Devin Dearing Preston: NYC writer, playwright, and storyteller

Give me your coat! Please?

November 18, 2011

I’ve given up the high stress world of table service this winter for the very odd occupation of watching other people’s coats. This is due to gross laziness on my part and blind faith in the universe to continue to provide the amount of income that I need to continue to scrape by. I may or may not look back on this decision with regret. Still too warm to tell.

I’m currently trying to unlock the deep unexplored mystery of human psychology hidden in coat checking behavior. (Its a very dull occupation otherwise).

My first unexpected discovery is people are really reluctant to hand over their belongings. “Ill just hang on to it” they say, tightly clutching the Trench coat to their person. Do they not know I intend to give it back? Some even add a “nice try” smirk, like I’m some scheming con-artist trying to needlessly make them spend more money.

And if you are able to convince people to let go of their heavy winter coats, not everyone feels obligated to tip you for this service. Or, they feel weird and or reluctant about offering a dollar for the starving artist who has lovingly been guarding their one and only coat.

“How nice it is”, these women,( yes as a woman I am aware that perpetuating this stereotype is quite wrong, but if more women tipped more freely, it would go away on its own) must think, “that this sweet girl is just hanging out this evening to hang up my coat.”

Yes, it is nice. I also styled my hair, put together an “outfit” and coated my face with make-up for the occasion.

But it’s also a service provided by the restaurant in hopes that people will pay extra for it. Cause they aren’t paying me. I repeat, the restaurant is paying me nothing to stand here. Hence, my understandable frustration when guests don’t feel inclined to either.

Frankly, it does add to a dining experience, checking one’s coat. Ill elaborate. Once your coat and bag are placed safely away, gone are your concerns of the harsh climate that awaits you. They are not clumsily bunched in a wad behind you, crowding your chair, the isle, your meal and serving as an ever present reminder of the world outside of your lovely dinner. I rescue you from that. I hold your defenses hostage so that you can be present with your guests, relax, unwind and enjoy yourself. With your cumbersome outer wear stored nicely out of sight, so too are your worries out of mind. I invite you to make yourself comfortable and stay awhile. Its winter outside, but why be reminded of that while you eat. Let me remove that care. Its my pleasure. It’ll be here when you are ready for it.

And that service is all yours for only a dollar.

A steal, if you ask me.

Or, if you want to think of it another way, it only costs you a dollar to not be that bitch who didn’t tip me. You know, the one who tried to help herself to her own coat, while my back was turned, that I told all my friends about. For only a dollar more, you become the “nicest woman” I met tonight, a hero and glowing example of how kind people can be sometimes. All that for only 2 dollars. Or, how much I paid for a cup of coffee today. Four times.

Let’s also be honest. You just dropped 60 plus dollars on a single meal. What is one more dollar to you? The amount you will miss it is also minuscule in comparison to the amount I will appreciate it. For just a single buck everybody wins.

When waiting tables, I became indifferent to tips. Big tip, bad tip, no tip elicited a similar emotional response, which was none. Because at the end of the night, week, month, year, it balanced out to a steady income. I do my job and make enough to not ask my parents for help and everybody is happy that I don’t work in an office.

Tips aren’t personal. They say infinitely more about the person leaving the money than they do about the person receiving it. Stingy or generous? Informed or clueless? Spiteful or understanding? Empathetic or unfeeling self entitled dickhead? And as a waitress I was able to not take a bad tip personally. I might judge the bad tipper openly, but it wouldn’t upset my overall resolve. I was confident in the level of service I was providing and knew that it was valuable.

I’m struggling to find the same indifference in my coat checking corner. Even though I’m not sure how someone could be bad at hanging up coats, I want to blame my performance for the subsequent laughable income.

There’s a psychology lesson for you right there.

When I fail to make enough money to pay my bills, I feel the pang of my questionable life choices. Still yet to be realized dreams might give me reason to get out of bed in the morning, but they fall a little short of being able to put a roof over my head. I’m not even looking to make enough to start an ira, but I would like to eat on tuesday. So not graciously offering me your dollar, makes me feel no better than a bum hustling the subway cars for spare change. Running around the restaurant trying scam patrons out of their hard earned money.

Please, save me from feeling like this. I went to college. I can quote Shakespeare. While juggling. And doing the time step.

Let me hang up your coat for you. And for the love of God, find the generosity in your heart to reward me with more than a smile and a thank you.

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Categories: Waiting is the Hardest Part

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