More stories about crows

The wait for sandwiches drove me insane. When we placed our order, they said to expect forty-five minutes. We grabbed a couple bags of chips and two twenty-ounce sodas and picked a table. We settled in, the four of us, onto barstools around a raised table. Each of us beyond hungry because we hiked through lunchtime. I’m not sure what it is with sandwich shops here in Vermont, but food prep always takes longer than anywhere else.  

Traveling through Vermont last year, we called ahead a sandwich order thirty miles from a shop. They guy on the phone said our food would be ready in a half hour. When we arrived thirty-five minutes later, he yelled at us. “You’re too early, give us a half an hour.” Yesterday, I worried that the forty-five-minute prediction would stretch into a seventy-five or ninety-minute wait.

Long after ordering, our sodas and chips gone, me edgy and bored, I volunteered to run to the car to grab the water bottles from our hike. When they rang up our sandwiches, sodas and chips, it totaled sixty-six dollars. When I paid, shocked at the price of lunch, I decided to skip the tip. I didn’t notice the iPad interface defaulted to fifteen percent. As the receipt printed, I saw the price jumped ten more dollars. So water with lunch. We couldn’t afford another eight dollars for two more sodas.

Caution: boomer rant approaching.

Allegedly, the word tip gained popularity in eighteenth century England as an acronym for the phrase To Insure Promptness. By modern custom, tips became common for waitstaff because restaurateurs lowered food prices by skimping on server wages, forcing them to hustle to earn additional money from the customers.

Today, everyone gets tips whether a waiter serves the food or not. When I walk into the bakery to buy a baguette, I need to opt out of tipping the guy at the register who turns around to grab the loaf. Here in Burlington, Vermont, where sandwich chefs earn twenty dollars an hour, I’m inclined to skip the tip. Our meal of four sandwiches and an insufficient number of sodas totaled almost eighty dollars, about twice what I hoped to pay for lunch.

At the car, I filled two water bottles from a larger container. The parking lot was deserted. Three people sat at an outside table lingering over their empty sandwich wrappers deep in discussion. Inside the restaurant, only one other table was filled, and they only just arrived. Our sandwiches were the only ones the staff were making. I began to wonder why it might take four people forty-five minutes to assemble our order.

“Hellou.” I looked up at the barren tree next to my car and found a crow perched on a branch. “Hellou. Hellou.” The crow was talking to me. I looked around. No one else saw, or else they weren’t interested. The three diners, twenty feet away in the outdoor seating area never looked up.

“Hello,” I answered.

“Hellou, Hellou!” My heart beat faster, my head spun, I felt wobbly on my feet. I wanted someone else to hear. “Hellou.” I wanted to share this treat with someone. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.

I quietly closed the hatchback and hurried to the restaurant to get my family. “Hellou, Hellou.” As I opened the restaurant door, I saw the crow take flight and flap his way into the adjacent woods.

Our food was on the table. Susan, Sophie and Eli beamed with excitement as they tore into their taped up sandwich wrappers. Sophie saw me at the door and waved me over with that universal ‘hurry up’ gesture. “There was a crow outside saying Hello!”

“Uh huh.”

“No, really, there was!”

“Sure, dad.” The sandwiches were delicious. Worth the wait and almost the money. But the crow was the highlight of the meal.

A less happy crow story:

Photo by narubono on Unsplash

25 thoughts on “More stories about crows

    • LOL. It’s hard to just suck it up when things like that happen. This was a mini-vacation and I didn’t want to sour the mood by complaining, but sheesh. Pretty pricey for a family from central Pennsylvania.


  1. Yeah, the whole obligatory tip thing at the register irritates me too. In most tipping situations with waitstaff, I happily add 20 percent. But at the counter it feels excessive, unless I’m frequenting a favorite coffee shop or local hangout.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank goodness tipping doesn’t occur in Aotearoa New Zealand. The advertised price is the price you pay. Here poor service is a reflection on the business not the staff, so it’s in the interest of the business to ensure their staff provide good service and they should pay their staff accordingly.

    I thought NZ cafes were expensive, but yikes, they are nothing compared to what you paid. Were the sandwiches covered with gold foil? As for the time to prepare the sandwiches, I wouldn’t expect more than 10 to 15 minutes at rush hour let alone at a relatively quiet time. They were just sandwiches afterall.

    We don’t have crows in Aotearoa, but there are two bird species that like to imitate speech. The magpie, which as an Australian import, can pick up words quite easily when they are around people, and use them in context, so one frequenting a parking area may well learn “hello”. It will also imitate sounds such as the telephone ringing. The native tui can imitate almost any sound it hears from a rusty gate hinge to a lawnmower to wind chimes to human speech, although not necessarily specific words. At out previous home, the neighbours were adopted by a magpie, and it learnt to imitate “here puss puss puss” that I used to call our cat. The bird understood the purpose of the call and deliberately used it to torment our cat.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This cafe was by far the most expensive I’ve encountered. We were actually outside of Burlington (already really expensive) in a touristy ski town called Stowe. It was the perfect storm of high costs. We had to encourage Eli to order what he wanted because he was concerned about the really high prices. I’ve heard that american magpies copy speech, but I’ve never heard it happen. I’ve read that with surgical intervention (forking their tongue) crows can and will replicate dozens of human words. This felt really special to me. It was already a great day and a talking crow was icing on the cake.


