I had a haircut in the village yesterday. The woman who cuts it regularly has previously told me she’s 22 years old. She also has a half-brother who lives in the United States (in the Midwest) and is married to an American woman.
Let’s call her “Sophie.” I don’t know much about her non-work life, only that she grew up in, and lives in, nearby Hitchin. But I was surprised when she told me that despite where her half-brother lives, she has never been to the U.S.
I had increasingly taken it for granted that most English younger people travel on some level internationally, especially to the United States. She said she has been to “the continent” – to France and to Spain. But that’s it.
As she cut and we chatted further, it dawned on me that my generational travel assumption was faulty probably at least in part because my pool of under-30 “personal knowledge” has shrunk considerably over time. That’s probably to be expected. For one, I no longer work at a university.
And my friends have matured along with me, so I don’t really know “under-30s” as friends any longer. The “under-30s” I generally do know now are the children of friends, or relatives such as my niece and nephews. Most of them have visited America.
Misassumptions can be a two way street as well, of course. I got a bit of a depressing shocker when my age came up and “Sophie” revealed she thought I was A LOT older than I am. And I mean a lot older.
I’m sure I have “aged” outwardly since mid-2014. No doubt the strain of nearly losing my father to heart trouble that year, and then suddenly my mother and my uncle both dying within two weeks of each other in 2015, has taken its toll. But, geez, I hadn’t thought I looked that much older.
I suspected “Sophie” realized before the words were even entirely out of her mouth that she’d made something of an embarrassing “oops.” Quickly she reversed herself and awkwardly tried to recover. I laughed and let her off the hook: “I’m not there quite yet.”
I gave her a small tip anyway. Tipping is not as customary here as in the United States, and I don’t go overboard. I do it because she does a good job and she’s relentlessly pleasant.
And I suppose at heart I’ll also always be a New Yorker. Even if we know we shouldn’t, we can feel uncomfortable if we don’t tip at least something. Recently my dad told me this tale (who knows if it’s true or not) that he’d read about Frank Sinatra once tipping a U.S. hotel concierge $100:
“Thank you, Mr. Sinatra. We look forward to seeing you again.”
“What’s the biggest tip you ever got from anybody?”
“A hundred, Mr. Sinatra.”
“Here. Take this. That’s $200.”
“Oh, thank you very much, Mr. Sinatra.”
“By the way, who tipped you that hundred?”
“Uh, you did, Mr. Sinatra.”
Have a good day, whatever your age, and wherever you are the world. 🙂