💸 Ask Tip! — "Speechless in Spokane"
The wife of a hardware store clerk seeks justice for her husband in a thankless town.
“Speechless in Spokane”
My husband has worked for thirty-two years at Hal’s Hardware. The Spokane Journal of Business called Frank “King of the Sliding Stepladder.” The man from the paper took a picture of him on the top rung leaning on one foot holding a paint can. He was scared spitless to do it, but Frank’s a smiler alright and also Hal made him.
Well, if Frank didn’t look like heaven shone out of his bottom on that cover. That’s a Spokane Saying! It means sweeter than sucking on a honeysuckle vine.
And believe you me, you have no idea what it takes to be helpful in this town. You learn to hold your tongue inside the city limits. Spokanites were voted the Rudest Small to Medium City in the Pacific Northwest, and not just by the National Parkers driving through from Portland. Those Electric Car People make Frank charge them up out back like he’s an Oregon gas station attendant. It boggles.
But you better believe they’ve never had a kinder, gentler hardware store clerk in Frank. His heart is as soft as butter. You can’t imagine the things he has to do for them without a single tip in thirty years, let alone your basic Walla Walla Welcome. Well, we’re a world away from Walla Walla, WA, Tippi Pointier! Butter my biscuit, it makes the head whirl.
Anyway, my mother told me “it’s all talk until you make a list.” I love, love, love that saying. So an XXX and a Ho-Ho-Ho!!!!
Okay, then, here you go: my list of things Frank’s never been tipped for. Cross my Hot Hanford Heart, Tippi. Cross my Hot Hanford Heart.
Frank explained the metric system to the mechanic with the glasses from the Chevy dealership. And no tip!
Helped Hal’s wife spend two hours finding the “perfect grey” from an old bucket of swatches.
Searches for screw lengths and sizes that plum haven’t been invented. Daily!
Boxes up “defective” toys the day after Christmas for Hal. Every year. Mark your calendar, Tip. Mark your calendar.
Ran around in circles once chasing his tail for a 10W bulb because “Hal told me you have it” when Frank knew durn well the customer was fibbing. Hal ain’t been in his own store since wax candles.
Demonstrate a toilet plunger for that widow in the Employees Only bathroom. Three times now he’s rolled up his sleeves for that woman. Oh, the way she winks and nods at him like a broken doll.
Superglue a hubcap on a bridal car without so much as a thank you from the father of the bride. Mint and coin it, Tippi. Mint and coin it.
Gets pushed back and forth on his sliding ladder by the seventh graders. 3:35 sharp. Five minute walk from Lewis & Clark Middle School. You can set your watch.
Haggled over roofing nails. Thank the high heavens that horrible man moved back to Moses Lake. Between you, me and the lampost, those people should have won the Rudest City in the Whole United States and then rolled up second place behind them and swept the podium. My goodness.
Deals with Lori who is “Spokane Famous” for wandering lost through the aisles like Sacagawea. That woman never put a single product back in the same place twice.
Finding the “thingamajigs for the thingimabobs.” How does anyone make sense of that? You gotta take my word on this one, Tippi: this one’s hourly.
But you know who gets all the tips at Hal’s Hardware? Guess!
The summer girl at the cash register. That’s who. The one who can’t remember if Hal’s accepts Apple Pay and, my dear, it’s already August.
Hundreds of dollars a week she makes with her mouth spread open dumber than a Columbia River trout. You won’t find her with one foot on the top rung sliding up and down the aisles swinging a paint can.
Slap your grandma if the day Frank was born wasn’t the day tips were invented and then not a thin Seattle dime to the man.
Speechless in Spokane
Chère Speechless in Spokane,
Mettons les cartes sur la table.
I can’t comprehend a word that you’ve written. Pas un mot!
It wasn’t until I read “the metric system” that I had the slightest clue that this was English. You must use simple language that your reader understands. “Thingamajigs for the thingimabobs.” C’est presque une provocation!
Alors, voyons ce que ça donne quand tu taste of your own medicine!
Comme vous le savez, je ne suis pas “a native English speaker” et je passe beaucoup de temps à traduire les idiomes hétéroclites comme “XXX” and “ho-ho-ho” mais vous m'avez complètement perdu à "winking and blinking like a doll" et "buttering your biscuit" et “charging them up out back” et “screws with all lengths and sizes” et “sweeter than sucking on a honeysuckle vine.”
Mon dieu, femme!
C'est une vulgarité étonnante, même pour an American.
Même selon les "progressive norms of French culture” en matière de sexualité humaine. Ma bouche est tombée ouverte comme “a Toulouse Trout” pour indulger cette vulgarity.
Revenons à nos moutons…
Comment proposez-vous que les clients supposed to catch up on thirty years of tips à Frank ? Leave them on a paint can with a sweet little note ?” Glisser un billet de cinq dollars parfumé dans son tablier ? Invite Frank to his daughter’s honeymoon ? Superviser l'ouverture des Christmas presents under the tree?
Je ne suis pas a miracle worker. Suggèrez-vous qu'il follow the customer to the cash register like a stray dog et se batte avec “the girl who works the lamposts” pour savoir qui reçoit combien ?
Cette affaire entière est simplement repugnante et la incessant repetition! Ooh-la-la!
C’est comme reading on a merry-go-round.
Les habitants de Seattle étaient “spot on, Speechless. Spot on.”
Je vous prie de bien vouloir prendre note de mes réserves.
Madame Tippi POINTIER (to you)
The Weekly Ask Tip! Reader Challenge!
Et maintenant, the weekly challenge for my beloved readers! Let me know how you would respond to Speechless in Spokane, and I will Venmo a $2.82 tip for la meilleure réponse, comme if faut!
Laugh at something. Roughly twice a month.
Professional advice on the etiquette of tipping is in a state of rapid and unpredictable change. Our answers may change over time to address evolving circumstances and point-of-sale technology.
A special shout out to Claire H. A. Thibault of Grande-Plage-sur-Tourbelle who was invaluable with the translation.
The Saturday Morning Post will begin my posting of Threshold, the first serialized section of 365. I’m seven. I live in Bergamo, Italy and, spoiler alert, nothing will be remotely funny for the next fifty birthdays. Sackcloth and ashes for you, my glum friends. Next Wednesday: “Actor — Headshot.” Also, I’m afraid, a little glum.
And… a question for my Silent Crickets. I have become fascinated over the last year by a peculiarity in how the mind refines knowledge and some things — two very specific ones — that I’d like to share and hear opinions on. One of them, curiously, involves ear training, the other making coffee. Not kidding.
Would anyone be interested in using the Substack Chat feature to discuss, my Crickets? Or will it be crickets, Crickets?, please put your hand down. I’m asking the other students.