“Thank you,” he said to the waitress as she dropped off the check. I watched in amusement as he squinted his eyes in thought. It wasn’t a matter of the math, it’s never a matter of the math, so it sort of led to confusion on my part.

“What’s the trouble?” I asked, placing my hand on his wrist.
“It’s the tip,” he said. “Normally I would tip high because we’ve been here so long… but there is the matter of your cup.”

We were at my usual post-church bruncheonette and I had ordered the same thing as usual – The Classic, sunny with bacon. He’d ordered some masterfully healthful and messy thing which caused quite the commotion, frankly, but either way he was hung up on my coffee cup.

It had lipstick on it.

Restaurant table settings are a lot like bathrooms. They are used by many people before and after you, all in varying states of health and sickness. They are cleaned regularly to protect you from the bodily fluids of others, though we hope the table settings are washed each time unlike bathrooms.

Most importantly, though, is the illusion the two share.

The illusion is that of freshness. The idea that no one else has ever been here before, has ever used this before. It’s not that we’re so naive as to think that no one has really ever used that mug or sat on this toilet, we know we’re neither the first nor the last. There is an essential truth, however, in that ‘first footprint’ mentality.

If there is a lipstick smudge, we send the mug back. If there is a toilet with any remnant of someone else, sprinkles on the seat or a poor job of flushing, then we just refuse to continue. We’d rather burst than go in there with someone else’s germs.

Of course, if we stop to think about it, we know that the germs are there all the time. This doesn’t stop us, of course, but there it is.

“I think,” he said, signing the bill with a flourish, “that I’ll give them a normal tip.”
“Good thinking, babe.”
“Ready?” he said, offering me his hand.

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