Thursday, March 12, 2009

Of Duvets, Curtains & Tips

Hoping to find the perfect duvet and sheets to suit his needs, and the perfect closet that will keep my room organized, Enan and I walked into Ikea yesterday with an overflowing sense of excitement.

Halfway through our spontaneous field trip, I had already made my choice and the picture of what my room will be like in a few weeks was already very vivid in my mind. Enan, on the other hand, was starting to have second thoughts about the purchases that, about an hour ago, he was so willing to make. It dawned on him that he would be spending about a thousand dollars for a set of bedding and a pair of curtains.

My take on his dilemma is this:

In this world that we live in, where technological advancements and overpopulation make it almost impossible to draw the line that defines where privacy and personal space begin, it is the bedroom that remains our own. It is our sanctuary. It's what cradles us when night falls and all the other avenues of comfort are no longer accessible. It's our sole companion in our slumber, when all our friends (and/or lovers) have gone away. It's what energizes and revitalizes us. It keeps us safe so that we can succumb to vulnerability and sleep soundly at night. In our weakest moments, it remains sturdy . It has to be affectionate and warm. Personal and comfortable. It has to have what you want it to have. It has to look the way you want it to. It has to have a part of you. While it's true that no amount of money can pay for a peaceful sleep, it is also true that a little bit of money can bring you closer to it.


When I was a few years younger, I didn't really understand the concept of tips. I always questioned the idea of giving your hairstylist, or your waiter tips, because they did their job. I often retorted, "Why am I not given tips whenever I finish a show? I did my job too! And why do we not give teachers tips after a class? Or a bank teller after we're given our withdrawal?"

When my good friend, James made a career shift from performance to F&B, I began to understand the dynamics of service and how, as patrons and consumers, we have the natural (almost innate) desire to be treated special. We pay for service, after all.

So without even deliberately deciding to, I started giving my favorite bartenders (those who know my drink, those who know the special drink that Eben has concocted for me, and those who pour an extra ounce of wine in my glass --- and do it with a smile) tips. And then my newly-cultivated generosity got extended to taxi drivers: those that do not talk on their cellphones at the top of their voices while driving, and those that try to speak English and start a conversation with me. (Unlike in the Philippines, taxi drivers here do not demand for tips. In fact, they don't expect to receive it more often than not.) And then of course, and they are the ones that deserve it the most, salon assistants.

I have so much respect (almost to the point of adulation) to salon assistants here in HK. They are very attentive, always smiling, and always willing to go the extra mile. They will shampoo your hair, blowdry, brush the fallen hair off your face, give you a massage, tell you you're gorgeous, and even pick up the magazine that you accidentally dropped. They're almost like PA's. Once, while I was being shampooed and my phone rang, the salon assistant attending on me even went to my station to get my phone, without me asking.

Because of my fondness with them (not in a malicious way), I have come up with certain standards to measure the efficiency of salon assistants. And since tipping is rewarding them for a job well done, I thought it was but fair to give them what I think is commensurate with their efforts. The standards that I set, I realized, are an effective way to decide how much they will get from me.

It's very simple. As soon as I am assigned my salon assistant for the day, I already value him at $30. For every minor mistake that he makes, like getting my collar wet, or not rinsing my ear well, he gets a deduction of $2.00. For every major blunder, like exposing a specific spot of my head to heat for a long time because he's busy gossiping the other assistants, he the deduction is $5.00.

For every kind or helpful gesture he does that he is not obliged to do, he gets a $2.00 reward.

When my session is over, I round off the total amount to the nearest 5. The least I've given is $5.00, and the most is $45.00.

Now, when my assistant is someone who is far beyond twinkness, and he has biceps and pecs that make small beads of sweat appear on my forehead, and he knows how to stare and smile at me like a man, then he gets a $200. voucher for drinks. But he has to redeem his prize with me, not with anyone else.

If, during drinks, he shows exemplary niceness and he is willing to go beyond the call of duty, then he is rewarded free board and lodging at my place for one night, where he is assured to sleep tight, because the duvet, the curtains, and the sheets are warm and accommodating.