One of those never-ending questions: Who to tip, and how much?


During the summers when I was in college, I was a waiter and came to quickly appreciate the skills needed for such a job. I never really managed to get very good as a waiter, or server, as it's often called.

I was a terrible waiter -- I was the guy you'd hear dropping a plate of dishes. Once I spilled a gallon of milk in the kitchen, and then ended up slipping on it. During a particularly busy period when I was the only waiter on duty, I once delivered a guy his salad -- after he and his family were finishing their dessert.

I never really loved my job. I was always too stressed out, trying to remember the orders, which I wrote down but still had trouble remembering who had what and deciphering my handwriting; I kept half-hoping I'd be fired, but I think it was hard for the manager to find anyone willing to work at this restaurant, which was adjoining a sleepy hotel off an interstate, and so somehow, they kept me on. And so I toiled away, exhausted, anxious and klutzy, but there were bright moments: my tip.