I finish my nachos, pile everyone’s baskets, napkins, and cups onto the tray, and head to the front of the restaurant. I get to the trash cans and stand motionless in front of them. I look back and forth from my pile of trash sitting atop the tray to the opening above the hidden receptacle. I have stuffed myself, as usual, and I am ready to back up this dump truck to the junkyard and raise the truck bed, letting the entire truckload of culinary rubbish slide as a whole into the depths of obscurity. I can then waddle sluggishly out the door and find the nearest couch where I can let the fat molecules slowly form. But I am logistically trapped.
My task is to remove my junk from the table after I’m done and deposit it in said receptacle. I would normally say this is fine because in most restaurants where you bus your own tables, they don’t expect a tip. At this one, they do. At the checkout register. The people serving me are not waiters. They don’t make $2.18/hr, so they don’t survive by tips alone, although I’m sure this establishment is sticking as close as they can to minimum wage. So a tip is appreciated, I’m sure. But aside from trying to improve the stingy wage limits set by restaurants, I’m not sure what the people who have assembled my nachos have accomplished so far to deserve a tip. I can see contributing to the fellow who added a little extra meat on my nachos (those dipping spoons are so small), but I’m not comfortable with him sharing the tip with the managerial looking guy who I’m sure I caught counting my nacho chips. I don’t want people who are watching food costs this close, and adhering to corporate propaganda religiously, building my nachos. I want the disgruntled dishwasher who is angry at the company for not giving him a 50 cents raise to fix my plate. I want the manager to see the six scoops of meat he’s placed on my nachos and pass out face first into the chips he’s counting.
At any rate, I always tip. And I usually get my two scoops anyway because I have methods for getting my way. I am an only child, you see, and I must get my way. Here is a trick, but you can only use it on the same person once every so often. When they place the single, company-approved scoop onto your chips and look up to ask if you want cheese, just freeze. Stare at the plate in their hands like they are your child and the nachos are really a test they are presenting you that they have received a ‘D’ on. Don’t let the disappointment on your face spill over into contempt or condescension. This is important. You still love your child after all, don’t you? You just want them to do better. They have failed. They will know this. Don’t rub it in.
Then, with an air of lowered expectations and resignation, tell them to “Um… just go ahead and add another scoop of meat if you would.” It is important that, while delivering this message, you maintain only intermittent eye contact with them. After all, it is hard to look them in the face after what they have done. You are embarrassed for them. You are causing the child, sorry, I mean employee, to handle a barrage of conflicting emotions all at once. You have placed them in a state of uncertainty and when things are in this state, anything can happen. A moment ago, you were smiling and carrying on. Now they have placed your friendship in question. Will they add insult to injury by charging you for that extra scoop? Of course not. That’s not how friends do friends, no matter how long the friendship might last. Even if it’s over at the register at the end of the food line.
I know what you’re thinking, but I don’t care. I got my way. I have my extra scoop and that is all that matters. It really is.
And so I tip. I am happy and they are happy. Everyone but the manager who is coming to with broken chips pasted to his face. It’s ok. Our minds usually wipe traumatic experiences like this from our minds. He won’t remember a thing.
But I’ve digressed. In front of me is a small hole. It appears, although I know it only looks this way because of its relative size with respect to my heap of trash, to be approximately 2mm in diameter. I am sure it is actually closer to 4 or 5 mm. I’m sure it’s because they don’t want me to throw away their plastic basket. My first thought is why don’t they just make the basket larger? Then they can have a sensible sized opening. I’m not looking for a manhole size hole; I would just like it to be reasonable. I grab the corners of the nacho paper and lift them up to form an upside-down, bean and cheese filled parachute. Then I slide, with much more concentration and precision than should be expected of anyone, the sludgy parachute over the hole. It sits atop the hole. It is taunting me. I’m sure the manager who was chip counting is watching and laughing.
For a moment, I contemplate shoving all the baskets into the hole and then breaking the tray over my head before forcing it into the hole as well. Better judgment prevails and I manipulate this impromptu and mocking filth into the singularity before me. I have a disgusting amount of crusting cheese on my hand and under my fingernails now (I know I was just using my fingers to shove the same thing into my mouth, but now that I’m done with it, the leftover food has metamorphosed into an abomination). And since I have just disposed of all my napkins, I have no way to remove this filth. I place the baskets neatly in a stack on a shelf above the hole.
I walk out feeling subjugated. I am a crusty-handed garbage-man cheese-tool. I mentally weigh being subjected to complex janitorial work at the end of my meal against getting an extra scoop of meat on my nachos. I will be back. I have failed. They know this. Don’t rub it in.