Since we're devoting our entire Food Issue to restaurant service, we asked waiters to do what they're normally not allowed to do while waiting tables: talk back.

We invited five local waiters from different types of restaurants to The Stranger offices for an informal discussion about what it's like waiting tables in Seattle--covering everything from bad tippers and crazy restaurant owners and job security to demanding customers, waiting on celebrities, and bugs in the salad.

Alan Chianese, 44, is a veteran of the service industry, and currently works at Flying Fish.

David Kim, 27, has been working in restaurants since he was a teenager, and can now be found serving dinner at local culinary temple Canlis.

Kelly Meister, 33, has worked in nearly every type of restaurant, but has found a comfortable home at Ristorante Machiavelli on Capitol Hill.

John Rutledge, 25, has only been at Belltown hotspot Axis for about six months, and is fairly new at restaurant work.

Megan Thompson, 27, has only been waiting tables for a couple of years, and currently divides her time between Cyclops and East Pine Street's 611 Supreme cafe and crêpe bistro.

Dan Savage, 33, waited tables for years before he became a columnist, author, and editor of this paper. I'm 26 years old, and before I joined the Stranger staff in 1999, I also waited tables for a living, and worked in restaurants all through high school.--Min Liao

"What do you REALLY do?"

Dan Savage: How did all of you get into waiting tables? It's one of those jobs you tend to get sucked into by accident, right?

Megan Thompson: For me it was only a couple years ago, when I was in school....

John Rutledge: I started about two and a half years ago too; but my first year here in Seattle I worked with developmentally disabled people. And [this particular group] of people I worked with became really difficult--the guys were getting really violent. So I finally got out of that kind of job market; you know, I was in it in the first place to kind of feel fulfilled, to feel great, and then I just finally had enough, and wanted to try--

Min Liao:--you wanted to make a hundred bucks a night!

John: Right. I just wanted to be a bit more selfish.

Kelly Meister: I'm a career waiter. I've been doing this since I was 15. My first job was at a convalescent home, working in the dining hall.... I've also worked at Howard Johnson's on the turnpike... that was awful. I worked at Two Dagos from Texas [in Belltown], like nine years ago, on Biker Night. I've worked at every sort of restaurant. I've done the fine-dining thing, too... but now I prefer the casual kind of atmosphere.

Min: And you've hit your stride at Machiavelli. Where, by the way, the service is so seamless.

Kelly: Well they're the best people I've ever worked for. I mean, you know how crazy restaurant owners are--and [the owners of Machiavelli] aren't like that. Yeah, I do what I want, I pretty much make my own hours, I make good money, and we're all a family.

Alan Chianese: I've worked in a whole bunch of places, working my way up, and you get into the lifestyle of being a waiter--which is traveling a lot, and working specific hours, and making good money--and then you've been doing it for 25 years. I started in New York, but I've moved around a lot, and waited tables in Colorado, California--

Min:--and now you feel like you can find good work anywhere you decide you want to live.

David Kim: I started working in my first restaurant when I was 14, and then I started waiting tables, and then you really can't quite get out of it, you keep getting pulled back in. And it's not like in Europe, where there's a certain level of prestige for waiters; here it's like, "You're a server? So you go to school? What do you do?"

Alan: Right. "What do you REALLY do?" [Everyone laughs.]

Dan: Is that the worst part about being a waiter, the assumption that it isn't a real job and that you're just doing it until something else comes along?

Kelly: Sure, but you get used to it after a while.

John: Although after [waiting tables] for a couple years I do feel the need to get something more fulfilling in my life.

Dan: People talk about waiting tables like people talk about the Mob... you know, trying to get out of "the life"... but getting pulled back in....

Min: It's the cash--that's what's so addictive about it, what makes it as seductive as the Mob.

The Lifestyle

Dan: So, okay, the cash is seductive; what is it about the lifestyle that is seductive?

Alan: Well, it's a lifestyle where you're able to travel; and you get to keep working with a lot of different people. If you pick the right restaurant, you're going to be working with a very interesting group, like at Flying Fish--they travel, they read, they have a lot of interests, they're not your run-of-the-mill types, they also know a lot about food and wine--and I think that's very rewarding. It's not nine to five, it's an alternative lifestyle--and once you get used to that, sometimes it's hard to go back to the other lifestyle.

