am not obsrved dropping my tip, I’ll get the bennie of the doubt and assumed to have left one.

  4. 4 Anonymoustache September 19, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Sheesh….You may as well have stuck around and asked him for a receipt later!
    Just kidding, my friend…..good stuff, as usual. You hit upon something that is pretty universal I’d imagine….we’ve all been there…credit, we want the credit….
    I have, though, on occasion made it a point to leave the tip with a handshake and some kind words (even if the tip wasn’t extraordinary)—not so much to be noticed but rather for personalizing the appreciation instead of simply leaving an anonymous bill in the jar. Never hurts to get a kind word too, does it, even if the tip jar be full?

  5. 5 physiobabe September 19, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Bellisimo!

    Not being familiar with bar protocol (ahem), I would perhaps lightly clear my throat as I dropped my tip or, if that didn’t work, simply hit him over the head with a shovel.

    (I do know, from personal experience, that bartender’s are the most generous of tippers.)

    Ciao caro amico

  6. 6 scribbler50 September 19, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Physioprof: You being a “decent dude” (a fact I can personally attest to), I’m sure your generosity is never in question. (It’s your language, bro!!!)

    Anonymoustache: I said it was embarrassing, didn’t I? Good grief! And very funny about waiting for a receipt, as usual your comment was “on the money” (pun intended!). I’ve also done the handshake thing, definitely discreet and personal, and (hell bent on getting credit that night) that’s what I should’ve done the night of this story. Hey, thanks for the slam, man, I deserve it.

    physiobabe: Since a throat clearing could never be heard over the strains of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”, you might be stuck with wielding that big ol’ shovel.
    Thanks, bella mia!

  7. 7 Ken September 19, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    You’re right Scrib. That was pathetic. But at least you tipped.

  8. 8 Petro September 19, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    I confess to fiddling around the tip jar myself to activate that peripheral vision, for the very same reasons.

    Not quite embarrassed about that, though – to me, it’s not really altruism, but a business transaction. I’ve got no problem with anonymity when it is altruism (in fact, I prefer it.)

    Thanks for articulating another obscure “inner life” situation!

  9. 9 Anonymoustache September 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Scrib50,
    The comment wasn’t intended as a slam but rather in jest (hence the ‘just kidding’ part…)
    Also, how ’bout them Pittsburgh ‘Quarterbacks? We don’t need no stinkin’ quarterbacks’ Stillerz?!!!

  10. 10 scribbler50 September 19, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Ken: Hah! Thanks for your candor, Sir, and thanks for finding a positive in all that folly.

    Petro: Smartly put, my friend, as usual. Thanks.

    Anonymoustache: I know, I know, and I meant “slam” in the same spirit. But more important… how ’bout that Steeler “D” indeed? I haven’t seen a performance like that since The Curtain. Wow! But we DO need a freaking quarterback, can’t keep running through the raindrops like this with field goals.

  11. 11 Brenda September 21, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Catching up with three posts all at once is as much fun as doing the same with Mad Men, Scrib. You keep me human, not to mention sane. You make me grin. All without even pouring me a stiff, drink. Thank you for being here, there, wherever the impulse takes you.

  12. 12 JSaw September 21, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    I feel that peripheral vision is very highly developed for bartenders, piano players, calzone makers… not to mention a kind of sixth sense in knowing who’s a mensch and who is not as PhysioProf alluded to.

    Great as always. Thanks Scrib.

  13. 13 scribbler50 September 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Brenda: Welcome back, my friend, glad you enjoyed. Speaking of which, I recently started your novel (finally!), The Craigslist Murders, and boy am I enjoying it! I’ll save the particulars for an e-mail when I’m finished but for now let me just say, “Wow!” You know that world of which you speak… the idle rich and infamous… and capture it both with humor and a vial of acid. As the blurb on the cover stated accurately, “American Psycho meets Bonfire of the Vanities”. Brava!
    And thanks.

    JSaw: You’re right, peripheral vision is highly developed in our trade (if people only KNEW what we see!), but not the look up when one looks down. Like the piano player. But you and Physioprof are right, it all matters not in the overall scheme of things, we know without looking who the mensch is.
    Thanks for stopping by.

  14. 14 JSaw September 21, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    … “if people only KNEW what we see!”

    Well, looks like I’m on the wagon for a few months. 😉


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