Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Living Wage

How much do you think you should tip the carpenter who builds your house, or the nurse who cares for you through a serious illness, the shoe sales man, the sales lady who drags in mounds of clothes for you to try on? 

Oh there are others I could name but by now you are saying, "what are you nuts, they get paid a good wage to do what they do."

Why do they get paid a good wage or decent wage or a better wage then a, say for instance, waiter or waitress?  these people do a lot for us many of them more then any waiter or waitress in some cases. Like a nurse, or the poor shoe salesperson that brings out mounds and mounds of boxes of shoes for you to try on. 

It does not enter our mind to tip them because we know that, hopefully they are getting better pay then the person who serves us our food.

Today on NPR's Talk of the nation, the topic was, "tipping when money is tight." The host, Neal Conan and his guest, Kimberly Palmer were taking calls from people who depend on tips during this downturn in the economy and asking them how were they managing. 

Many of them said they were loosing as much as half of their income due to people cutting back on what they normally leave. A few of the callers who were in the food service industry commented that they felt that if you can not afford to leave a tip, then either you should stay home or not have extras like dessert so that you will have enough for a tip. And by the way Palmer said that the proper tip now is 20 to 25 %.

Hum, I thought, leave up to one fourth of the cost of the service? Not only do I pay a higher price for the food I am now responsible for the employees raise in his wages. Why is it my responsibility to make sure that this restaurant pays their employees a living wage? 

I thought of the tip jars that are out at the coffee shop where I stand in line for 10 minutes to get a cup of coffee then stand in another line and wait again for it to be made. Mean time I am watching all the seats in the coffee shop fill up so that when I do get my coffee I have no place to sit. And yet, and yet, I'm expected to leave them a tip for the privilege of waiting. I've done all the work, I should get the tip. 

Now, don't think I am a cheap skate. I always leave a tip when I go out to eat, when the waiter or waitress is bringing me my food and gives me decent service. I understand this system and how poorly they are paid. But I think that this system has to be updated. 

The comment, you should not go to a fine dinning restaurant without leaving a tip was what made me think. Especially fine dinning. When a restaurant can charge as much a $1000 a head to dine there, why can't they pay their employees a living wage? Why must their customers do this for the owners? What other employer can pay his people below standard wages and expect his customers to make up the difference?

And these guys are in a culinary union! At least I was when I worked in the industry. I had no choice, and they did jack rabbit for us. 

When in Holland years back, visiting my brother we were out at one of the many wonderful pubs drinking that great trappist beer. I wanted to pay the tab and when doing so my brother said to me, don't leave a tip. I was flabbergasted as the service was great.

He leaned over to me and whispered, they get paid good wages and don't depend on tips like they have to back home, (Meaning America) their not archaic here. 

And that, I believe is the bottom line. Too many business have made themselves successful off the backs of their employees. I would turn that suggestion of. if you can't afford to tip then don't eat out, into, if you can't afford to pay your employees a living in wage, then you should not be in business. I don't believe that any restauranteur would want his patrons staying home because they can't afford to tip. That would just not be good business. 

So maybe it is time for the owners to start putting money into the cookie jar and divvy up.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

When They Call You Must Go

The sun was out, and the whole Koolau range was in view. Sun and blue skies equal no people at the museum. As I stood in the main entrance a few people passed into the Kahili room. Maybe a couple viewed the art in the vestibule. 

In the quiet I heard someone singing. Now you have to remember that lots of people have had ghostly experiences in this hall and I was not sure what I heard. But the sound was definitly there. Then it became muffled. I didn't want to tredge up the two flights of stairs to check what was going on. The only people who had ventured to the upper exhibit area was a very pleasent Hawaiian couple. 

But I still heard the singing and it was coming from above. I called over to security and told them to look into their cameras to see if someone was singing in the photo gallery. 

"Yeah, someone is, let me get one of the secuirty over there." 

Now I could hear the singing clearer and it sounded like chanting. The young guard came through the main doors and headed up the stairs. Soon the chanting became louder and I was curious. So I ascended the stairs also. 

The doors to the exhibit hall had been closed and now one was ajar. I knew that they were supposed to be opened. I entered and saw the guard talking to the male of the Hawaiian Couple. The woman was in a corner, arms raised in suplication, moving gracefyly,chanting. I approached the guard who was now in a mildly heated conversation. 

The Hawaiian man was being told that he could not be chanting or singing or doing anything in the museum without permission and that they had to leave. 

In the past there have been demonstrations and even artifacts have disappeared and the guard was worried that this could be some kind of demonstration. The gentleman was stating that the things of the museum were part of his ancestry and he gestured around the room. 

The woman was still chanting as the discussion went on and then the security received a call from the office asking what was status of the situation. He stated that a woman and man were singing and he was trying to get them to leave. 

I on the other hand saw that they were chanting as I had seen many times before in the museum. I did not feel that they were protesters but that they were paying their respects. Although other chanters always requested permission before doing so. 

After a time the woman finished and came over to us and started speaking Hawaiian. I only understood a word here and there but, really, had no idea what she was saying. When all was said and done it was explained that she had come to say a prayer or a pule. At least that is what I think she said. 

They were from the island of Hawaii. The woman said that she had been called by the spirits of her Kupuna or ancestors. They had been appealing to her to please come to the museum as they were being neglected and hid away. She said that she came to reassure them and to honor them and help them to be at peace. Now she is telling me this in half English and half Hawaiian so I am not sure that I got it all correct. I just knew that maybe my boss, Kealoha, would arrive soon as he would know how to interact. 

Really the chanting was beautiful and she was graceful and kind. And I guess when it comes to the Hawaiian culture my heart goes out to that community for all the suffering that has taken place in the past. I knew that once Kealoha arrived  he would make it all well. 

I mentioned that though nothing was wrong with chanting and that what she was doing was fine they just needed to make arrangements and then I explained to her why the room that she was in was so changed. She was upset at seeing all of the artifacts, that were once in the room, were gone and it was now just paintings. She felt that was why she was being called. I told her that the room had been restored to it's original condition like it was when the Museum opened in 1898.

I told her that many things were going to be different once all restoration was finished and that much more of the Hawaiian artifacts were going to be brought out that weren't displayed before. She was very happy to hear that and asked if she could go on to the other exhibit areas. I said it was fine as long as she didn't chant and that Kealoha would be in soon and she could talk to him. 

As I got  back to the main floor many people had arrived and so I announced that I would be doing a tour and people began to gather. As I started to talk, Kealoha and the Hawaiian couple entered into the Kahili room. Soon sounds of chanting could be heard. All the heads turned. I explained what it was and let them listen for awhile which they did with much appreciation. 

As I was into the middle of my tour the coupled left and nodded as they headed out the door. I felt good, I believe the kupuna, also, felt good, and certainly the visitors enjoyed witnessing a bit of the Hawaiian culture. I love it when that happens. 

The ancestors had called, they were heard and she answered. 

Count Me In

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Birds of a Feather
It feels good to be free

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Fourth of July in Waikiki
Early morning view just kicking back

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Do you want to know about Hawaii from a locals point of view? Where do we like to go? What things do we like to see. This blog is about seeing Hawaii without being trapped. This is a journal about Good eats, Hawaiian events, and looking at the islands through the eyes of someone who has lived here for more then forty years.

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