Kelly: It's also getting to meet different people every day; you don't have to see the same faces daily, like if you worked in an office.... I mean, waiting tables is different every day, you know? You don't have to sit in some cubicle--or whatever, I don't even know what people sit in, I've never done it--and it's just very interesting work. And you network, you meet so many people. I mean it's just amazing.

Dan: What are the downsides? Besides secondhand smoke.

John: There's just loads....

Dan: What are you giving up when you're a career server?

Alan: A lot of job security; you don't have job security.

Min: Right. Restaurants are a high-risk business: They close, they have slow nights, slow seasons, waiters get fired....

Kelly: We have job security at Machiavelli.

Alan: You don't have paid vacation and stuff like that. You don't have typical corporate benefits.

Kelly: But it depends on where you are.

Megan: I've only worked for really small, independent places, so everybody is pretty much like, "Oh, you want a day off? Take it." You pretty much get what you need.

Min: But then what about medical insurance and stuff like that? Back in New York, none of the restaurants I worked in, even full-time, offered insurance. If anything serious had happened to me, I'd only have a coffee can full of cash--and I'd be seriously fucked.

Megan: I fortunately have it through school; and I've never had anything come up where I need that, but I know people who have, and the places they've worked for have come through for them.

Kelly: [To Alan.] Does the Flying Fish offer any insurance?

Alan: They do.

Kelly: I'm covered too.

David: [Canlis offers insurance too], but it's like anywhere else--we get it taken out of our checks. But one of the downfalls for me is--and I don't know about you guys--but my body's sore all the time, and my back and my arms; it's like what everyone at office jobs talks about....

Dan: Carpal tunnel?

David: Yeah, only from carrying trays. Or at the end of the night, my feet are so... I'm just too young to start breaking down.

Kelly: And remember how awesome you were when you were younger, and you just ran around all night long, and you never missed a beat? And now you're just... watching all the young people. I mean, I have to go to the gym all the time just to keep up with the pace of my job.

Min: And forget it if you're wearing a stupid uniform, or high heels.

Alan: I had to wear a conductor hat at my first job.

Conductor Hats and Low Blood Sugar

Dan: Yeah, there's often a lot of humiliation that comes along with being a waiter, whether it's some place that puts you in a ridiculous outfit, or a place where you have to pretend the crazy owner isn't crazy, or that you have to interact with an alcoholic cook... and often waiters are put in these impossible situations where you're everybody's whipping boy: The customers whip you, the owners whip you, and the kitchen whips you. How do you deal with being in that impossible position without losing your self-respect?

Alan: You control them--it's what you do in all of your life.

Dan: But how?

Alan: I mean, I've worked with some of the craziest people, and I'll tell them, "You will never talk to me like that, ever." I don't care if they're the owner or a customer or anybody in my life, they just don't do it. And you learn how to do that. I don't think you start out like that--I mean, yeah, I wore a little conductor hat too. But you learn after a while that you just don't take shit from people, and people respect that. That's just part of being a waiter: You're a psychologist, basically. You have to know how to deal with people in all their wacky ways.

Kelly: I've had customers who have treated me like such shit, until literally I'm like, "No. I'm not doing this for you. You sit over there. I'll be with you when I can."

Alan: Well, people are stressed when they're hungry, you know, the low blood sugar thing. When people come in hungry, you just have to grab 'em and take control of the situation.

Megan: [I was a cocktail waitress] at Cyclops for a while, and that was awful. I would do that on weekends, and that was when I was pathetic with my life and I would get off work and cry....

Min: YES! Me too. I was at my most depressed when I cocktailed.

Dan: Why?

Megan: There's just something about being a cocktail waitress... because you have to keep going back to the tables, because it's your job, and the customers think that you like them--because you keep coming back--and you're like, "No, I'm coming back because it's my JOB. I'm being nice because I'm supposed to be." And then they get drunker. And some of my tables would actually leave me notes, sometimes rating me: "We think you're hot," or whatever. But, you know, after you've spent two hours getting these people drunk and lighting their drinks on fire for them, and telling them to stop standing on [the furniture]--

Min:--and it's been a nine-hour shift, and you're fighting your way through a thick crowd with a tray above your head, loaded with full drinks--

Megan:--there's really no way to stand your ground and really stand up for yourself, because the position itself is just so....

