Saturday, November 1, 2008

Waiters of the World Unite! (updated below)

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee and author of the blog "Instapundit." His wife, Helen Smith, is also a blogger as well as a forensic psychologist who writes this blog. Yesterday she came up with an idea to deal with uppity Obama voters, at least those who are waiters and waitresses. In a post, linked to by her husband, entitled “Should You Tip Less in an Obama Administration?”, she writes:

I often tip generously both because I have been a waitress and because I think it is important to reward people who work. However, if Obama gets in (and it is still an if), perhaps tipping less or not at all would be a good way to save money as a way of "going John Galt." Yet, is it fair to the person who is stiffed? What about a compromise, just tipping less? What do you think?

In case you don’t know, John Galt is the hero of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged who: a man disgusted that non-productive members of society use laws and guilt to leech from the value created by productive members of society, and furthermore even exalt the qualities of the leeches over the workers and inventors. He made a pledge that he would never live his life for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for him, and founded an enclave, separate from the rest of the country, where he and other productive members of society have fled.

So Dr. Helen’s idea for “going John Galt” is to get and other “Atlases” (picture of her husband) to not only stop holding up the world but stop tipping those who only hold up plates and trays for these world carriers.

That will teach them to vote Obama! To be fair, she doesn’t actually advocate stopping the practice, well common courtesy, of tipping. She is simply proposing “just tipping less.” Don’t stiff them, just cut their wages down. After all, they're paid a whopping $2.01 per hour to bring you your lunch.

As if this weren't arrogant enough, she then goes even further, suggesting that along with a lower tip, other "Atlases" should leave notes, referencing Obama:

I've been thinking. If Obama is elected, maybe in lieu of a tip I should leave a note like the following:

HOPE AND CHANGE FOR AMERICA: Spreading the Wealth Around.

In lieu of a tip, $_____ has been donated to the Re-Elect Obama for President Campaign. Thank you for supporting the man and the movement that are bringing America together!

If enough people leave notes like this, I'm sure it will galvanize waitpeople everywhere in support of The One!

Have you ever seen clearer evidence that the Ayn Rand wing of the Republican party needs to be defeated, purged, and perhaps tarred and feathered along the way?

Dr. Helen provides one reason that she tips, but I’d like to suggest another. She says, “Despite this post, I often tip generously both because I have been a waitress and because I think it is important to reward people who work.”

I waited tables and bartended my way through undergrad. In fact, sometimes, as a criminal defense lawyer who works frequently with people either actively using drugs or struggling to kick their habits, I think I use the people skills I learned as a bartender more than the information I learned in law school.

The other reason to tip, Dr. Helen? The person you may be treating like a second-class citizen is likely going to be alone with your soup. Although I didn’t ever witness it, I heard stories from co-workers who worked college towns like Lawrence, KS, where the city was largely broken down into financially-comfortable professors or administrators and their families and ramen-noodle eating students/waiters, who couldn’t control what you left them for a tip but could control what they left in your French Onion soup the next time you came in.

News Flash to Dr. Helen and other alleged Atlases considering going "John Galt" on their waiters: When you are willing to unfairly exploit the trust-based relationship that waiters and waitresses rely on and retaliate by stiffing them because their social class likely marks them as Obama voters, don't be surprised when they're willing to return the favor by spitting squarely into your Cesar Salad. When you laugh to Instapundit about how clever it is that you're teaching Obama voters a lesson by short-changing them with a lousy tip, don't be shocked that they're standing in the back room laughing, imagining you getting a little more than you paid for in your ranch on the side.

I know that’s disgusting to consider, but it’s motivated me to be respectful, both because these people work hard to serve you your food and because I know that people who feel deprived of justice and unable to attain it through wages will often create their own version of it, if only for a laugh at your expense as you sit there discussing Ayn Rand, thinking of yourself as somehow holding up the world, and then leaving a 10% tip since they probably voted Obama.

One of my favorite street-smart judges acknowledges this reality by stating, whenever he sentences a person and discovers, in the process, that they work in a restaurant. He says, “well, I can never go back there again!” When they try to tell him he can come back to eat there, he usually asks them if they think he's that dumb and they usually say no. And then they go to jail and he finds a new place to eat.

As disgusting as it is to consider this, is it any less so to advocate, as "Instawife" does, that people should retaliate against an Obama victory by cutting tips down and thus stating, in effect, “this is what you get for not voting McCain / Palin." But in fact, she goes even further than this, stating, obviously sarcastically, that leaving notes referencing Obama will "galvanize waitpeople everywhere in support of The One!"

And what would a forensic psychologist say about a person who espouses these disgusting beliefs?

I truly think she imagines mad "waitpeople everywhere" standing in the backroom angrily regretting their votes for Obama and being converted into neocons instantaneously. It's as if she's thinking, in true Randian form, that by stiffing these people she's truly helping them, teaching them the "virtue of selfishness" and being willing to "go John Galt" and deprive them of the benefit of her world-supporting habits if they don't vote the way she wants them to next time.

I have to admit, it gives me a sense of justice to think of her arrogantly walking out of the restaurant, believing that she and her co-Atlas, uber-nerd husband are teaching their waiter a lesson while the waiter cheerily waves goodbye, remembering that cold he just got over and wondering what the results of that (medical?) test are going to be.

No Justice: No Peace of mind that your salad doesn't contain your waiter's saliva is how the world works.

