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My Chair Rocks

What Mia Sereno learned from her mother

/ 05:22 AM May 20, 2018

We had lunch at a bistro-pub the other day. The food was great. The tomato bisque laced with blue cheese was excellent without being too rich. Our waiter was John, a personable and very efficient young man. He was attentive, accommodating, made us two senior ladies feel very welcome in that youngish atmosphere. It was busy with the usual lunch clientele, but the ambience was pleasant enough for eating and conversing.

I have noticed that, lately, some of the newer eating places have zero sound absorbers and the noise level is annoying.

Everything was great until we paid for our meal. My sister and I always ask for separate checks. Mine came up to $12 and I gave a 10 and a five. Quite casually, John picked the money up and asked, “Do you want change for this?”

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I thought, is he subtly reminding me about his tip? My sister and I looked at each other. We are old school, okay? We believe that a tip is the customer’s choice.

A gratuity is defined as a gift of money, over and above payment due for a service, as to a waiter, a bellhop. A tip: something given without claim or demand.

It is also a sum of money given someone who provides service or a favor, as a way to show graciousness or thankfulness.

Bad taste

Back to the pub. We had been very pleased with John’s tableside manner, until that point. It left a bad taste in the mouth. Don’t ask me why. It just did.

I know someone who, having received shabby service at a restaurant, clearly indicated ZERO when he signed his credit voucher for his meal. They call that “getting stiffed.” I don’t think I could ever do that.

In the United States, it is customary to tip 15 or 20 percent of the price of the meal. The wait staff in a restaurant hardly makes minimum wage and so depends largely on tips to make a living. I always keep that in mind.

But I don’t have a set formula. Obviously you reward great service. I always give more in a place that is not too ritzy. And I love to tip in a fastfood restaurant. The workers bust their behinds all day and get nothing.

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Still, I feel that assuming a gratuity is in order and how much it should be is not good form.

Then, of course, there’s the other side of the coin. Some customers can be downright unpleasant and unkind to table servers. There are also horror stories about how the workers get even with these rude diners. Their antics would make your stomach turn.

I read somewhere that how a person treats the waiters in a restaurant is a good gauge of his or her character. I so agree. My New York friend tells me it is the best way to “know” a potential significant other, or a future son- or daughter-in-law. Just take them out to lunch or dinner. And watch.

‘KKK’ warning

I have heard people who know better advise those who don’t not to go into a business venture with friends or relatives. It is sad but true. There is much heartache in that mix.

My wise friend has added one more “no-no” to the list. Don’t do business with people running for office. He says, win or lose, you lose.

His advice: stay away from the three Ks: Kamag-anak. Kaibigan. Kandidato.

Mother’s Day postscript

On Facebook: “They say that a mother is the light of the home (ang ilaw ng tahanan). But Mama, you are our ‘home.’”

Let me share Mia Sereno’s tribute to her mother.

When she came home with a carload of books including “an entire encyclopedia set of Philippine history and the Philippine almanac,” her mother said, “It’s very important that you read all this, Mia, but make sure you read these first.

“And she handed me ‘The Book of Virtues’ and ‘The Moral Compass.’ It was always very clear with my mother what came first, what was most important. You needed a wide range of knowledge, to be sure; you needed a richly varied skill-set, rooted in literature and art and history and philosophy and science. But above all you needed to know what was right.”

Mia continues: “Who is to say you shouldn’t be discussing the complex legacies of colonialism with your 10-year-old? It is not that I was that good a student; it is just that my mother was that brilliant a teacher. (She’s still teaching even now. Only now her classroom has expanded to encompass the whole country.)

“An ocean away, I read my mother’s words and continue to learn from her. I am still my mother’s student, like many of those who have studied law under her. This time I am learning incredibly profound lessons: how to stand when you are under crushing pressure, beset on all sides by forces much more powerful than you. The immeasurable strength you have when you are standing on the truth, held in the palm of God’s hand.

“These are the kinds of lessons that have changed the course of history. They are simple because they need nothing other than the truth.

“I’m learning. And I will continue to act on these lessons; will continue to write and work and live based on this foundation: the question and its answer, ringing clear down to my soul.

“What must I do? The right thing.”

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