It has taken a while for me to realize that my usual 20 percent tip no longer elicits the warm thanks it used to prompt from wait staff at restaurants. At least not in these United States.
And let me explain that my standard 20 percent tip, provided for anything but the most unacceptable service, is always a bit more than 20 percent. I tip on the total, including tax, and I round up. At inexpensive restaurants, I round up considerably. I also add on for truly exceptional service.
This has been a point of pride with me, regardless of my wildly fluctuating income over the years. If I can’t afford to tip well, then I can’t afford to eat out. And it was my understanding that 20 percent was tipping well, 15 percent was standard and 10 percent was pretty damned cheap or a sign of serious dissatisfaction.
There’s a rumor out on the Interwebs that Delta Air Lines is thinking about a discussion of how it might possibly consider reintroducing complimentary hot meal service on long domestic coach flights.
My favorite message board remark, so far, on this possibility: “The only thing more offensive than the airline meal was when the airlines stopped serving them.”
The truth of this rumor is probably irrelevant. Delta may or may not be having meetings where executives bandy about the idea of giving coach passengers hot meals. Executives are forever bandying, which is what passes for leadership these days. It doesn’t matter because Delta will never, ever in a million years do it.
USA Today has listed 10 fast-food chains from other countries that “we want in the USA.”
I can vouch only for one of them, Teremok in Russia. “Banana blini with chocolate” remains my one and only Russian phrase, thanks to Teremok’s blini stands. (Of course, it helps that “banana blini with chocolate” sounds pretty much the same in Russian and English.)
I do want to add two recommendations, though: Cien Montaditos from Spain and Chez Cora from Canada.
The case becomes the lever.
I made a list of the five most useful things I packed for a recent 16-day cruise, a personal list to be sure. This is number 5, not because it was least useful to me but because I have to acknowledge that it’s of use only to wine drinkers. On the other hand, it’s very useful to wine drinkers.
If you’re a beer drinker, substitute a bottle opener. I brought one of those, too.
Anyway, back to wine. Most mass market cruise lines allow you to bring a bottle or two of your own wine on board at embarkation (although not at ports of call, usually.) This is a course of action I highly recommend. You’ll get to choose from a wider variety of wine at a far lower price than you will ever get on board the ship.
If you bring ham back from Spain, be prepared for it to be confiscated at Customs.
We lost about $25 worth last month at the Philadelphia airport. The concern, the agent told us, is hoof-and-mouth disease. Don’t be fooled, as we were, by the shop clerks who tell you that the packaged, vacuum-packed slices of ham are cleared for U.S. Customs. It just ain’t true.
Says the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Information Center: Parma, Iberian or Serrano hams – Call (301)734- 7633 or (301) 734-3277. Only certain plants are certified exporters, and the hams must be accompanied by certificates and seals.
We had the ham and it was sealed, but there were no seals per se and certainly no certificates.