Customer Service

Dan: Yes, but one of the things that customers say is that waiters flirt. And waiters do flirt, because flirting makes the tip--I mean, it's part of the job. You have to be ingratiating in a way that people are usually ingratiating when they're flirting with you... and sometimes you do flirt and pick up a customer. I know I've bagged a couple.

Megan: Some people want that from a dining experience. But this is when it's like psychology: Some people want you to be sassy and rude, and some people want you to leave them alone, and some want you to fawn all over them. You're essentially entertainment.

Dan: Or a whore.

Megan: Or a whore.

Min: Well it's fine to be sassy and flirty, especially when you're cocktailing--it's part of how you're making money. But then at the end of the night you're cleaning up puke, and there is just nothing sadder.

Pressed Ham and Other Atrocities

Dan: So what's the worst behavior you've seen from a customer?

John: Somebody once tore our whole [bathroom] sink off. There was water just spraying everywhere.

Min: Somebody tore your SINK off?!

Megan: One lady came in by herself and ate almost all her food, then sent it back--I guess she didn't like it--and actually got in my face and started yelling at me.

Kelly: One guy came in and started beating off. [Everyone screams.] He just came in, just walked off the street--and we were in the middle of dinner, so he sat down at a table that was set, and just pulls down his pants, and he had a paper towel with him. And we were like, "Okay, sir, let's go. You're outta here!"

Alan: A couple months ago a guy came right up to the front window [of Flying Fish] and just pulled down his pants and put his cheeks in the window.

Min: Dan's done that to me. My office has a glass wall--he can't resist.

Dan: It's called a pressed ham.

Alan: So as the pressed ham was going on, [our] manager was dealing with that; but then some other guy is lying in the restaurant's hallway, upchucking, just lying there... he just stopped breathing. So we call the paramedics. Then we try to get Pressed Ham Guy away from the windows, because all the customers were horrified--but then he goes running down the street to Axis, and [our manager] follows him down to Axis and your [pointing to John, who works at Axis] manager started talking with [Pressed Ham], and then Pressed Ham takes a swing at the Axis manager! Meanwhile, back at the Flying Fish, as the paramedics are trying to deal with the guy passed out in the hall, the paramedics' little gurney started rolling away out on the sidewalk--it just took off and went flying down the street, and knocked some lady down.... [Everyone is laughing.]

Dan: That's like a Chevy Chase-Goldie Hawn movie!

David: I'll tell you one thing, a lot of people steal things from Canlis--things like silverware. And there's a little private room upstairs, and... ah, forget it. I could get in trouble.

It's a Glamorous Life

Dan: Everyone's got their most-famous-person-ever-waited-on story.

John: Yeah, at Axis--baseball players, basketball players... a lot of girls coming up to them, rubbing up against them....

Min: John Corbett would go into Axis sometimes when I cocktailed there.

John: But I have to say, Warren Moon has come in a couple times, and that guy is one of the classiest customers I've ever taken care of.

Kelly: Patrick Swayze. I don't really get too many... Helena Christensen, a couple years ago during the film festival.

Megan: I waited on one guy from Pearl Jam once, but I didn't even know who he was. After he left, everyone was like, "Do you know who that WAS?" And I was like, "Nooooo...."

Alan: My two favorites are Lawrence Olivier and Julia Child.

Dan: Oh, very glamorous.

David: Conan O'Brien was in Canlis recently.

Min: Was he a good tipper?

David: Yeah, yeah. A real nice guy.

Bad Waiters, Unhappy Diners

Min: Everyone always goes on and on about shitty behavior from customers, but what about shitty behavior from other waiters? When I waited tables, I always knew when I fucked up; and either there was something I could do to fix the situation, or I would just start cringing and avoiding the table altogether--which only made it worse. But I knew when to admit it was my fault. And now, when I go out to eat, of course I'm going to be nice and tip well, but I'm also sometimes hypercritical. Because I know when I'm getting bad service. It's that much more frustrating because I've been in the waiter's shoes. It's like, "Why aren't you being a good waiter?"

Alan: Are you asking for it?

Min: Um, sometimes. I guess sometimes not.

Alan: I mean, especially in Seattle, people do not ask for what they want, and they think [their waiter is] gonna read their mind. And they sit there and pout until dessert comes, and then they'll say something. Or they're in a hurry, and when the dessert menu comes they'll say, "Oh, we have to make a show." And it's like, "You should have told us that before."

Megan: I got that last night.

