Yesterday was a busy day. In addition to the juvenile dilinqu—I mean, in addition to the morning school groups, my afternoon “Collection Highlights” tour was observed and evaluated. Luckily I had a great group of inquisitive people, so the hour went quickly and all went very well. After I wrapped things up at our last stop (painted frescoes in the Theater gallery), I stuck around answering questions for one particularly interested lady. As I was talking to her, a man from the group who I recognized as being the guy with the Irish accent a few sharp questions reached over and awkwardly shoved a five dollar bill into my hand. I was still holding my headset in my hand (we use microphones so people can hear us in the more crowded spaces), so he had a difficult job fitting the bill in there as well. By the time I recovered from my surprise, the man had dashed off and faded into the crowd.
Believe it or not, I have been tipped on my tours before, and the experience is always awkward on a number of levels. The last time it happened was after a VIP tour of the King Tut exhibit at LACMA. That time was uncomfortable as well (it always is, because tipping is not a usual practice in my line of work), but I was mainly offended a) because I was doing my job and I wasn’t aiming for tips and b) this was an incredibly wealthy man who probably had a weekly income that could sustain me for the rest of my life, and he only gave me a five. Come on! If you’re going to go through the social awkwardness of the process at least make it worth it. Knowing how out of touch with reality these types are, I’m guessing he thought that five would buy me groceries for a week. Anyhow, this time around it was quite different since the guy who tipped me was obviously just an average tourist from Europe. Once it was all said and done I laughed about it with the other teachers, and they said it’s happened to them before as well—particularly with foreigners. Maybe in Europe it’s the custom to tip the guides. If that’s the case, they must think all Americans are stiffs because Eric and I never tipped our guides when we were in Italy and I certainly didn’t see any of the other Americans doing it. Of course, if you ever find yourself abroad and accused of gipping the guide, just tell them you’re Canadian.