Gold rushes unearth human nature horror stories. Precious few mine wealth from such circumstances. Many more are left to the muck and mire of greed and want.
In the hospitality trades, the high roller is the rich vein of our gratuity-grubbing existences. Tap into the right one, we think, and we'll have it made.
But consider a certain Ms. Greedy I once worked with years ago at a South Scottsdale burger bar (circa 1985). When a mad tipper surfaced in her station and started leaving extra c-notes on his ten-dollar lunch tabs, she managed to turn a windfall into a shit-storm in short order.
"Did you hear?" One of my table-hopping cohorts shared the buzz around the buss station with me one evening. "Some guy left Daphne two hundred bucks today."
"No shit?" We shook our heads, covetously contemplating such luck, before considering the possibilities.
"Was he drunk?" I asked the obvious question.
"There was only a burger and iced tea on the bill. I saw it myself," Mr. Cohort answered.
"How'd you see the bill?" His story wasn't making sense.
"She showed off the receipt to all of us before she left." That was certainly understandable.
"Maybe the credit card's stolen." Cohort waxed cynical.
"Good call." Green with Envy Me agreed. "You watch. She'll probably have to pay it back."
Two days later, Mr. Big Spender struck again.
"Can you believe it?" Sarah, Daphne's best friend, brought me up to speed. She was walking out as I was heading in.
"Daphne's tip? Yeah, I heard." I felt so jealous just thinking about it.
"No. She got another one."
"Un-fucking-believable. Who is this guy?"
"Nobody knows." Sarah shrugged.
"Nobody knows?" I didn't get it.
"Daphne's not telling. She didn't say a word about it until after she did her check-out," Sarah snickered. "She's keeping sugar daddy under wraps."
"Bitch," I blurted.
The following afternoon, all hell broke loose. I walked in at the tail end of it.
"Fuck you!" Daphne back-pedaled passed me, shouting at someone across the still half-full dining room. It turned out to be our day manager, Denise. She was red-faced and staring-down Daphne from the front door. The restaurant appeared to be at a standstill. The customers and staff just looked slack-jawed at each other
"And you! You're supposed to be my friend!" Daphne turned on Sarah in her tirade. "That's my customer, bitch!"
"Well, he was sat at my table, so fuck off!" Sarah bit back.
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It was a world-class cat fight. Loud. Out in the open. Hiss and spray, start to finish. What happened, of course, was that Mr. Big Spender showed up again. Manager Denise recognized him, and made the decision to get diplomatic and share the wealth among the servers. But when she sat him in someone other than Ms. Greedy's station, the fur flew. Daphne got into it with Denise shortly thereafter and walked out. That's right. She quit her job, just as her ship had come in. Sarah, meanwhile, got fired for dropping f-bombs in the dining room, only minutes after the thrill of her own newfound fortune.
Surprisingly, Mr. Big Spender, who witnessed the whole episode, stayed around for another week or so after that, dropping close to two grand in gratuities before disappearing just as suddenly as he had appeared. He never explained himself or the reasons behind his generosity in any way. He just handed out easy money, something we'd all like to get our hands on one way or another.
And we all handled it badly; from those few who benefitted, to the rest of us who just had to hear about the good fortune of others.
There's a valuable lesson there somewhere. And I'm still working hard to learn my share of it.