A few months ago I began seeing someone who is apparently quite a good artist. She’s had shows in many major museums. She just gave me one of her paintings and I didn’t “get” it. I guess I’m an artistic dunce because I made the classic businessman-meets-modern-art mistake and hung the thing upside down. When she saw it in my house she didn’t say anything, but her friend later clued me in. Now I’m really embarrassed. Do I turn it around or what?
My Dear Dick,
Why not use your gaff as a chance to make inquiries so that your new gal can teach you about something? In other words, don’t turn it around—engage her in conversation about her area of expertise. Ask her she what she thinks of the location you selected, why she chose certain colors or shapes in the painting, etc. Most of us like to share our interests with those to whom we are attracted and, believe me, if she were not attracted to you she would not have parted with one of her paintings. Making these sorts of inquiries is common courtesy. As 19th century British poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in Idylls of the King, “The greater man, the greater courtesy.”
I would be surprised if your friend was offended by the way you hung her painting, and if she was, better to discover these sorts of sensitivities sooner than later, no? I understand how you feel. While visiting friends in Barcelona some years back, I picked up a wee ceramic pot at their home and asked, “Oh, did Olivia make this when she was a little girl?” The answer was, “No, Picasso did—when he was all grown-up.” Oops. The bottom line here, Dick, is not to play yourself false with spurious raves or feign any continued pretense as the fool. Just leave some room for benign misunderstanding and remain teachable. Remember, we all make mistakes. The important thing is to try and learn from them.
I’ve noticed over the past few decades, that tip jars have become ubiquitous at takeout restaurants and other places where employees are not traditionally tipped. I’m generally happy to get rid of change, so I’ll commonly toss my coins into the jar. My question is this—what about my two cents? I often find myself stopping by a local coffee shop in the morning for java and a pastry. The tab for my standard order is $2.98. The staff there is inevitably friendly and helpful, so I’d normally be disposed to dropping my change in the jar. I do worry that a two-cent tip would be considered an insult (which is the opposite of what I’d wish). What should I do with my pennies?
My Dear Lynne,
Have you ever heard that advice about trusting your instincts? Well, I’d suggest you trust yours, which seem to be quite astute. Ben Franklin’s advice of “a penny saved is a penny earned” is often well heeded, but a tip of two of them is insulting. This is a situation where you’d be better off doing nothing than something at all.
What I would suggest is speaking to the morning shift manager about the possibility of leaving a more substantial gratuity on a weekly basis, with the understanding that it would be shared equally among the staff who waited on you that week. You might even decide to ask the manager to keep your identity anonymous. Giving with no expectation of recognition or reward can be especially rewarding, and this may also spare you any feeling of obligation in the event of finding yourself in the midst of a financially lean week. In the meantime, take those Lincoln heads, find a good fountain, and wish for continued good judgment and counsel.