A large diplomatic cocktail party in an Asian country. Lots of food, lots of drinks, and lots of guests. The host is the American Consul: me.

Though there are secretaries, assistants and other people to help, I prefer to open the door personally to welcome guests to my home.

I was doing so for each incoming guest.

An American couple came in. I smiled and said Good Evening.

The husband looked at me but did not respond. At first, I wondered if he had heard me.

Then I realized that, from my looks, he had inferred I was a domestic help and beneath the level of a polite response.

I extended my hands then to take the coat from his wife. She said, as she divested herself of the fur coat, “It is an expensive coat.”

Though I nodded to indicate that I had understood, she stressed, “It is a very expensive coat. Take good care.” She placed a dollar bill in my pocket.

I hung the coat in a closet and went in. The barman was giving drinks to the couple.

My assistant said to them, “Let me introduce you to our host, the Consul.” The man’s jaw dropped in surprise and the woman started stammering, “Oh, I am so sorry. I hope you don’t mind.”

I raised my voice just a little bit, so that all the guests in the hall could hear me, and said, “I don’t mind at all, unless you ask back for the tip that I have earned.”


The writer is a Washington-based international development advisor and had worked with the World Bank. He can be reached at [email protected]