Tea for Two Equals Three?

I am SO woefully mathematically challenged. That’s why I work with words and fiber, not numbers. And that’s why my recent jaunt to a tea parlor left me with egg on my face, so to speak.

A group of ladies from my Sunday School class decided to hold our planning meeting for an upcoming progressive dinner social at the wonderful Victorian Parlor in Spring Grove. Not only do they have fantastic food, but they also have a great collection of old hats that guests are encouraged to wear while enjoying the repast.

We all enjoyed a six-course tea and did manage to do a little planning in between courses and lots of pots of tea before the inevitable time came to pay the bill and leave. You KNOW what’s coming next, don’t you?

Have you ever seen a group of people try to divide a restaurant bill? It’s not a pretty sight. But hey, we weren’t anticipating any trouble because we all owed the same amount so all we had to do was figure out the tip. Amidst the general murmuring, I was doing some quick calculations in my head. Let’s see…..if the bill was $20 apiece, then you’d just have to figure out what 10% was and then double that and you’d have a 20% tip. We’d had excellent service so I really felt the tip should be 20%.

My friend sitting next to me leaned over and asked, “What do you think I should leave for a tip?”

“I’d leave $2.00 if I were you,” I suggested. “That’s what I’m going to do. I know that some would say leave a 15% tip but I really think we should leave a 20% tip. So just put $22 into the pot and you’ll be fine.”

“Great,” she said, as she fished out her money and handed it over to the cashier in our group. I added my $22 to the pot.

Our “cashier” friend, who works for the Department of Banking, I might add, looked at the money and looked at me and said, “Do you need change?”

“Nope, it’s all there. We’re fine,” I assured her.

“You’re sure?” she replied, dubiously.

“Oh, yes…just add it to the pot. We’ve put the tip in and everything.”

“How much should we put in?” asked several other ladies at the table.

“Well, we each put in $22 to include the tip.”

“Oh, great,” they said as they fished in their purses.

Before we left, the owner was nice enough to take our group picture AND give us a guided tour of several rooms in the beautifully restored Victorian home. What a gracious hostess!

Two days later, my husband and I were eating out and when the bill arrived, the total was right around $20. I quickly did a little calculation in my head to figure out the tip. Suddenly I had a VERY sinking feeling.

“George,” I said. “Twenty percent of twenty dollars is four dollars, isn’t it?”

He looked at me as though I was daft and nodded. “I was afraid of that,” I said.

As soon as I got home, I called my friend Linda, who had been collecting the money at our tea party. Mortified, I explained how I was afraid that I might have shortchanged our waitress by giving her a $2 tip instead of $4.00.

“Well, yes, you did. I wondered about that but you were pretty adamant that it was supposed to be $2.00,” Linda replied.

“But Linda…..you KNOW I’m terrible at math. Why didn’t you say something to me?” I wailed.

“I considered saying something but you seemed so sure that I figured you must have your reasons,” was her answer.

“Oh, I can’t believe I did that! That’s not even 15%. It’s 10%. And they gave us such great service. I feel terrible! At least the others gave her a decent tip,” I said.

“No, they didn’t. Everyone put in $2 after you suggested that amount,” Linda continued.

Such is the blessing (and curse) of the gift of persuasion. Sometimes we don’t even know our own power. And when it comes to math, sometimes we shouldn’t even open our mouths.


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