Acronyms are taking over our language. We can thank computers for that, as well as the texting feature on cell phones.


I envision grave evolutionary consequences from this: Entire books will be only three pages long, written in a string of vowels and consonants which everyone, by then, will understand. The only punctuation will be smilie faces, frownie faces and winkie faces. Humans will develop needle-like fingers to accommodate faster cell phone texting skills. There will be more time to do other things. At first, mankind will be happy. Very happy. Everyone will begin to LOL. They won’t be able to stop LOLing. They will LOL until their collective asses fall off. With no asses, they won’t be able to sit endlessly in front of their computers any more. They will become deeply saddened and depressed. They CTFEO (Cry Their Fucking Eyes Out). Blind, rheumy-eyed and despondent, they scratch their heads with their knitting needle fingers, wailing, “TH…TH” (The Horror…The Horror). Eventually, because everyone on the planet has OCD, they scratch their heads so much that they die from the wounds inflicted by the sharpness of their needle-like fingers. It is the end of humanity. RIP, Humankind.


OK, so that’s a bit overdone. So, too, is the gratuitous use of acronyms like LOL. I’ve seen it used as an all-too-common response to benign, stupid, bitter and grossly unfunny comments, seemingly rendered as a courtesy or as a nervous, uncomfortable rejoinder. With the exception of LMAO (Laughing My Ass Off…and, given my evolutionary theory, rendered by a more advanced human), and ROTFLMAO (Rolling On The Floor Laughing My Ass Off…which connotes the possibility of a severe mental disorder), there are neither subsidiary nor expansive degrees to LOL. Nothing like CALB (Chuckling A Little Bit), nor GUIPM (Guffawing Until I Pissed Myself). Everyone is trapped in the same monotone of laughter, seemingly in a thrall of collective psychosis, worthy of a herding to the Booby Hatch for a few solid group therapy sessions…or, at least, maybe a twelve-step program to help them lay off of all the damn LOLing they’re doing…(Laughing Out Loud Anonymous? OMG, what am I doing?)


Having worked in restaurants my entire adult life, there is one acronym with which I am well acquainted: TIPS…To Insure Proper Service. Yesterday, to my delight and dismay, I discovered that the word tips did not originate as an acronym. I was delighted because I realized that I would no longer be littering my speech with yet another acronym. I was dismayed because I could no longer tell the tale of how this word came into being. It is entirely my version, completely made up, the result of hearsay and lazy research habits.


My version went like this: TIPS (and tipping) originated in our culture in the old days of the American West. Saloonkeepers would post a bucket on their bar with the letters TIPS crudely scrawled on it. Poor, dumb, illiterate, thirsty cowpokes couldn’t decipher more than a few letters of anything, but they understood that if they plunked a few coins into the bucket marked TIPS that it would prevent the barkeep from spitting in their whiskey or pissing in their beer. It was extortion and, hence, became an acceptable custom in our culture. Unfortunately, my version and all other similar ones are myths.


The etymology of tips, according to the sources that my lazy research habits revealed, is “uncertain”. One source indicated that it came from the Low German word, tappen, meaning, “to tap”; but it alluded nothing as to how or why tappen evolved into the word tips or the custom of tipping. I suppose I could weave a new Fairy Tale about how the Germans came up with this custom, but that would be disingenuous. I know very little of German history. Besides, the Old West captures everyone’s imagination. The only thing that I’m certain Germany ever captured was Western Europe.


Regardless of where the word or the custom comes from, tipping is deeply entrenched in American culture, particularly with respect to full-service restaurants. Unfortunately, there are many in our culture who haven’t gotten the memo on this yet. There are those who flat-out stiff their server—never to return to the restaurant again; and there are the bad tippers, who develop their reputation on the foundation of returning all too often.


Good to fair tippers comprise the majority of people who dine out. They get the custom. They understand that if you dine out, you pay an extra 15%-20% of your bill for the wonderful service and delicious food, a higher percentage if you are very drunk and, hence, likely to be overly generous. They also understand that if the service sucks and the food is disgusting that they don’t have to leave a cent. And, they’ll never come back, realizing that they might be recognized, and that disgusting, unspeakable things will be done to their food as a reprisal for their stinginess and departure from custom. Low-level extortion is easy to understand.


People who stiff (Sorry, Tipping Isn’t Forthcoming Fuckhead) are rare. Bad tippers are not so rare. Neither of them gets the custom; nor is it likely that they get the fact that they don’t get it. They are invariably clueless, self-possessed, boorish and stupid. Secondary traits in them include being inordinately demanding, loud, patronizing bullies and they usually possess some other type of personal habit or character flaw which would be tolerable in someone who tipped better. They shamelessly remind both staff and owners that they are their “best customer” and that they “spend a lot of money in this place”, suggesting that the business would collapse without their patronage. Basically, they’re assholes.


One such asshole used to dine at my restaurant all of the time. I’ll call him Deathbreath. His breath was horrible. It smelled of a mixture of rotten onions and bad dental hygiene. It was strange that the onion odor was so prevalent…he would always demand that anything onion-like be omitted from whatever food he had ordered. Still, his breath was not breath-like. It was fume-like… a deadly cloud guaranteed to trigger the gag reflex of all but a few.


Deathbreath was in his forties. He was about six-foot-three with long, straight hair well past his shoulders. He had a long face that only a horse trainer could love, with large, clacking teeth like Mr. Ed’s. He always wore the same outfit: a white t-shirt underneath a biker’s silver-studded black leather jacket, tattered boot-cut jeans and steel-toed work boots.


