I stiffed the waitress at the IHOP. It’s not as hard as you might think. I’m walking to my car at the edge of the parking lot, and I smell it even before I see him; the bus boy wheeling a red garbage can full of wet and lumpy black bags out to the dumpster. The more aggressive crows are waiting on the dumpster’s fence; they don’t even “caw.”
He parks the garbage can right behind my car to off-load the trash bags. Sticky clumps of pancake, lemon wedges, empty creamers and eggshells slip out, fall on the blacktop. I get in my car and turn up the A/C so it’s even louder than the radio.
I wait for the guy to finish his trash business when a shadow on the window frightens me. It’s my waitress and the manager – their faces pale but their eyes steely. They’re bent a bit to look into the window so I feel like an animal in a cage. I roll down the window, leave the A/C blasting and the manager says into the wind, “Did you forget something?” They’re not even nervous, like this happens all the time.
I can’t leave. I can’t back out, but I can smell garbage and grease now, and I feel hot and red even with the A/C blasting.
The check was $10 and change, but I only have a ten and a single in my wallet. I give her both bills. The manager exhales away the stink of garbage. “Really, please don’t come back.”