Tip of the Humbug!

The tall, smart yet well-behaved and handsome young man did the job beautifully and had taken so much care of me during the process that I got gloated with gratitude and wanted to reward him in my humble way—meaning I wanted to tip him twenty bucks—even though I normally did not do such things in such places. I remembered I had a tenner in my shirt pocket and hoped I could get another one from the change I would get from the final payment.


I thanked him profusely, got up and proceeded to the counter as the young man took his position behind it. “How much?” I asked because it had been after a long time and in the fluid post-pandemic times prices shoot up anytime anywhere. He smiled and said, “The usual sir! Hundred and fifty rupees.”


I gave him a two-hundred note and hoped he’d give the required change. Unfortunately, he returned only a fifty-rupee note, sweetly and simply. ‘In the most typically tipping places the smart operators know how and in what denominations to give back the change so that the customers get various options to give the tip’, I thought and then knew why. ‘Yes, perhaps the reason is that he acted in this way because most people don’t tip in such places as I mentioned that I too do not do so.’


I took the change in my left hand and plunged my right into my shirt pocket to search for the lone tenner, now that I had to settle for only ten bucks. As I went on taking out the notes of various denominations and searching the depths of my shirt pocket, I remembered a scene from a comedy movie.


A very rich elderly gentleman enters a hotel room and the accompanying hotel boy deposits the luggage at the appropriate places and waits for obvious reasons. The rich gentleman understands it too and puts his right hand into his shirt pocket. He takes out a thick wad of notes and hands it over to the boy. The startled boy takes it amid waves of incredulity and greedy anticipation. The gentleman gestures him to stay, takes out another smaller wad out of his pocket and hands that also to the boy who is now about to faint. Finally, the gentleman finds, like me, the tenner he’s been looking for and holds it in his left hand. He then offers his right hand to the boy and asks him to put the wads back there. The amazed waiter hands those over obediently. The gentleman puts the wads back into his pockets, transfers the tenner to his right hand and gives it to the boy with a huge grin that smacks of his limitless generosity. The disappointed boy stands there for a long minute watching the rich man closing the door.


Of course, I did differently. I was not so cruel and sadistic like that dirty-rich guy. I kept the notes in my left hand, searched with the other and finally found my tenner. I handed it to the young man, not looking into his eyes as I was apprehensive of his disappointment.


I exited and as I started walking slowly back home, I felt very guilty. ‘Damn! I could’ve explained the situation to him or requested him to give small change for the fifty-buck note! It was just not right!’ I felt apologetic now and didn’t know how to express that.


All of a sudden, I had a brilliant idea! I took out my mobile phone out of my trouser pocket and dialed the number of my narrator.


I told him my story. My narrator laughed, but he understood my feelings very clearly. He instantly gave me a title of the story and explained why that was most suitable.


Eureka! The title as you all can see on the top of this piece settles everything amicably. It shows how modest, humble and self-deprecating guy I always have been! It expresses the apology crying to come out of me and it’s a public apology as it’s in public domain! ‘I don’t bother if someone sees or acknowledges it or not, the fact of this being is public space is just enough for me!’ I justified the title one more time as now I started walking briskly in a sprightly mood.


I told my family about the nice and caring young man whom I hated to describe as a barber. ‘Oh yes! I understand the dignity of labor, vouch that no work is either high or low and know that all professions are noble—from the scavengers to squillionaires. Besides, the salons are the most essential places for the modern human beings, how to forget the woes in COVID times!’


However, as regards some other professions I do have my reservations. Would you accept the professions of the thieves, the dacoits, the murderers and even of the politicians as noble? The so-practicing professionals might think so, but would you?