$20

Vijay Violet
3 min readOct 28, 2022
A cup of hot chocolate

Elsewhere you can read my views on the practice of justifying lower wages for essential workers by making tips an essential part of their livelihood. The capricious nature of tips is the topic today. I tipped a sum total of $20 — all with a face mask — on my first trip on a plane since the pandemic began.

The trip reminded me what I had not missed — lines, delays, and cancellation. After the first flight delay, I got a beverage at a coffee place at the airport. The woman at the register informed me with a smile that you couldn’t offer a tip, when you pay through a card at that place. I spotted a tip jar as I was ready to leave, remembered I had a $20 bill, asked for change, and tipped $3. That is because there were three of them serving.

After three delays, my connecting flight was cancelled before midnight, and all those on the flight were offered complimentary lodging at hotels nearby. The hotel I picked turned out to be popular. The driver of the lone hotel shuttle with a seating capacity of 14 was ever so polite to impatient and irate passengers as they waited longer and longer in line for their turn. The shuttle had signs everywhere begging for tips. I commiserated at the young man’s plight as I alighted and tipped him $5.

The rescheduled flight was early next morning, which made for a short night’s rest. While a few ventured into taxis, many like myself, unsure in a big city, settled for the hotel shuttle to return to the airport. As I left my room in a hurry barely awake, all I could find were two $1 bills to leave. A terrible tip but such is the uneven nature of tipping.

The return shuttle was full. The driver was likely in his seventies. When we got to the airport and rushed away, I had the sense to wait and offer the $10 bill I still had on me. He instinctively started making change and went on to tell me how little sleep he had had. My reaction was to blurt out “what kind of country are we running making someone of your age work at this hour,” as I tipped him $5 and left.

It was time to get some breakfast before I boarded my plane. The complimentary offering for the delayed flight included a $15 electronic credit for a meal at the airport. My breakfast was under $10, so I asked the waitress to keep the remaining $5 as a tip. After checking, the waitress said with a smile that the airline credit was restricted from use for tipping, but I could use the remainder at the convenience store across. Thankfully, I remembered I still had a $5 bill left which I handed her for a tip.

Once at the convenience store, I realized I needed nothing there for my plane ride. I used the remaining credit to buy a few bags of barbeque potato chips for the woman at the register. I know you are reading that last sentence over again to make sense of it.

How is it that essential workers are essential but not deserving of living wages and must rely on tips?

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Vijay Violet

I am an American. I care about the planet, its people and animals. I care about the oppressed and marginalized. And I care about the poor, both working and not.