Monday, December 12, 2011

The Yuletide Twilight Zone

As some of my regular readers might know, I have sort of a love/hate relationship with tradition. Sometimes I think it is the greatest thing in the world and sometimes I think it is a nothing but a source of worthless discomfort and pretense.

But, be that as it may, my dad taught me stuff. He usually taught me stuff by just doing what he did -- he wasn't big on sit-down "lessons," but he certainly set a clear example. One of the things I always saw him do was to "tip" people who did things like bringing heavy boxes out to the car. It was automatic -- he'd hand the guy a few dollars and the guy would say "Thank you sir," and life would just hum along.

I like that. It seems like a nice little traditional formula, to me.

(Wavy dream sequence lines take us from past to present . . .)

So, today, my family went out into the blustery sunlight to get ye olde Tannenbaum.

(Fortunately, I have learned to transcend that violent and obsessive concern people seem to have for getting the perfect tree. Any tree looks good when you throw on the lights and garlands, my friends. Please revisit "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and you will see it is so. Maybe my experiences as a youth helped me to get over that tree-induced panic for perfection. By the age of about fifteen, I used to call our family outings for the tree the "Annual Matarazzo Christmas Tree Brawl." "Time to go and fight over the tree," I would announce as the family piled into the car. As my parents and sister adopted that very phrase, the bickering miraculously stopped . . . and we began to have fun each year. A Christmas miracle?)

Well, we picked a tree today. My wife and my children liked it and -- as with every single other tree on the lot -- it was my absolute favorite of the bunch. It was tree-tastic. Piney perfection. Most splendid tree in the history of trees.

I took it up to the woman at the front, and she put it into one of those mesh tree-squeezer bags and she gave it a "fresh cut." As I took it, I handed her a five dollar bill and wished her a happy holiday.

She was flabbergasted. She looked at the five and said, ""

Not only did she react as if she was surprised by the tip, but there was a tone of discomfort -- not just the humility of the "tipped" worker, but a sort of allusion to creepiness.

Is no one doing this any more? Has a tip become an insult? If it did, it would have been nice of someone tweet about or something. (How else do we learn social truths?)

I can just see the tree girl walking up to one of her co-workers: "That guy -- the one in the green jacket who kept telling his wife every tree on the lot was his favorite...he just handed me, like, five dollars. Should I keep it?"

Apparently, I have somehow crossed over in to the Yuletide Twilight Zone. Or maybe I'm just a prematurely creepy old guy at forty-three.

Well, whatever the case, I would like the record to show that will never harshly judge anyone who wants to shell out five dollars to support my hard work. Or even my easy work, for that matter. I'm dreaming of a cashy Christmas -- just like the ones I used to know ...


  1. I don't think she was creeped out. I think that was just plain shock. I saw it as happy surprise.
    I dunno...

  2. Who knows -- she seemed genuinely taken aback, to me. By the way, you picked the perfect tree, my love.

  3. Alot of companies and businesses have developed a no tip policy for workers, at least this is what I've seen in the food service business. So when a tip is offered, there is an uncomfortable glance thrown around the restaurant, and a feeling of guilt either way. "Do I take it? Do I reject this nice offering?" I don't know how this happened, but it has made the whole thing a little awkward.
    I like the tradition of tipping people who do things, i remember getting a quarter for holding a door open when i was younger, it may have been related more toward operant conditioning, but still, it makes you feel good.
    On a final note, I don't believe you ever tipped me for carrying you along in jazz band back in the day, and what a heavy load that was...
    Another strong post sir!


  4. Nor, my friend, you might notice, did I ever give you a tip for carrying a tune, back in the jazz band days. HA-ZINGA! Thank you -- I'm here all week.

  5. When i worked at shop rite when i was a bag-boy/cart guy people would try to give me tips and it was weird taking them cause we were told when hired that I could actually be fired for taking a tip. But a lot of the older customers would not let me leave without taking a tip, they actually felt bad that I couldnt take tips which made them want to give me a tip even more

  6. Phil -- it may be possible -- it was at a Lowes'. BUt I have tipped guiys there in years before. She just seemed weirded out by it . . .