Back when I was a kid in church — or in one of those summer revivals where the sweltering Georgia heat gave you the distinct feeling you had something of an idea of what waited ahead for the great unwashed — nothing bothered me more than the preacher talking about what was going to happen on the Great Gettin’ Up Morning.
As I understood it, everybody in the world would be standing around somewhere just outside the Pearly Gates while, one by one, everything that happened in everyone’s life would be replayed for all to see. I figured what would happen was St. Peter would load a big reel of Super 8 film into a projector, the skies would dim and each and every dark secret I had would be projected on a big white wall surrounding heaven.
Today, I probably would have imagined it being displayed on a massive flatscreen TV with suitable 3-D effects and surround sound, but my imagination was, admittedly, somewhat limited by the available technology of the time.
Even at what was considered to be a tender age I could see that this show-and-tell event was going to lead to some terribly embarrassing situations and a lot of stern, disgusted looks from my parents and grandparents, and probably my Sunday school and elementary school teachers, who would collectively feel bitter disappointment about my general deportment.
“Your sins,” Brother O.A. Collins would say, “will find you out.”
Which is why I was surprised Friday to read the account of a preacher who, as we used to say it, “got all swolled up” over the revelation of her reaction to the inclusion of an 18 percent tip on her restaurant receipt.
According to various reports I saw on this incident, the pastor and eight or more of her friends shared an appetizer in late January at an Applebee’s in St. Louis, with the size of the ensemble kicking in the automatic tipping that most restaurants have for large groups.
In this case, they ate a little less than $30 worth of food, but the bill came in at nearly $35 with the tip. The minister, identified as Alois Bell, added a line when she picked up the tab: “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?”
As a rule, there are certain people I do my best not to offend. For instance, anyone who can put pills into my medicine bottle, anyone who adjusts the brakes on my pickup and, particularly, anyone who can spit on my food, which a waitress certainly can.
Another thing a waitress can do, we have learned, is show how badly behaved someone is by uploading a copy of a snarky note onto the Internet, along with her own snarky comment: “I’m sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries.”
Not that you can particularly trust the Internet. For instance, last February a restaurant bill from an individual who purported to work for a rich banker was placed on the Internet that showed an even snarkier message. The tab for the meal was $133.54 and the banker, one of the hated “1 percent,” took great delight in (1) giving a 1 percent tip of $1.33 and (2) telling the waiter or waitress, who obviously had a job, to “get a job.”
Turns out, though, that was bogus. The meal at True Food Kitchens in Newport Beach, Calif., actually cost $33.54 and the guy tipped $7, just over 20 percent. The poster manipulated the image so that he could manipulate others to his cause, which was apparently to hate bankers.
The Applebee’s receipt, however, appears to be legit. The waitress who posted it, a woman named Chelsea Welch, wasn’t the one who waited on Bell’s table, but she might need somebody to chip in on the rent and groceries since Applebee’s fired her for violating the customer’s privacy.
Surprisingly, she was surprised that the restaurant didn’t approve of that sort of thing.
Applebee’s, meanwhile, is taking a bit of a beating in social media for firing Welch, and Bell’s catching a lot of well-deserved Internet flak as well after embarrassing herself and her church with her churlish note. It’s the sort of behavior that would make a prudent person check his or her meal closely for spittle the next time dining out.
The fact is, waitresses and waiters work hard and they almost always work for much less than minimum wage. I’m firmly in the “tip decently or eat at home” camp on this issue. I figure that someone who’ll stiff a waitress or waiter who’s done a good job also will cheat on his or her golf scorecard, fail to return a borrowed book, and isn’t someone I’d leave alone with my dogs out of concern he or she would kick them.
It’s a sign of character in my book.
And if Bell had caught one of Brother Collins’ sermons, she wouldn’t have been surprised to see her note end up on the Internet. Or on the side of a big white wall someday, courtesy of a Super 8 projector or a mammoth 3-D flatscreen.
Like Brother Collins said, those pesky sins’ll find you out.
Email Jim Hendricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.