- - -
Seriously, isn't this a wonderful example of the need to raise the minimum wage for "waitpeople everywhere?" After all, their wages are well below the regular minimum wage because of an assumption that they are tipped at a certain rate. Because a prominent right-wing blogger's wife is advocating retaliation for an Obama vote via cheap tipping, isn't this evidence that the trust inherent in the waiter's role is being exploited? Why not raise their wages so they don't have to rely on people like Dr. Helen Smith to afford the food they're required to deliver to her table?

We don't need an Army of Davids, at least not the kind who see themselves this way while advocating punishing waiters for an Obama victory. What we need is an army of waiters.

UPDATE: I think this is Dr. Helen's attempt to "soften up" the sickness of her post on waiters. But I think it's even more revealing, perhaps just the product of her realization that the waiters she depends on can, well, read and perhaps create a little "instajustice:" In response to a commentator who (1) assures her he and his other pizza delivery drivers are mostly McCain supporters, and (2) asks her not to take it out on those who depend on tips:

There is no way I could. In the space of the past 24 hours, I have been out to eat three times and left even bigger tips than I usually do. I am watching people work hard and I know I cannot withhold money to local people in Tennessee that are so industrious. Perhaps in blue cities or where it is clearer that people believe in redistributing wealth, it would be easier.

Translation: "Don't spit in my food here in Knoxville 'cause I'm only going "John Galt" when I travel to "blue cities or where it is clearer that people believe in redistributing wealth."

Her husband then links to what he calls an Instapundit take on taxes that also reveals a lot about the instacouple's take on waiters and other poor people:

"Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty."

So just keep on serving them the food, no matter how much or how little they tip you; otherwise the "small minority" that obviously includes this lovely couple, will "go John Galt" and we'll all go back to our "normal condition" of poverty.

As if you could possibly stomach it, here's a link to Dr. Helen discussing what she calls "the various ways of "going John Galt.""

Apparently if we don't "go John McCain" next week, this (thankfully!) small minority of so-called "Real Americans" have more ways of "going John Galt" in store for those of us who live in "blue cities or [places] where it is clearer that people believe in redistributing wealth."

My wish: Please follow the real John Galt and show us what it would be like to have to live without you!


Anonymous said...

Your suggestion that waiters retaliate IS disgusting.

Let me guess - Obama supporter?

BinkyM said...

Psychologist, heal thyself!

Regardless of one's political affiliations, we're all human beings, for crying out loud, and deserve to be treated with some dignity. Our political leanings ought not enter into what we're paid for our freaking jobs! And taking it out on waiters, waitresses, busboys, shoeshine men, and anyone else least able to bear the brunt of the financial strain is just plain cruel. This Helen Smith character sounds like a real wingnut. I almost wish I served food so I could poo into her ganache.

eyelessgame said...

Shorter Helen Smith:

John Galt likes it when waiters spit in his food.

Anonymous said...

Great post, but you missed an obvious point, which is that Mrs. Instarube is mentally ill.

Anonymous said...

I think photos of this loathsome hag (here's one: ought to be posted in kitchens around the nation, just in case she chooses to take her hateful show on the road.

Lots of interesting condiments ought to start appearing in her food.

Anonymous said...

Anyone need more evidence that "Randians" are complete assholes?

Anonymous said...

Governments should not be paying people who dont work for the government and if they do, "I'll take my money back thanks!" And I only make $32,000 a year if you're wondering. So Obama supporters can suck it. I've made good choices in life, work and go to school both FT and live in a city where rents are high.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't part of the whole John Galt thing "nor ask another man to live for him"? Isn't asking a waiter or waitress to work for you, bring you food, fill your water glass, be attentive to your needs, expecting someone to work for you but not giving anything in return?

There is an implicit, socially agreed upon contract here... we all know the structure that waitstaff has a low minimum wage because the normal tip range is 15-20%. If you've gotten reasonable service, not tipping is stealing from them, and it's quite petty.

If you don't want to tip, don't go out to eat. If you do go out to eat and don't tip, you're just being cheap. Don't hide behind some sort of faux John Galt social protest to hide that you're just trying to avoid paying people you don't happen to agree with for service fairly rendered.

Anonymous said...

When we were in law school, I gave Andrew a book by Da Chen, a Chinese American who went to Columbia law school. He had come back to Lincoln, where he had briefly lived and attended college, for a book signing. The book was an autobiography talking about the hardships of his childhood growing up during the Cultural Revolution in China.

When he was living in Lincoln, he worked as a waiter at the House of Hunan. One night, one of the regular patrons who had gotten to know him left a $100 bill under his plate.

The political hyperbole about socialism and redistribution of wealth seems hollow to me compared to the life experiences of someone like Da Chen who went from suffering under a totalitarian regime to receiving the generosity of a stranger in America. Sometimes a tip isn't about the money, it is a reaffirming act of humanity.

David Tarrell said...

Thanks for that last comment. It's a great point and, to be honest, I've felt a little guilty lately about some of the tone of this post, thinking that it might have advocated class warfare in the name of class warfare.

I just finished Victor Chan's The Wisdom of Forgiveness where he describes, as a man from China originally, meeting the Dalai Lama and being afraid that he might be "hostile." When they meet, the Dalai Lama keeps giggling when he sees Chan, who's wearing a black cape and a "Fu Manchu" goatee. And, of course, like everyone else, he hears not a word of condemnation from the Dalai Lama. Ever.

The irony is that what you give tends to come back to you, a lesson I have to keep relearning.