Dear Diary...new York, the Big Apple, a.k.a. "the city that never sleeps" may also have been the place that gave rise to the saying, "It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there."

The occasion for my visit was the 1998 Theological Symposium, "Fatherhood of God," at the Bishop Molloy Retreat House, Jamaica, N.Y., and hosted by the Association of Diocesan Liaisons to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. It featured numerous theologically correct people with Ph.D.’s presenting papers in their field. With a cost of only $198 for a three-day symposium including room and board, it had more of a lure than I could resist. Besides providing enough material for at least six issues of next year’s Charismatics, I could take in a Broadway Show.

Continental’s red-eye flight arrived in Newark at 5:50 a.m. After careening at breakneck speed down nearly deserted streets of several New Jersey suburban cities, and running in the 5th Avenue Grand Prix in New York, the jitney roared to a stop at the Doral Inn in Manhattan’s "smart East Side". I was just finishing my 250th Hail Mary—each one initiated during a near-death experience. After checking-in, I headed for Times Square, as the Desk Clerk suggested, to be first in line at the "Half-Priced Tickets for Today’s Broadway Shows". At least 500 other people had been instructed to do the same. Finally, after a few hours in line and a ticket in front-row center at that evening’s performance of the musical comedy, The Scarlet Pimpernel, I settled into Starbucks for coffee and to watch New Yorkers scurrying and tourists rubbernecking. The day was not half over and already I had a year’s supply of anomalies for homilies. Some were put to use when I celebrated the closing Mass at the Symposium.

New York is great. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (Rep.) has fulfilled his campaign promises and curtailed menacing panhandling--didn’t see one in two days and cleaned the graffiti and trash from the streets--people were sweeping the sidewalks in front of their stores. Giuliani also changed New York from "fear city USA" to the nation’s safest city, with the lowest violent crime rate--down 49.3 % from five years ago. Even Times Square is squeaky clean.

New Yorkers are interesting. For example, the "stylist" at the Jean Louis David Salon on Madison at 46th Street—an $18.00 version of Super Cuts. After receiving the fastest haircut since Basic Training at Fort Ord, I was surprised to learn from the cashier that I could not put a tip on the bill.

Fast flashback to the Doral Inn on Lexington Avenue. "Fabulous accommodations", I was assured when I booked a room on my "Hotels at Half Price Card." "However, we are remodeling the ground floor. We’ve finished remodeling the rooms and they are fabulous." Yes, he was speaking truthfully. However, on the day of my haircut, three of the four elevators in a nineteen-story building are out because someone accidentally cut the power during demolition. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I reached the lobby that I realized that I had forgotten my cash. After waiting 20 minutes to get down, I didn’t want to wait again going up and down. So figuring, "I can put everything on my credit card," proceeded with my plans to Jean Louis David’s.

After paying for the cut and explaining to the cashier that I had no cash for the tip, I left the shop and turned the corner. The prospect of waiting in line for the elevator and walking back the six blocks to give the guy a tip was not appealing, but "the workman deserves his wages." So off I headed to the Doral. The stylist’s banging on the inside of the shop’s window and flipping me the "birdie" interrupted my thoughts. Here was a real life Broadway Show.

Following my agreement with the devil to use the stylist’s undignified pique as reason not to return with a tip, I arrived at the hotel to find the elevators working. "It’s an omen," I thought, taking on the devil again. "Besides, the problem was created because someone, perhaps Jean Louis David individually, or the three of them in concert, set the policy of not allowing tips on credit card charges. The second cause was mine--forgetting my cash, and third, the stylist." So I headed back with the tip. As I entered the shop, he glanced at me and quickly disappeared into the back room. The five-dollar tip disappeared into my pocket and I left. The devil had his way.

is the stylist a typical New Yorker? Of course not; nor was his a typical reaction to getting stiffed on a tip. However, the incident did raise a social and moral concern for me as a Christian and heir of the biblical prophet’s instruction that summons me "to do the right, and to love goodness and to walk humbly with our God" (Mi. 6:8). Did I do the right thing? No. The tip should have been left with the cashier when I returned. That would have been the right thing to do.

Besides, tipping is right. It is an acceptable social and economic norm. In tourist areas, tipping gives a major boost to the economy. In some occupations, it is a major part of the workers’ income. Whoever made the decision at Jean Louis David not to allow the adding of a tip on the charge has restricted their workers’ income. Also, it is a fact that people tip more when they charge the tip along with the service.

in Catholic teaching, human rights include not only civil and political rights, but also economic rights. The Pastoral Letter issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, November 13, 1986, "Economic Justice for All, the Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy", reinforces this premise. It states, "Every perspective on economic life that is human, moral, and Christian must be shaped by three questions: What does the economy do for people? What does it do to people?" And how do people participate in it?" The economy is a human reality: men and women working together to develop and care for the whole of God’s creation. All this work must serve the material and spiritual well-being of people… It affects the way they act together in society."

Economic decisions have human consequences and moral content; they help or hurt people, strengthen or weaken family life, advance or diminish the quality of justice in our land. There is no economic justice when the employer gets his monetary satisfaction without regard for the employees’ monetary satisfaction. The Bishops’ Letter suggests that with our "prayers, reflection, service, and action, our economy can be shaped so that dignity prospers… This is the challenge of our faith." As followers of Christ, we are called to avoid a separation between faith and everyday life.

Fr. Joe Landi is a Parochial Vicar at St. Cecilia Parish, San Francisco, the Archbishop’s Liaison to the Charismatic Renewal, the editor of the San Francisco Charismatics and Board Chair of the Sierra Point credit Union, South San Francisco, which now serves the South San Francisco Community, parochial schools in San Mateo County, and the Charismatic Renewal. Opinions expressed are his own.

You can contact Fr. Landi by e-mail at sfccr@slip.net, read other articles in the November Newsletter, or return to the Main Menu of this web site by clicking on the blue. 1998, The San Francisco Charismatics, (ISSN 1098-4046). All rights reserved. The San Francisco Charismatics is a member of the Catholic Press Association of the Unites States and Canada.