Excuse me!?

Tonight on Shark Nibbles...

Wouldn't it have been great if I had managed to snag Mr. Clarkson for a one-off introduction to a blog entry like he does on Top Gear?

Tonight we carry on with our great culinary tradition and so we cover yet another topic: Restaurants.

Naturally, you'd be much better off reading AA Gill's column, so instead, let me show you something. That was taken out of the Readers Digest. Entertaining or useful though the majority of the article might be, I ask you now to scroll down to the end section, "Surefire Stereotypes", on page 2, and read item no. 3.

I'll be waiting here.

Still can't be arsed? Alright, I'll transcribe it for you:

"3. If you have a European accent, you are a horrible tipper. Accent = 10 percent. Always."

Now, if there ever were any doubts where this article was taken from, let's take elimination. Its not Europe, for obvious reasons. It's not Africa, because it mentions food. It's not Asia, it's much too rude for that. It's not Oceania, because not once did it employ the words "ute", "barbie", "outback", "spider" or "crikey". Could it then be America?

You see, I don't think it can. America is the place where my mother and I, both European and suitably accented, were charged 5% on top of 15% woth of tips for a maître d' we never so much as met. Where we were asked to leave 15% at the Hard Rock Café for good (but not extraordinary) service. Where we were asked to distribute little "tip slips" to just about the whole crew of a cruise ship, including people we met (exactly) once and only for as long as it took him to fill our glasses with water, which, as it seems, is the entirity of his job description. And we tipped away with a smile on our lips and a kind word on the side.

And now, for a bit of context: regarding tips, my mother and I aren't exactly alike, you see. When I forst noticed tipping, she told me she didn't like to tip because it made her feel as though she was rubbing some pretense of superiority in the faces of servers. I, on the other hand, have no such qualms with tipping, but despise the notion of unduly tipping. Sure, many restaurants and their like pool the tips, meaning that, if I don't tip as much as I would because service was sloppy, I'm unduly punishing all the other waiters, whose job, for all I know, might have been absolutely flawless, but whose fault is that? I submit to every single waiter who ever felt robbed of a well deserved fraction of a tip because the waiter who collected it performed subparly, drag the offending colleague out back behind the restaurant, perform even an half-hearted job of kicking his/her head in and I'll gladly tip as much as I would have had for good service, tuice as much if you promise to cut the offender out of the pool.

In fact, I'd like to tell you a little story that happened just short of a year ago. My mother and I had gone for dinner at Pizza Hut in Leicester Square. Our waiter was a young woman with mediterranean features and a distinctively Italian acccent. That was, without a shadow of a doubt, the most appaling service I ever had. She brought my mother a warm cider with ice. She came by our table to tell my mother they were out of the fish she ordered, but never bothered to ask what she'd like instead (in fact, judging by the expression on another waiter's face when I explained what had happened and placed another order on my mother's behalf, he was even more shocked than we were). Then she brough our entrees before the apetizers. Need I say our entrees, by the (second) time she brought them were cold and stale? And then, at the very end, she had the gall to calculate a standard 12% tip and remind us, on the bill, that it was not included, which I rewarded with the reminder that neither had it been deserved and my mother rewarded with a 10% tip.

Lousy tippers, aren't we?

And in one fell swoop, there goes every little bit of trust and admiration I ever had for Readers Digest.

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark would like to remind his readers from Asia, Africa and Oceania that the bit up there where some fun is poked at them is intended for comic purpuses only and bears no resemblance to my feelings towards them. Any americans who were offended by the rebutal of the stereotype that Europeans are poor tippers can suck it.

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