Min: At what point, as a waiter, do you say to yourself, "Okay, I've lost this table. I've done everything wrong"?

Kelly: Well, some people you just can't make happy. And they're actually just that bored that they have to come in and project their misery on somebody else.

John: Oh, I've definitely had those. This one guy comes in and just criticizes everything... the cocktail waitresses won't even wait on him anymore. Yesterday he complained about our ICE. He told us our cubes were "insufficient" because they melted too fast.

Min: So, what is unacceptable service for you when you go out to eat?

Kelly: I hate the lack of friendliness sometimes. I mean, I can see when someone's busy, but when someone comes to my table and they just don't give a shit that you're there, that really bothers me. It's like, you don't have to entertain me, but just smile.


ohn: I have to agree with that. I could have a dinner where I don't care for the food that much, that's fine; but a bad attitude is going to spoil the evening for me more than the food is.

Megan: I mean, if the waiter doesn't want to be there, then FOR SURE you don't want to be there either. It usually shows that the restaurant isn't being run well if the employees are miserable.

Alan: I think the waiter should be able to be perceptive. You know, you'd think they would hurry up and get over to you if you're sitting by yourself and you just want to get in and out. Whereas if I'm there with a friend, chatting it up, they know they have some time to do whatever they need to do, and leave us alone, and just read the situation. [But] I've learned not to ruin my dinner out because of my own mood. Usually I'm out with somebody who I'm having fun with, so the service isn't really that important, you know?

Min: What breaks my heart is when the sense of resentment from my waiter is so palpable. Like, if they take a drink order and I say, "No, water's fine for now," instantly I can see on their face that they've made up their mind about me--that I'm not going to tip them well, that I'm a cheapskate, and they're not going to bother with me. And all I said was, "No, water's fine for now." How do they know I'm not spending a lot of money later? There's that instant judgment.

Alan: Well, it's a business. You want to make money.

Min: I know, I know, I'm guilty of that as a waiter too, but when I'm a customer....

David: And what if they have water through dinner, and then get a bottle of Dom Perignon for dessert? You just never know. Anyway, the best tippers are the people who are happy to be there.

Kelly: Those are my favorite customers, because I love finding the table where it looks like this is their one night out, and I just want to go over and make them have the most fabulous time, because this is special for them, and I don't really care if they leave me 10 percent because they don't have any money. But then again [to David], you work in a really high-end place, and have a five-table section and they're going to be sitting there for three hours--so tipping is an issue. It's not an issue for me, because [at Machiavelli] we turn tables every half hour.

"The Chef Is Not Bald"

Dan: One of the things I always found after waiting tables for so long is that if I get a salad and I find a bug in it, I'll just pick the bug out, throw it over my shoulder, and keep eating. Because I mean... we've all been in a restaurant kitchen.... [Everybody laughs.]

Kelly: I know! I mean, the chef is not bald, you know?! Occasionally, it's going to happen--and it just amazes me how disgusted people get. I mean, it's a fucking hair, all right? Take it out!

Alan: Exactly! I mean, you're eating a dead cow that's been raised in its own shit. You want to really know what's going on?

Dan: But how do you communicate that? Customers expect you to be mortified when there is a bug in the leafy greens... that grow outside... where the bugs are. And how do you accommodate? [Everyone starts talking all at once.]

Alan: [Yelling] Just eat it! Just eat the bug!

Kelly: I guess it depends on how they act. If they're okay, then I'm just like, "I'll get you another one." But if they're freaking out, then I'll just say, "Yeah, the chef's not bald."

David: The problem is, people love telling their friends about the bug they found in their salad at so-and-so restaurant.

Alan: I used to work in a steakhouse where we served the wine in little carafes. So this lady is drinking her glass of wine and she went to pour herself more, and there was a spider in it--one of those big black hairy ones! And the spider had weaved a web in there, so the spider didn't come out when she poured it--it was hanging on to its web. And the bartender didn't see it, the cocktail waitress didn't see it, the lady didn't see it....

Dan: Did she finally notice it?

Alan: Yeah, she showed it to me.

Dan: Did she have a heart attack?

Alan: No, she was really cool about it.

Dan: She must have worked at a restaurant.

Megan: I've been served a cockroach in a creamer of milk.

Min: I've had a customer find a staple in his chicken breast. He screamed at me like no one should ever scream at anyone else.

Alan: How about a Band-Aid in a salad? Anybody?

