You know what CC students loves to talk about? The bubble. The protective coating that allows our school to exist as this wonderful little island of liberal education and free thought within the conservative, Christian sea that is Colorado Springs. People talk a lot about getting out of the bubble, and campus organizations talk a lot about different ways it can be broken down completely. It might be worth taking some time in the midst of all this discussion about how to get out, where to go once we’re out, and what the bubble really means, man – to think about whether or not we deserve to leave, and whether anyone out there wants us to.
Colorado College students are really awful at being residents of Colorado Springs. Leaving aside the destruction we visit on the 900-1100 blocks of Weber and Wahsatch every weekend, which ranges from noise complaints to trash thrown into neighboring yards to students just tearing up lawn decorations out of pure malicious inebriation, we just don’t treat anyone else who lives in this city with any sort of respect whatsoever. I know I’m painting with a pretty wide brush here, but looking at the way we behave at the food and booze establishments downtown, and listening to the ways the locals I know talk about us, it’s pretty hard to come to any other conclusion.
The easiest example of this is the Wednesday night college deals that exist around town. People probably don’t remember this, but two years ago Wednesday meant Jack Quinn’s for Bombs and Wings. Your friends were there, the wings were cheap, the bombs were also cheap, the staff was friendly, you got drunk, and then you left and went out and partied somewhere. It was great. As time went by, though, the situation deteriorated. More people showed up, it started being the end of the night instead of the beginning, everyone got way way drunker, the staff and patrons stopped getting along. Someone discovered Phantom Canyon, and a small group split off and started going there. It started the same way: small groups, drinking beer, playing pool, and then we’d head somewhere else. Finally, someone got thrown out of Jack Quinn’s, tensions peaked, and everyone started going to Phantom on Wednesdays.
If you asked last year’s class what happened, why they gave up on Bombs and Wings, most of them would probably say the staff at Jack Quinn’s was treating them like shit. But I can tell you that when we started going, service was prompt and friendly, and the patrons got along incredibly well with the staff. So what happened? My guess is it’s a really simple root cause: CC students are awful tippers.
I am basing this on watching at least four people completely stiff bartenders on tips at Phantom Wednesday night. Service jobs, especially bartending, are both incredibly stressful and incredibly performance based. Tipped employees in Colorado are paid substantially less an hour than non-tipped employees, with the expectation being that the tips they earn will more than make up for the deficit. So when you go to a bar and don’t tip your bartender or server, you aren’t keeping a bonus from them. You are actively reducing the hourly wage they depend upon to live. Just for clarity’s sake, at every bar I have ever been to, it is customary to tip about one dollar for every simple drink, like draft beers and well mixes, and slightly more for complex orders that require more work. This is something you should know.
So, lets imagine the situation from the perspective of the staff at Jack Quinn’s. You’re working Wednesday night, which is probably a hard shift to begin with, because of the special. It’s worth it, though, because increased business means increased tips. Then, out of nowhere, a bunch of customers come in who are not only fairly rude, but don’t tip well, if at all. So you are now working harder for the same amount of money, or potentially less, when the new, loud customers drive away the ones who had been coming in and tipping well. Your level of performance is based on the assumption that you will be paid for being a good server. If you aren’t, then don’t you start treating them poorly, in the same way you’re treating you poorly? Isn’t that where the situation falls apart?
The same thing is happening at Phantom, by the way. More and more hear, I hear complaints about how terrible the service at Phantom Canyon is on Wednesday, how the bartenders are assholes. But for the most part we have been going there for a year or more. We should all know that the staff wasn’t rude when we started going there. So if they are no longer providing good service, it stands to reason that we have done something to result in this happening, doesn’t it? Again, this is speculation. What isn’t speculation is mentioning that I had a conversation with an employee of one of the downtown bars, who had asked specifically to be taken off the schedule for the college special night that CC students flocked to. It isn’t speculation to mention the girl who cut my hair recently telling me she had no problem with CC students unless they were acting like assholes at her favorite bar. It isn’t speculation to point out how many credit card receipts I see with the tip line left blank at Phantom on any given Wednesday.
Honestly, I don’t really understand why this happens. Surely part of it is coming out of that perpetually broke college kid mentality that springs up so often at schools with tuitions over $40,000 a year. But I think it has a lot more to do with the way we look at this town and our bubbled mentality. I think CC students generally believe that they are better than the locals of Colorado Springs. We set this town up in our minds as so completely defined by Focus on the Family, the NoBama bumper stickers we see on the backs of cars, the meth problem we love to make jokes about, that we forget that underneath all of our stereotypes, this town is made up of people. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, but the degree to which we as CC students dehumanize and stereotype the residents of the Springs is hideous.
There is a really cool underground art scene in Colorado Springs, with galleries hidden less than a block from the CC downtown stomping grounds. There is a lively community of slam poets and musicians attending open mics at coffee shops we’ve never even tried to find out about. There’s amazing food scattered around that would so wonderfully break the monotony of downtown dining. There are bars with awesome deals, awesome bartenders, and awesome patrons where we could all be drinking. I’m not saying that Colorado Springs is one of the great cities, or that I’m not incredibly happy to be leaving at the end of the month. I am just saying that if we, as a school, were willing to step outside of our comfort zone, we’d probably find a lot more in this town than we might expect to. I’m just not sure we deserve it.