Thoughts on the Tip Jar and ‘Happy Birthday’ Jayne Mansfield

by on March 18, 2021 · 8 comments

in Ocean Beach

Straight Up With a Twist

By Edwin Decker

Dear Ed, With restaurants only offering take-out, I’ve wanted to do my part in helping them, so I’m often getting food from establishments I love. While I’ve always considered myself a great tipper, I have never been someone that tipped the person at Starbucks with a tip jar. To me, they’re a cashier, not a waiter. . . My logic is . . .I’m already spending money on the food, and the inconvenience of taking it home and not enjoying the ambiance of their restaurant . . .  And while I understand the employees don’t make that much hourly, I also think they don’t deserve to be tipped for taking my credit card and handing me two bags of food. What say you?

Signed, Hungry in Jamul.

Dear Hungry, Kudos on your continued support of local eateries. It’s an interesting point you raise regarding those tip jars some cashiers place beside registers.

You don’t see them as much these days, but I remember when they became all the rage in the 90’s. All of the sudden they were popping up at convenience stores, gas stations, coffee bars, video rental stores and whatnot. I called them Jealousy Jars because it seemed like these traditionally untipped employees were envious of all the shake my fellow bartenders and I were making and wanted some of the action.

As time passed my feelings about Jealousy Jars changed. I thought, Well why shouldn’t cashiers use them? What makes my bartending job more deserving than their job?

You remarked that an employee doesn’t “deserve” to be tipped for merely collecting payment and handing over food. But when you think about it, “deserve” has nothing to do with it. Why does a waiter deserve to be tipped for bringing us stuff but not, say, a mailperson? Why does the cab driver deserve it but not the bus driver? Why the doorman at the hotel but not the person who checks you in?

It also isn’t based on how hard a person works. If it were, then we’d be tipping roofers and stonemasons. And it isn’t based on need either since – at least here in California – burger flippers make the same minimum wage as bartenders.

And while many would argue that the difference is service – as in, only people in the service industry deserve tips – the truth is, it’s all service. Whether it’s roofing, plumbing, bus driving, shelf-stocking, cashiering, tailoring, editing, trucking, janitoring or handjob-providing – every worker under the sun including chicken sexers is providing a service to someone.

The point is, Hungry, the whole system is arbitrary. So just go ahead and tip who you want, when you want and as much as you want and I promise, the Earth will keep spinning, the oceans will keep swelling and Mr. Potato Head will still have XY chromosomes.

Dear Readers, Because I was not asked a second question this week, I would like to use this space to honor the upcoming birthday of the person who saved my life by tragically losing hers – Jayne Mansfield.

Have you ever driven behind a tractor trailer truck and seen that doohickey below the bottom of the back door that looks like an upside-down Pi sign? Well, that contraption is called the Rear Underrun Protection System (RUPS) and its purpose is to prevent vehicles from sliding underneath during a collision.

The RUPS is more commonly known as “Mansfield Bars” because in 1967, the Buick in which actress Jayne Mansfield was riding shotgun, crashed into the back of, and partially under, an 18-wheeler killing her and the driver instantly. It was an accident so gruesome, the Department of Transportation immediately began requiring trucks to be fitted with the RUPS. It was a decision that spared my life some 15 years later when I, too, collided into the back of a tractor trailer.

I know what you’re thinking: Are you an idiot? How does one drive into the back of a truck? Well yes, I was an idiot. In my defense, though, I was only about 19 or 20. It’s also a fairly common type of accident. For both Mansfield and me, fog was involved. In her case, it was the fog from a roadside pesticide sprayer that obscured the truck. In my case it was fog-fog. That and the fog of idiocy.

My friend Chris and I were on the New York Route 17 on our way to West Point to see The Kinks. A fairly thick haze had developed but the visibility was still about five or six car lengths. In my youthful inexperience (read: idiot child) I thought that would be plenty at 50ish mph. And it kind of was; until we embarked on a long, gradual stretch of incline – the kind that causes the big rigs to slow to a crawl.

I had not accounted for that.

I reached toward the back seat to grab a Kink’s tape from my cassette box. I wanted to play Misfits, but blindly retrieved the wrong tape. I reached back and pulled another, but it was also wrong. After a few more tries, and no vehicles visible in front of me, I thought, Oh fuck it! and turned around to look. Well you can guess what happened next. My eyes were off the road for a hair longer than intended and when I turned back the Mansfield Bars were a mere foot or two before my soon-to-be bloody face.

I was in the hospital when I woke up. My parents, siblings (and police) were hovering over my bed. According to the officer, Chris was fine, but I was lucky to be alive. My head hit (and obliterated) the windshield. My chest hit (and mangled) the steering wheel, splintering my ribs. And my knee hit the corner of the dashboard which severed the bottom of my kneecap clean off.

Later, when I had knee surgery to reconnect what was left of the tendon to what was left of the patella to what was left of my tolerance for misery, the surgeon neglected to remove all the bone fragments. This caused an infection and a whole new set of complications and surgeries.

The incident decimated an entire summer and saddled me with a lifetime of knee issues. But as bad as it was, I still feel lucky. For I would not be writing about this now were it not for those magical Mansfield Bars. So Happy Birthday Jayne Mansfield. Happy Birthday to you.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie March 19, 2021 at 9:50 am

Ed has a real touching story about how Jayne Mansfield saved his life.


Geoff Page March 19, 2021 at 11:13 am

I kind of sort knew something about how Jayne Mansfield died. I heard some reference to her losing her head but I never knew much about it. Thank you Ed, for now giving me a crystal clear picture of exactly what happened by including the picture of the truck. Now, I have a mental image that will take time to shake. I have to say though, it was educational. A guy from my high school who was famous for being the toughest meanest guy around died the same way when he was 19.


edwin decker March 19, 2021 at 8:17 pm

Hey Geoff, your welcome. And do yourself a favor and don’t Google the images of the accident.

BTW, did the guy you knew who died hit the Mansfield Bars too?



Geoff Page March 21, 2021 at 6:38 pm

I don’t think the Mansfield bars were in place, the accident was in ’68 or ’69. What we heard was the driver and this guy were both killed instantly when the driver fell asleep and they went under the rear end of a truck.


Vic Tulsie March 22, 2021 at 12:58 pm

So you never saw The Kinks?


edwin decker March 22, 2021 at 1:04 pm

BAH-HAHAHA. Good one Vic. Actually though, I saw them 3 times, once at West Point even, at a later date. I think it was the Low Budget tour. Great band, great shows.


Jerry Sweeney March 23, 2021 at 12:01 am

Two very young children in the back seat of the tragic auto accident survived. Melissa Hagerty is the daughter of Jane Mansfield along with her brother survived.
She is famous for her work in “Law and Order, SVU”.


Geoff Page March 23, 2021 at 10:16 am

You were close, Jerry. Her name is Mariska Hargitay.


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