Newspaper days

I WAS A newspaperman for about 30 years before I retired at age 55 in late 1999. I never called myself a journalist, and I’ve never taken even one journalism course.

I’ve also been a taxi driver, a loan shark and a repo man.

But it was newspapering that I was best at.

There’s a link in the right-side column that takes you to Newspaper Days, a description of my decades in that world. It was a profession I fell into, just one more path in a life that’s been almost entirely haphazard.

Take a look if you have some spare moments. It’s a quick tour through exotic places like San Juan and New Orleans, and even haircuts in the Virgin Islands.

You’ll also encounter mangy dogs, suicides, alcoholism, unionism, motorcycles, political correctness, feminist zealotry, homosexuality, paste pots and old typewriters.

A tip on race

AMERICA IS FIXATED on race, a “problem” that will never, ever be solved due to people being what they are. The race fixation has ballooned since Barry, Michelle, Eric and Valerie came to town.

Coincidence? Course not. tipping2

A story this week caught my attention because it touches on something I know about personally: black people and tipping. I know about this because I used to be a taxi driver in New Orleans, a city populated primarily by black people. At least it was before Katrina. It’s less so now, I have read.

It seems that lots were blown all the way to Baton Rouge and even Houston where they put down roots and never headed back to Basin Street. But let’s not digress.

The news story is that the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Charlotte, N.C., added a 15% “surcharge” to customers at the lobby bar during a conference of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, an organization of almost entirely black educational institutions.

In plain English, the hotel added a 15 percent tip to the bar tabs during a convention of black people.

Oh, dear! Just one step short of burning crosses and pointy, white hoods.

But here, as Paul Harvey famously phrased it, is the rest of the story. And there are two elements.

No. 1 is that many restaurants and bars add an automatic tip for large groups, no matter their skin tone. This is done because waiters tend to get stiffed by large groups. It’s a fact.

No. 2 is that blacks are lousy tippers. Cabbies know this from experience, and it is why a black person hailing a taxi, no matter how elegantly attired, will almost always be passed by if a white person down the block is hailing one too. It is not because cabbies dislike blacks per se. It is because tips make up a huge part of their income, and they ain’t stupid. You head for the cash.

When I was a cabbie, I quickly learned to dodge black customers. I was in it for the money, not racial justice.

As for the Ritz-Carlton, I’m betting they routinely do this during conventions which are, by definition, large groups of people. White customers see no racial element, raise no stink, and there are no news stories. Black people almost always see a racial element, and they have grown quite fond of raising stinks.

And there you have it — the rest of the story.