Dan: I've served a Band-Aid in red-skin mashed potatoes. [Everyone screams.] And you couldn't see it, you know, because the potatoes had all those little pink bits everywhere, and this guy's chewing on a Band-Aid. It was a restaurant in Chicago, a snooty French restaurant. It was kind of hard to make it up to the guy who was, like, sucking on this bloody Band-Aid, thinking it was potato skin.

Min: At a diner I worked, I once served someone a plate of calamari with a little deep-fried mouse buried among the squid.

Dan: How do you even...?!

Alan: You just say you're sorry.

Min: Yeah, you know, "I feel awful, please let me know if there is anything I can do, of course we'll take this off your bill." You know, the spiel.

Dan: I don't say that. I don't say, "I'll take it off your bill."

Min: Dan, it's a fried MOUSE.

Alan: Well, with the mouse, sure. I mean there's a difference between a hair and a bug versus a Band-Aid and a deep-fried mouse.

Occupational Hazards

Dan: So, moving on... for non-waiters who might be reading this, what difference does a crazy owner make? How does it affect your work life?

Alan: See, I don't mind a crazy owner, you know? I want to make money.

Min: I've worked for some bizarre control freaks. I mean, no social skills, no organization, no sense of sympathy for waiters. And I've had some real psychos--temper tantrums and screaming and throwing chairs across the room. And some real perverts.

Alan: Being in the restaurant business is a lot harder for women in general. I mean, a group of men can treat a waitress like shit.

Dan: Especially French men.

Alan: And often owners treat women like shit.

Kelly: Sometimes I don't mind a crazy owner. But when he's calling you a cunt as you're walking out the door, it gets a little heavy.

Min: My least favorite thing would be when restaurant owners would come in and bring all their friends, and sit down and be demanding and high-maintenance. And of course the table would be comped, because it's their restaurant, and they'd expect us to wait on them like royalty, and after all that running around, they would not tip at all.

David: Worse than owners is when you're stuck working with the one co-worker who just drives you nuts... who's hard to work with, who complains about everything--it just sucks the energy right out of you.

Min: Being surrounded by bitter, burnt-out waiters is scary. But what about dating other waiters? We've all done it, right? Let's go around the table.

Kelly: I've actually never dated anyone from a restaurant I've worked at; nobody was ever hot enough... not that I haven't witnessed [romances] between the kitchen and the wait staff.

Min: There was a time when, if I saw a guy in checked pants, that was it. I don't think I dated anyone who wasn't making or serving food. The cook-and-waitress thing is classic.

Dan: It's like the Sharks and the Jets.

Alan: Sure, I've had a few relationships with co-workers. I mean, where are we going with this? I don't have a fetish about waiters or anything--

Min:--but it's like you said earlier, waiting tables for a living becomes a lifestyle, and you do find yourself developing routines.

Dan: But if you're a career waiter, do you even want to be with someone who's also a waiter?

Kelly: No. I need balance. I'm with someone now who works during the day, and we make it work; I have Saturday nights off now [from Machiavelli] for the first time since I was 15.

Prostitutes & Lesbians

Dan: Ever wait on anyone who was clearly with a prostitute? [Everyone says yes.] How can you tell? Advice for johns and prostitutes: What's the dead giveaway?

Alan: The cologne! The cleavage and the perfume.

John: If he has a girl on each side.

Alan: And they have their hands in his pants.

Kelly: I had a guy with two girls on either side of him--he was with, like, four prostitutes--and he literally had his hands down two girls' pants. LITERALLY. Six-packing them or something, I swear to God.

Megan: I had a woman come in last week at 11:00 a.m., just after I stopped serving brunch. She ordered a drink and she was all done up, and told me, "Well, I'm an escort. I'm taking the bus to Yakima for the weekend." And I was like, "An escort--you mean you have sex with people?" And she was like, "Well, I don't have to. It's my discretion. It's really a great job. You know, I get to travel."

Dan: You get to "travel"?! To Yakima?

Kelly: I had this one regular who came in all the time... and she used to tell me how she gave handjobs for a living. But then she started actually dating this one guy, and she brought in a picture of him [to show her]. It was a picture of him naked, like she wanted to show me how big it is. I'm like, "Okay, that's nice." And then there are a couple of guys who come in together, who are all into sharing their sexual stories with each other. They'll pull out Polaroids and show me. It's unbelievable, the stuff that people will show you.