He was some kind of techno-geek, obviously earning enough at this trade to be able to afford to dine at an expensive restaurant every night, but obviously not enough to be able to tip very well. He texted on his cell phone a lot, and would intersperse his monologues with all kinds of acronyms that were completely alien to me. These were enough reasons for me not to like him.


Sometimes, Deathbreath would come to dine with a weird, puzzling entourage in tow. It was usually two or three short, curly-headed boys in late adolescence, dressed in nearly the same outfits as each other, which were also eerily similar to Deathbreath’s outfit. They were always cheerful and soft-spoken. They resembled a jolly little Hobbit Biker Gang, joyfully tagging along with their fire-breathing Middle Earth Wizard and Mentor, who would feed them and school them in the craftsmanship of bad tipping. They never even seemed to mind his awful breath. In fact, they seemed oblivious to his halitosis, and to virtually everything else around them. Quite possibly, the toxicity of their mentor’s breath had lulled them into an early stage of brain damage.


I avoided talking with Deathbreath as much as possible. Acronym abuse and bad breath aside, he was a loud chewer. I hate loud chewers. I hate loud talkers, too. He had the uncanny ability of being able to do both, simultaneously. Chomping loudly, his Mr. Ed teeth would click and clack, as he pontificated his useless opinions, shooting chunks of anything that was in his mouth across the dining room or dribbling down his chin. He was the Wizard of Boorishness. It was a horror show.


The horror show was worse for the servers than it was for the cooks. He usually got exactly the table he wanted because he never bothered waiting a few seconds for the host to seat him. Thereafter, he would pick exactly whomever he wanted to have wait on him, whether it was their table or not. He eschewed male servers, likely reasoning that they were more difficult to bully. He liked female servers, especially ones who were timid, shy and had big boobs. Barring timidity or shyness, the big boobs would always do, providing material for an endless stream of inappropriate, embarrassing comments…this, interspersed with the perpetual demands, special unserviceable requests and the hazard of food shrapnel from his yap causing possible bodily harm…and, of course, at the end of all of this misery and abuse, there was the three percent reward he would shamelessly leave on the table.


Deathbreath seemed to know enough that it isn’t a good idea to piss off the person who was cooking his food…at least, to a degree. He probably believed every urban myth of the irate cook seasoning a diner’s food with any one of several bodily emissions. But cooks aren’t like the barkeeps of the Old West. They’re professionals, too busy to exact vengeance on anybody…besides, cooks seldom bear any ill will towards shitty tippers because they are so seldom tipped. Deathbreath did, however, manage to annoy the cooks…especially me.


Deathbreath ate steak four or five times a week…a one-pound cut of boneless USDA Choice Ribeye. He was always in the Clean Plate Club, consuming all of the meat, gristle and fat with boorish gusto. He always ordered his steak “between medium and medium-well done”. If one thinks that this isn’t an unusual request, I pose this question: On a car, what is the gear between first and second? Of course, the answer is that there isn’t a gear between 1st and 2nd, just as there is no degree of doneness in red meat that is between medium and medium-well. If it does exist, it wouldn’t exist for more than a millisecond. Timing that moment is impossible.


About half of the steaks that I cooked for him were sent back to the kitchen to be “cooked a little more”, even though they had been cooked to the same degree of doneness as the steaks that hadn’t been sent back. Eventually, instead of putting the returned steak back onto the grill, I left it on the plate, counted about thirty Mississippis, and had the steak returned to Deathbreath…whereupon after several loud, chomping bites he would proclaim, “Ahh…just the way I like it”. One time, he sent a steak back to me with the request that it “be cooked a little less”. I was tempted to send the message out to him that the fucking rewind button on our time machine in the kitchen was broken and couldn’t fulfill his request…but I’m a weenie.


Deathbreath’s reign of terror lasted for about four years. It shouldn’t have gone on nearly that long. He enriched nobody’s life, particularly the servers that he witlessly humiliated, rewarding them with a pittance of loose change for their efforts. I could have put a stop to it but, as I’ve mentioned, I’m kind of a weenie…a weenie that is also a little bit of a greedhead…woulda-coulda-shoulda is my mantra.


His downfall came on a busy Friday night. As usual, he seated himself, pushing past customers who were waiting to be seated, and plopped himself down at a recently vacated table which could seat six. The Biker Hobbits were not joining him. He was dining alone. The host politely asked Deathbreath if he would move to another table. He refused. The host politely offered a free beverage as recompense for the “inconvenience”. He refused. The host began to diplomatically explain the problem that Deathbreath was causing, but before he could finish, Deathbreath launched into one of his I’m-your-best-customer-spiels. The host had had enough. He snapped. “Look, asshole,” the host hissed, “either you move to another fucking table or I’ll have you REMOVED from the restaurant…Got it?!” Bully a bully and they always back down.


He left–of course–in a dramatic, angry huff, threatening to never return again. Two days later, against his word, he did return…to ream me out, to tell me how he spent a lot of money in my restaurant, how he was my best customer and how my business would never survive without him and blah blah blah blah blah blah. The weenie in me kept me from responding to his diatribe, or maybe his fumes had lulled me into an early stage of brain death. I was mute. He left, never to be seen again.


Of course I coulda said as he left, ‘GTFO, you stupid SOB’…but I didn’t. WTF, at least I didn’t LOL. ☺