  3. Warning: crazy Aussie socialist comment: the minimum wage system in Australia used to mean no tipping except for truly exceptional service. Two things happened: crazy tourists and local Early Adopter show-offs started tipping wherever and whenever for whatever service and the exploitation of casual workers working in Hospitality with seriously under-award cash in hand payments accelerated with a huge increase in the number of overseas students and ESL migrants unaware of their rights.
    A good story Jeff.
    Those Vermont prices and tardy service – Vrark!
    Thank goodness for that friendly crow.
    Go you mighty Crows!
    (Adelaide Australian Rules Football club)
    But look out the Doggies (Western Bulldogs: sons of the mighty West).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tipping has gone nuts here in the states. So many of the cash register systems require opting out of the tip to complete your transaction. It gets hard for a guy like me with socialist leanings to skip tipping, but in the case with the bread (for instance) I’m already stretching financially to buy a locally produced product. If they added 20% to the price, I wouldn’t buy it at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a lot of money for sandwiches considering (from my point of view) that’s American dollars! Crows are highly intelligent and we had a crow at home here that made a completely different sound to all its mates. Because of that difference I can here it whenever it is around and thank “oh there is that crow” I haven’t heard him for awhile, hope he is okay

    Liked by 1 person

      • Very raucous indeed Jeff! I always seem to have had crows around. They are very community oriented and become very tame if helped when sick or injured. My brother had one and a pet when he worked on a cattle station up north. It followed him all over the place

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hmm, Faaark is s pretty different interpretation from the Caw Caw that people quote here. I wonder if bird sounds evolve differently in isolated places, I guess probably. Human language of course does. Restaurant prices are complete out of hand since the pandemic. We rarely eat out any more.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I never knew that about the origins of tips, Jeff. I may use this information when refusing to pay a tip for poor service. (Which is nearly a constant here in the UK.) Crows are fascinating birds. Ted Hughes managed to write a whole poetry book on one. In shamanic culture they sometimes represent good luck, so fingers crossed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I sort of doubt that tips origin story, but I’ve known it almost all of my life. It seems to be fairly wide spread so I doubt anyone will tell you it’s wrong. I’ve always loved crows. They are absolutely beautiful birds. It was pretty special that one was talking to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow … that’s an awful lot of money for sandwiches. They should have come wrapped in fourteen-carat gold paper for that price, with a silk bow on top! I’m glad they were tasty and worth it anyway. I find the topic of tips challenging to deal with, too. Although most places here don’t add automatic tips for the bill, you are expected to leave something for the waiter/waitress. The only problem is that you can never be sure that’s where your tip will end up. If I can leave a tip as the waiter or waitress is clearing the table, then at least I know the money is going straight to them and not into the hands of the owner, who is charging quite enough for a meal as it is. Sometimes, if I pay by credit/debit card, I’ll see an option to add a tip to the total, which I usually do if I’ve enjoyed the meal and the service was good. In general, though, sandwich shops rarely charge tips.

    I loved your story about the chatty crow. We do get some of them over here, more in some areas than others. Where I live, I get a lot of magpies. Some people are suspicious of both those breeds of birds, but I don’t believe they truly represent anything ominous. Did you know that a group of crows is called a murder of crows!? Now, there’s a lovely thought to end my comment with. Apparently, they are also very intelligent birds. I had to Google those facts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The sandwiches were priced higher than the entrees are in the restaurants we go to on occasion. Everyone was too far hungry too start over on restaurant selection. I feel very fortunate to have had the experience. When it was over I realized I could have recorded it on my phone.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. That tip thing gets me too. I am not sure why some places are asking for tips when they aren’t doing anything more than what the job entails. Sounds like a cool experience with the crow. I always go out of my way with crows as I understand they are pretty smart (and I never want to make one upset). That is a lot of money for lunch but sounds like a nice time with family. And now you will always remember it with this blog post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that’s one of the benefits of blogging. When something goes badly, at least you get a post out of it. And you’re right. It was a fantastic time with my family. I’m not sure anyone really believes me about the crow. I really wish someone else was there. I sort of doubt it myself.


    • I get it. But it can bounce the price of what you’re buying too high to make sense. Already cringing at a $5.00 baguette. Add a dollar tip and I’m just going to buy the grocery store version instead. Salaries in my area are really depressed. Going to Vermont was like running around in NYC.

      Responding to your Davy D comment. I just voted today as well. My ballot included John Fetterman. I’m hoping that PA voters are intelligent enough to understand how a stroke does and does not affect the brain. Intelligent voters… Oxymoron?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I absolutely agree that tips can make the prices of certain items overly high. I guess we all have to decide what we are willing to pay for any given item. And I hope that Fetterman wins and that the term “intelligent voters” isn’t an oxymoron!!

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s