A professor friend of mine, from a University in another state, recently lamented to me the undue pressure his graduate students felt in granting favors to their professors. On the side of the professors, they were warned not to make their students feel obligated to do their bidding and have said that the students offer to baby-sit, house sit and pick up dry cleaning. Of course this is after said teachers have mentioned that they have an unfulfilled need, just in passing, not as a request of course. Give me a break. My friend feels that his fellow professors are abusing their influence over their students. He felt it just wasn’t right. I felt like I was gathering information for a future “Character Counts” story. No, we agreed after more discussion, it was more than that. More like “Integrity” should have counted when consciously choosing to exert influence.
I did not think much more on this right away. But a series of events followed that made me re-think the issue. The first was our own headlines on Condit (53 year old, congressman) and Levy (24 year old, intern). I never thought that their affair was any more, well, decent than Clinton’s with Lewinsky was. The common denominator besides the two young female interns? Both politicians unwittingly, or wittingly as you may see it, used their influence to gain access to these, and other, women.
When you see me around town proudly sporting my crisp navy blue Coffee Kiosk T-shirt you might assume that I used my influence to get it for free. And you know what? You’d be 100% correct! I wrote a column, okay maybe it was about five columns, about my favorite coffee drive through and the owner rewarded me once with a blended mocha and the T-shirt. Am I guilty of using my influence for a freebie? You bet I am! In fact, with my less than shady character, I figure I’m due for another freebie after this! But in all honesty, no matter how slight the infraction may seem, it ain’t right!
Which finally brings me to this past weekend’s events. I had to accompany Eddie to a baseball game he was playing out of town because his secretary, The Mighty Herlinda, had planned the event. (Of course I did wear sandals and a large floppy sun hat so that no one would dare ask me to play too.) When I saw Herl hand over $60, $30 for each team, to play this one time, I was flabbergasted!
I admit I haven’t researched this but I know that all I have to do is to call our local Parks and Recreation department if I want to reserve a particular park for a party. I have to go early and stake out my area but I don’t have to PAY for it. I realize that reserving a baseball diamond is different, especially if you play in a league all season, but did this $30 per team charge also apply to the father playing against his son in the adjacent field? And the question of a refund if we left the field as clean as we found it was answered with an unequivocal no! So maybe instilling a fee is up to each city to decide but it sure sounded like the Parks and Recreation department of this particular city was using a little influence of their own in charging for something that was widely available elsewhere. And elsewhere happened to be, in this case, fifty yards away!
After the game we made reservations at a restaurant a couple of blocks away. We broke up our large group into three separate tables and our table held seven. Our waitress was friendly but it became apparent fairly quickly that she may have been a little green on the job. She neglected to get the meal orders for Herl and her daughter. She also neglected to come back after fifteen minutes to get their order. Herl had to seek her out to avoid further delays. By the time the order was completed we waited another twenty-five minutes for our meals. Our friends at the other tables had ordered after us with different waitresses and received their meals well ahead of ours. When our meals finally arrived we had to make additional requests for the items that were neglected, by the waitress, from our original orders. “Please” for pickles. “Excuse me” for the side of ranch. “Miss” for the fruit cup. And the ever faithful, “We must have forgotten to ask”, for the six ounce soda refills. We remained polite as to not make things any worse.
When we finally finished our meals, that of which we could get, we asked for our check. Here was where we got the biggest surprise! None of us had noticed on the menu a charge for fruit instead of fries, a side of ranch dressing or the one- ounce serving cup of pickle slices for Herl’s burger! Thank God the waitress forgot the second order of ranch dressing for $2! Then, in teeny tiny writing, was the statement “15% gratuity” added. Wasn’t the restaurant lacking in integrity and responsibility by not informing us of their policies beforehand?
Whenever I dine out I almost always tip 20%, because, well, I’m a blond and it’s easier to do the math. But when the service was this bad, and the gratuity was already included, it was more than a little twist of the knife in my gut. My gal pal, Dr. Kim, recently took her office crew out to one of our local restaurants. When the 15% gratuity included statement appeared on her check, highlighted, she doubled it because the service was so good. And I know for a fact she didn’t feel in the least bit taken advantage of. Completely the opposite.
What to do in all of the aforementioned scenarios in the future? Meet with your University Department Head and let him or her know what’s going on. Don’t become a Washington intern if you find influential “power” attractive. Don’t frequent a park or restaurant that you feel is taking unfair advantage. Learn from their mistakes. But don’t expect me to stop drinking coffee! We have to draw the line somewhere and I can’t help but continue to be ridiculous, especially if it entertains. I’ll leave it all on the shoulders of my husband and his members in the fire department; because they never use their influence and sound the siren when they have to go to the market to buy their meals!