Amerikya oru cheriya sambhavam alla!

Remember this scene from English-Vinglish where Shashi was embarrassed at the cafe? Its something that has happened to me. Well, a toned down version. The people behind counters are generally sweet and not like the rude lady in the movie. So what really happened to me in the Amerikya? The first time i went to US i was all alone myself and had no one around to tell me how things work there. I had to learn them the hard way.

Tip Everywhere

Hailing a taxi in Manhattan is like a roller coaster ride. Everyone is running busy there. This american-african (ya you are not supposed to call them black) driver of the cab i took zipped through the roads and screeched to a halt. I was not sure if I had reached the destination so was looking around and this guy said something which i didn’t understand.

Me: Sorry, What?

Cabbie: Are you paying by cash or card?

Me: Card. And I handed it over to him.

Cabbie: Swipe it on the machine and enter the tip. Make it fast.

By this time he spotted a lady who was looking for a cab and he wanted to get rid of me as soon as possible.

And I was wondering where the hell was the machine he was talking about. Then I noticed the small screen that was showing ads through the ride had then become a credit card reader interface.

I swiped the card on the screen’s side. It then asked me to enter the tip amount. I had to understand that screen in seconds and not end up making mistakes.

Cabbie: Can you make it fast. I have someone else here…

I think the fare was 8 dollars. So my non numerical head tried doing a quick math of calculating its 10%. However it was too difficult of a calculation for me to get the answer.

Cabbie: Hey maannn

By now I wanted to finish it off soon and so punched 3 and hit enter. Immediately i realized it went in as .03. I was supposed to punch in two zeros also. The cabbie got a shock and gave me a dirty look. I also saw the lady who was waiting for me to get out getting into another cab.

Cabbie: Comeonnnn maaannnn. (*&&%$%^$^$&*****)

I quickly got out saying Sorryyyy avoiding eye contact feeling like a nincompoop.


You are expected to tip for every service you receive in US. When the amount is within 20 dollars you simply add 2-4 dollars and dont do 10% math. In restaurants you tip from 10% to 20%. And Yes like SRK pointed out in the comments if you see something called “Gratitude” in your food bill, its the tip or service charge as we Indians call it they have added to the bill.

To be continued


  1. Some restaurants add 15% – 20% gratitude themselves to the bill. You have to read the bill carefully to avoid double tipping.

  2. Bloody country Indians.
    Aa cabbie kooli thallinu aale vittillallo? 😀

    Amerikya oru cheriya sambavamee alla ennu manasilaayi – ennenkilum jeevithathil avide pokanamenkil maashinte tips ellam oru book form-il print cheythitte pokoo. Waiting earnestly for the next one in this series :).

  3. It does not matter if it is your first time here. I have had several good and bad experiences with cab drivers. Recently when I came back to Burbank from a trip to NYC, I had to take a cab home. Since I have been living in Burbank for almost 5 years now, I know the shortest way to home from the airport. All I had was $20 with me and it is usually $12 to $13 to take a ride home. This cabbie was taking me the round about way and I asked him politely why he was taking the long route. He got pissed off and told me that his driving experience was more than my age which made me feel young. 🙂 The tech in me quickly pulled out Google maps and showed him how we could have saved almost a mile if he had followed my route. He was more pissed off to see technology beating his driving experience and he cussed me all the way back home. When he dropped me, the fare was $20.57 or something. I handed him the $20 bill and told him to wait so I can grab some change to pay the rest. He was rude and drove away. I am a good tipper and he did lose the extra money for being rude. My experience with NYC cabbies have all been nothing but fabulous. Moral of the comment – Always keep enough cash if you are taking a cab.

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