© 2017 by Jerry L. Croasmun
"Did you know waitresses and servers are among the lowest paid hourly employees in a restaurant?" declared our dinner companion. "The cook, dishwasher, hostess, and manager are all usually paid more per hour."
Ben and I sat there in a semi-state of shock and disbelief.
"Servers and waitresses are exempt from most minimum wage laws. Their hourly wage usually only covers required federal and state taxes, Medicare, and social security deductions. They rarely have full health insurance, retirement pensions, or other benefits."
Helen Marie was more than a waitress. She was our friend and part of our extended family. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. I couldn't believe she made less than two dollars per hour. Waitresses and servers, like her, worked hard. They were constantly on their feet and had to deal with customers who weren't always nice and friendly. Helen Marie definitely deserved to be paid better.
"Did you ever work in a restaurant?" Ben asked.
The old man answered, "Yes, I've had several jobs throughout my life including scrubbing pots and pans in a military chow hall and volunteering in a homeless mission's kitchen. Most of a server's money comes from tips. How much do you think we should give Helen Marie?"
"I don't know. But, she's worth way more than $2," Ben said.
"Dad says you should stay home if you can't afford to leave a decent tip," I said.
"Your dad sounds like a wise man and I agree. Servers depend on tips."
"They need money to eat too," Ben said.
"Remember when we went to that restaurant in Cisco and the waitress thought she needed to add the tip to our bill?" I asked.
"Yeah, Dad wasn't a happy camper."
"Ben, I don't think we ever went back. I wonder if they're still in business."
"No. We never went back."
"That place is probably a ghost town by now."
"I also seldom return to restaurants where servers feel obliged to add a compulsory tip. Tips should be earned for good service and are usually added as a percentage of the total bill. It is customary to pay at least 10%," Herr Specht said.
"We'll start with 10% because we can use the magic zero. Remember zero is our hero."
"That sounds a little corny and elementary. What is a magic zero?" I asked.
"When multiplying by 10, we simply add a zero to the number. For example, 5 times 10 is 50 and 73 times 10 is 730. You write the 73 and add the zero from the 10 to get 730. Believe it or not, we can calculate most of these amounts in our heads without a calculator."
I had my doubts and thought our new friend had more confidence in our mental math abilities than we did.
"Percent means a part or portion of one hundred. It all begins with a fraction. 37% is 37 out of 100 or 37 divided by 100. When we multiply by a percent, we move the decimal point two places to the left. 10% is the same as .10 in decimal form and 57% is .57."
"Y'all doing, okay?" asked Helen Marie. "Is there anything I can get you? Any boxes, beverage refills, anyone having dessert?"
I answered, "No dessert for me, but I'd like a refill and a box for the pizza."
"No problem sweetie," she responded. "Benjamin, another root beer?"
"Yes. Speaking of dessert, hear any good jokes lately? 'Cause I have one for you."
"Let's hear it."
"What is a cowboy's least favorite kind of pie?"
We were anxiously awaiting the punchline when Ben began laughing and wouldn't stop.
"Knock it off. Finish the joke," I said.
"A cowboy's least favorite kind of pie is a cowpie."
I wanted to crawl under the table and was thankful we hadn't ordered dessert.
Not to be outdone, Helen Marie asked, "Benjamin, my sweet pea. Why aren't there any restaurants on the moon?"
"Isn't the moon made of cheese?"
"Possibly, but there aren't any restaurants on the moon because there is no atmosphere. The food is probably out of this world, though."
"Now who would like this?" she asked, holding up the bill for our food.
"I'll take that. It is my treat," said Herr Specht.
She handed him the ticket and headed towards the kitchen.
"Our total bill for pizza and beverages is $24.80. Ben, can you tell me what 10% of $24.80 is?"
I was glad he called on Ben instead of me. I secretly wished I had a fairy godmother and a calculator.
"Dude, I have no clue. Math is hard for me. Can't we just leave a few bucks and some change on the table and call it good?"
Herr Specht was a patient and persistent teacher. He shook his head, handed Ben the pen, and instructed him to write $24.80 on his placemat.
"Look at the decimal point and move it one digit to the left. You should now have $2.480, which is equal to two dollars and forty-eight cents. Ten percent of $24.80 is exactly $2.48.
"If I give you my two cents, we could leave a tip of $2.50."
"That is correct. $2.48 rounded up to the nearest half dollar is $2.50, which is approximately 10% of our total bill. Can you now figure out what an additional 5% tip would be?"
"That is an easy one," I said. "If $2.50 is 10% of $25.00 then 5% is one-half of $2.50 or $1.25."
"And $2.50 is two times or twice as much as $1.25," Ben said.
"You both are correct. I think we should leave Helen Marie a 20% tip. How much would that be?"
He added more numbers to the placemat showing $1.25 was 5% or 1/2 of $2.50 and $5.00 was 20% or two times (double) the 10% amount of $2.50.
5% of $25.00 $1.25 10% of $25.00 $2.50 20% of $25.00 $5.00 50% of $25.00 $12.50
"Ben, here is a 'Lincoln' for Helen Marie."
Helen Marie brought the pizza box and refilled our glasses with root beer. Ben handed her the $5 tip and my mind needed a break from all of the mental math.
"Benjamin, do you know why the boy ate his homework?"
"Because he thought it was good."
"You're on the right track. The boy ate his homework because the teacher said it was a piece of cake."
"Young lady, would you pay the cashier?" Herr Specht asked handing me two $20 bills.
"This is too much money."
"Don't forget, we must add sales tax. Taxes vary from town to town and state to state. Our tax rate is roughly 8% or eight cents added on for every dollar spent."
"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and to Uncle Sam in America," I said walking towards the cashier.Herr Specht was writing on the placemat and talking to Ben when I returned.
"We estimated the sales tax at 10% instead of 8% and rounded our bill up to $25 from $24.80. We should get around $8 in change."
I handed our new friend $8.22.
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