We were driving down a busy two-lane surface street in Portland, Oregon. We were in the left lane. A few blocks away we would need to make a right turn in order to reach our destination which was, ostensibly, the ultimate goal of the expedition.
You can probably see where this is going. Kudos to me. I have done my job as a writer. This is called foreshadowing.
Everyone in the right lane was somehow able to sense my need and aggressively squeezed together like sardines in a can. It was truly something to behold.
Dammit, I thought angrily to myself. I knew I should have changed lanes when that open spot presented itself 42 miles back. Who knew that would be my one and only opportunity? But that’s the way this shit works.
I could have done what everyone else does and slammed on my brakes while nudging to the right daring everyone to miss me but that’s not my way. I like to be different. I like the path not taken.
In this case that was a few blocks further on down the road. And that’s where this adventure really begins.
The restaurant industry tends to be cyclical. It’s one trend followed by another. You’re cutting edge for a while and then you’re chasing the pack. It can be a real rat race. Perhaps lemmings are involved?
Yes, I’m trying to include lots of references to rodentia. We’re talking about restaurants here. I don’t recognize sacred cows. Like always I gotta keep it classy.
There’s a trend where celebrity chefs are seen everywhere except in their own kitchens. I’m looking but not looking at you, Naomi Pomeroy. Squee. One final Beast reference.
Honey Badger, though, will have the last word. Keep reading.
Living in Oregon we don’t know much about sales taxes. That basically means we’re idiots. We’d rather pay a higher income tax than allow tourism pick up a part of our tab. You know, like we do when we visit most other states. Oregonians are rabidly opposed to the concept of a sales tax, which is understandable, but it only ends up shooting us in the foot. Some would actually consider a sales tax if it was accompanied by offset of equal amount on our income taxes. Unfortunately no one trusts the politicians that much.
I have to admit, it is pretty nice to be given a receipt and pay what’s show on the receipt. Too bad all states don’t do it that way. If my bill in an Oregon restaurant is $19.73 then that’s exactly what I pay. And I tip on that amount. Simple. Easy.
Occasionally we make a kibble run across the Washington border. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump across over mighty Columbia River. We don’t do it often, though, since it is means making a cash contribution of 8.4% to our neighbors to the north when they don’t do the same thing for us.
Correction: The current sales tax in Vancouver, WA, is 8.400 percent. Isn’t it funny how sales tax are one of those things that always get calculated to that fifth digit of precision?
This morning, though, I decided to grab some breakfast in downtown Vancouver. I’ve reproduced our ticket from the meal in the image to the right. Yes, I used the Comics Sans font because the situation fucking demands it.
- $1.75 for a cup of diner coffee? Pro: Free refiles. Cons: That’s the same price as a small black coffee at Starbucks except it was barely quaffable.
- Note that the location for “tax” is left blank even though we’re in a taxing situation.
No tax shown? What’s up with that? Don’t they have to tell you?
Then comes the credit card receipt. Although we were told our meal was $19.73 the amount on the receipt is $21.39. What magic is this? Logic and math skills dictate that the amount of tax must have been $1.66. I can’t quite do the division in my head but that pencils out to be a tax rate of 8.4316 percent.
What the hell? Turns out the actual tax was $1.65732 so they rounded it up to the nearest penny. Voila! A higher tax rate is born. As far as I’m concerned the great State of Washington now owes me $0.00268. Can I put on a lien on their ass?
That, however, is not the point. Take a careful look at that receipt. What, exactly, is being asked of me? If one isn’t careful, one might assume that the tip is supposed to be a function of $21.39. Remember, that’s the price of the meal bloated with the added taxation.
Is this some sort of VAT situation? (Just like the food?) What’s “value added” here? Not only did you get me to offset your income taxes with my sales tax donation, but you expect me to voluntarily pay extra for the privilege? Is this a vigorish? Is some guy named Guido in the back going to break my legs if I don’t comply? Does the house always have to win?
In this particular situation I tipped 20 percent. Based on my sales volume, the difference between tipping on the pre-tax amount (or not) is only 33 cents. Either way, it’s not a big deal. But, to me, it’s the principle of the thing. I tipped 20 percent. But if my server looks at it the wrong way, she’ll be thinking it was only 18 percent.
What do you think? Do you tip based on the overall total or the pre-tax amount? Or, like me, are you simply going to shun all states with sales taxes?
“This post doesn’t have a price tag? It must be free, right? Ha ha ha ha ha ha!”
In response, the Abyssian customer service associate doesn’t lose his shit and calmly points at the the wall. “Clearly you did not see our sign.” It reads:
“The next customer to crack the ‘it must be free’ joke on an unmarked item will be stabbed in the eye. Thank you for shopping Abyss Inc.”
–Our humorous sign (patent pending)
And no, this post is not free. By reading this far, per our implied EULA buried on some other page you’ve never visited, you already owe me $2.99. I’d immediately quit reading if I were you.
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The place where I come from is a bit unusual. It’s a place in the Pacific Northwest where you can still go out and stake your claim. Literally, thanks to the General Mining Act of 1872. Yes, 1872. As in 141 years ago. Yes, just seven years after the Civil War. Outdated much?
Some miners will stay up in the hills year-round, utterly alone, and living in shacks with no electricity. Every few months they drive their pickup trucks into town and load up on supplies. Then it’s right back into them thar hills.
As you might imagine, that kind of lifestyle combined the total lack of human socialization can make them a bit eccentric. I hope to experience something similar on my one-way mission to Mars. (I’ll use the 1872 law to stake a claim in the cargo bay and shoot anyone who trespasses under interstellar law.)
Meanwhile, I have a person in my life who acts a lot like this. Allow me to introduce Emily, our former landlady. She’s elderly and lives alone in the hills outside of town with her cats. And, like her distant miner counterparts, she’s a bit eccentric.
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FADE IN GRAPHIC: PRESENT DAY, 9:37 AM.
FADE IN to reveal two plain, white walls. The wall on the right contains a window with blinds, drawn up, revealing a fence, trees and a grass lawn. The sky is blue and the sun shines. The sound of a lawn mower can be heard in the distance. Birds chirp. In front of the other wall is a computer desk and chair. A computer, Apple, is turned on and displaying the INTERNET.
In the chair in front of the computer sits a man, HERO. A small cell phone is in his hand and held to his ear. His other hand is holding a piece of paper, previously folded, which has now been opened up.
HERO LOOKS AT piece of paper.
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