Grease Was The Word

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In the old days, you used to be able to grease somebody.  I have no idea if that expression is still used, and for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, it means paying somebody for a favor.  There was a long line, so I greased the bouncer and he let us in.  It was pretty commonplace and these transactions were the way of the world.

Same thing at stadiums.  You’d be at Yankee Stadium or Madison Square and you’d slip the usher a couple of bucks, and suddenly the ticket you bought for the nose-bleed section got you one of the best seats in the house.

There was even an art to slipping the guy some green. You’d make it part of a handshake. You’d make the dollar bill (whatever the denomination) visible for just long enough for him to see it, and then you’d make the transfer on the handshake.  There was an art in this bribery and you had to know how to play the game. If someone came waving a hundred-dollar bill over their head, they’d be ignored or shooed away. 

I never paid a maitre d' at a restaurant for a better table because I thought I might be insulting him.  He’s wearing a tux – what am I giving him money for?  I just didn’t know what I was supposed to do.  Of course, I can count on my thumb how many times I’ve been to a place with a maitre d'. 

That uncertainty is the new normal. You don’t know who or when to grease. And it’s hard to do a dollar handshake when everybody’s fist bumping. You don’t want to try and grease somebody if they’re going to botch it.  If you’re gonna grease somebody with a $20 and it falls on the floor, you really have to do an about-face and walk away, forfeiting the twenty.

 In the days of the grease you didn’t have tip jars on counters in regular stores. And stadiums these days are like Disney World or some corporate conference. You get people who seem happy to see you, and will point out your seats with professional courtesy. Not like the old days where ushers with dirty rags would wipe down your seat that didn’t need wiping, (until after he used that rag), and then give you a shakedown look.

Greasing is different from tipping, which will get full attention in another column.  Greasing is benevolent bribery. But my guess is that it's dying out. I’m too decrepit to be going to clubs these days so I’m not standing on line wondering if I should grease the bouncer. Instead I’m wondering if bouncers get greased at all. I’m thinking at hip places, the bouncers get zilch.

 I mean, hipsters love waiting on line. They’d think it’d be a waste of money to slip somebody money to get off a line to go inside. Waiting on line is part of the experience. Or some would wait in line with the hope of catching someone trying to grease the bouncer.  They’d get to shout, “Not cool!”  

I miss the days when grease was the word.

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