By Billy Goodrum
In my life with Baba I often try to identify the ways He works with us since we don’t have a set program of meditation or chanting or any clearly defined practice. In hearing and reading the stories of the mandali and talking to other Baba lover’s one pattern that continually emerges is that Baba often employs the technique of exasperation (which ideally leads to some kind of surrender). Through sleep deprivation on Mast tours. Through constantly changing the date of the breaking of His Silence. Through financial stress. Asking Margaret Craske to dance while on the side of a mountain in heavy boots. It can be large or small but it is usually something that one is placing a lot of importance on at the time.
What was important to me in 1995 was Katie Irani’s visit to California. I had made my first visit to India the previous year and one of the stronger connections I made with the mandali was with Katie. In talking with her she mentioned that she would soon be making a trip to Japan but after that she was through traveling. She’d had enough. For some reason I heard that as “I’d like to come to America again.”
When I got back to Los Angeles I found myself as the newly installed Program Walla for the LA Center. I asked the previous program organizers what I should do and they suggested that I have some readings, music programs and a few guest speakers. In my naïveté, and without really consulting anyone, I wrote Katie and asked her to come be a guest speaker at the Center. I was chastised by a few people for not going through the proper channels and so recklessly sending out an invitation but she accepted and with some help (thank you Steve Klein) I began to make the arrangements for her trip. I felt a fair deal of pressure and wanted everything to come off without a hitch.
The big day finally came and I was super excited as I headed off to the airport to pick her up. She was met by an attendant with a wheelchair and some of the LA group had brought her flowers so with bouquet in hand she was wheeled through the airport and out to the parking lot and waiting car. I really wanted to do everything “right” with Katie’s visit and in going over the airport details I had been careful to get change to tip the attendant and I slipped him some bills before getting in the car.
When I got in the car Katie and I had the following exchange:
KATIE: Why did you do that?
ME: Why did I do what?
KATIE: Give him money.
ME: It’s a tip. For wheeling you out here.
KATIE: You shouldn’t give him money. It’s clear the airport pays him . . . he has on a uniform. The airport pays him and you shouldn’t give him money.
She went on to say it was ridiculous for me to have parted with my money so easily. I had thought I was being conscientious and had wanted everything to go perfectly so I was stung by the exchange.
A couple of weeks later Katie was scheduled to go to Mexico City to visit with some Baba lovers there. We packed her up and headed to the airport. Jacko Caraco drove and let Katie and I out at the terminal where I had arranged to have a wheelchair waiting to get her to the gate. This was pre-9/11 so I could go all the way through the terminal with her.
We arrived at the waiting area of Katie’s gate and she looked up at me and kind of cocked her head in the direction of her wheelchair attendant . . . as if to point him out. I had no idea what she meant and it must have shown on my face so she did it again. This time, as she pointed with her head to the attendant she also rubbed her fingers against her thumb in the universal symbol for money. I doubt I could have ever read Baba’s gestures but at that point I could read Katie’s and she was indicating to me that I should give the attendant a tip.
I was dumbstruck. After my first experience with Katie at the airport I hadn’t bothered to get change to tip anyone so all I had was a twenty dollar bill which I didn’t really want to part with. Katie was continuing her finger-rubbing and head pointing with such fervor that I was afraid she might get whiplash. An image popped into my head of Katie arriving back in India with a brace on her neck so I stuffed the twenty into the attendant’s hand and he gave me a big smile and shuffled off.
I was just turning to ask Katie what had so radically changed her views on bestowing gratuities when Jacko walked up and Katie began to ask him some questions and kept the conversation away from the subject of tipping until she was called to board her flight. When she returned to Los Angeles from Mexico I was ready with proper change. The attendant wheeled her out to the car. I gave him a tip. Then I got in the car and Katie and I had the following exchange:
KATIE: Why did you do that?
ME: Why did I do what?
KATIE: Why did you give him money? You shouldn’t give him money. It’s clear the
airport pays him . . . he has on a uniform. . . .
I was confused and stammering when she started laughing and patted me on the back and said “don’t worry about it, Goody.” Goody is what she called me.
She had pushed me to that place of exasperation. A fairly humorous exasperation. Was it Baba’s divine hand working through Katie to wear down my ego about doing things “right?” Or did the mandali as a sweet love gift give people a tiny, tiny, tiny taste of the treatment they got from Baba? Or was Katie just a big practical joker? Did I gain or lose sanskara’s from the experience? I guess I won’t really know for sure until I am God Realized which I currently calculate to be approximately the year 142,241,860 A.D.
In the meantime I am always comforted by what I have labeled on the desktop of my computer as “Best Quote Ever!” From Meher Baba: “Try to remember Me, try to please Me, try to do as I wish. That is how you should live in the world; otherwise it is too complicated.” Especially when it comes to tipping.