I’ve often said that going out to eat is my favorite indoor, non-contact sport. I might need to rephrase this. Oftentimes a lovely meal with friends or family morphs into a no-holds-barred wrestling match as soon as the check arrives. I’m considering wearing protective gear the next time I go out to eat.
Here are a few of the games people play when it’s time to pay:
Hockey: Sometimes the waitress drops the check in the middle of the table when you have a big group. It’s like the puck being dropped at a hockey game and the players all start jabbing and sticking to gain control. Diners should wear big, padded gloves in case they take a fork-jab to the hand.
Hide and seek: If the waitress brings the check early while people are still eating, often only one person will notice. That diner hides the bill under his or her plate. By the time everybody else starts looking around for the check, the sneaky benefactor announces with a smirk that it has already been taken care of.
This happened at a recent family event where someone else had called “dibs” on the check. That meal ended with yours-truly sandwiched between the two brawlers like a ref at a WWF wrestling match, yelling “break it up!” and trying to get them to go to their own corners. Both were slinging the generosity around so ferociously, it was a wonder I wasn’t knocked out cold!
Capture the flag: We went to dinner with 2 other couples and at the end of the meal, the three guys separately excused themselves to go to the men’s room. Perfectly understandable after a big meal. This was merely a smokescreen, however, as my husband whispered to me when he came back. Each had detoured to the waitress station in an attempt to capture the check. He and Checkout Man #2 were neatly out maneuvered by Potty Planner #1.
Tug of War: When dinner is clearly over, and everyone is refreshed and ready for battle, they start in on the waitress when she’s still halfway across the room carrying that tell-tale, padded envelope. The poor girl gets tugged, threatened and pleaded with from all sides to hand over the check. No matter what she does, someone is going to be mad. She can’t win!
Hot Potato: It’s annoying when someone insists on picking up the tab every time. Even more annoying, however, is the person who never offers to pay. We all know someone like this. When the check arrives he or she beats a hasty retreat to the bathroom, or makes sure they’re deep in conversation. If the bill somehow winds up in their hands, they drop it like a hot potato. It would sit there until the paper disintegrated if someone else didn’t pick it up. You suspect that Freddy the Freeloader didn’t even bring enough money to cover his own tab, let alone treat anyone else.
The problem with any of these games is that they never end. You need a score-card to keep track of whose turn it is to snag the check at any given meal.
We go out with the same group of friends every week, and I like the solution they developed early on:
Double Dutch: Nobody jumps up to pay the tab – we all pay our own and skip the fuss. Without the threat of mortal combat at the end of the meal we can relax, enjoy each other’s company, and leave the football pads and helmets at home.