Dan: What's worse, fussy straight couples or fussy gay couples?

Kelly: Depends. Like lesbians?

Dan: No, like gay men.

Kelly: Lesbians are always worse tippers than gay men.

Dan: Why do you think that lesbians are such bad tippers? That stereotype just dogs lesbians everywhere, and yet there's always a grain of truth in stereotypes....

Alan: I mean, we can generalize about everybody. [Flying Fish] has a lot of great lesbian customers, and we serve a lot of polite gay men also. But then there are your fussy, old, 55-year-old queens and you just want to smack the shit out of them.

Kelly: They're the ones who hate women, who don't want a woman to wait on them; they want cute little busboys to come over to them.

John: I've never had a problem with waiting on gay men. They're great tippers, and always so nice to me.


Min: I once had an old, mean Southern queen order a mint julep from me, and even though I was busy, I did the whole thing--made an amazing mint julep with Maker's Mark and fresh mint that I scrounged up from the kitchen and chopped up myself; I even muddled, and garnished beautifully. I brought it to him, and he actually had the nerve to push his drink away and say, "Honey, I like my ice shaved--not crushed." And left without paying for his drink.

Dan: And Min's been treating gay men like shit ever since.

The Verbal Tip

Min: Okay, what about tipping? It sounds like we've all worked in different places, in different regions. So what's up with Seattle tippers, especially post-tech-boom-local-recession and 9/11 and all that?

Alan: Very bad tippers--the worst of any city I've ever worked.

Dan: Then why do you work in Seattle?

Alan: It was a stupid financial decision, but it's not always about finances. I mean, I love it here, it's beautiful. I moved here from Phoenix--which was a great tipping city--and I'm from New York, another great tipping city; and I've also worked in California and Colorado, and Seattle is by far the worst.

John: I worked over in Kirkland--the first restaurant I ever worked at--and man, was I shocked. I thought 20 percent was [the norm] after leaving that place in Kirkland. Some people left closer to 50 percent. But in Belltown, 15 percent is typical. I thought it might be 18 percent or 20 percent, but....

Kelly: I always find that it evens out. You get people who leave 15 percent and then the next guy leaves 30 percent. I don't even look at the tips anymore, because I just don't want to get pissed off, you know what I mean? I don't want it to affect my attitude. But we also pool tips [at Machiavelli]. And everybody who works there busts their ass.

David: At Canlis, sometimes people are out for a night on the town, they're having a good time, they're spending a lot of money, and they don't think about it; then the bill is dropped and they're like, "Weeellll, I spent a lot on dinner, and... is the tip included in the check?" Um, no. It's not.

Min: If you want to eat fancy, you need to tip fancy. Amen.

Kelly: And then there's always the verbal tip. [Everyone groans.]

Dan: What's the verbal?

Kelly: You know.... "Thank you, you're so great, you're just the best, thank you so much...."--then you go over and it's, like, eight bucks on a $60 check.

Dan: Ever get stiffed and felt like the customer was right?

Alan: Oh, yeah.

Dan: What happened?

Alan: I just fucked up the whole table. I forgot to fill up the guy's drink, twice--then brought the woman out a wrong meal, one she didn't order, noticed it about halfway through, and then I didn't bring her wine out until the end of her meal....

Kelly: Yeah, well, we all do that.

Alan: And I apologized for it, and there was nothing else I could do, and they didn't leave a tip, and I totally understood. We all make mistakes, have off nights; and I said, "Don't blame the restaurant, it's not the restaurant's fault."

David: A lot of times I feel like I should be stiffed, like I really deserve it, but then they still leave me 20 percent.

Kelly: And then you just feel guilty.

David: And then there's the group of, like, eight people who are drunk, and they're all counting their money and trying to do the math.

John: That's when you can get tipped the most.

Kelly: But what about when that happens with a big group and you get shorted? I usually just take the change--even though they tell me to keep it--and put it back on the table.

Min: And it's a little disturbing to see a group of supposed friends nitpick over who had the fries, or who had the extra soda. I mean, if you can't just split a check with someone without obsessing about paying a few bucks over or under, then what the hell kind of friendship is that?

Dan: So, why are Seattleites such bad tippers?

Alan: I think people here are very... cautious in general. What they eat, how they drive, what they do. I mean, that's also part of the beauty of living in Seattle. It's a safe, quiet city. [He shrugs.]