Separate Checks

I am a firm believer in separate checks. Every time I go out to eat with friends, you’ll hear it come out of my mouth. Only on dates do I suck it up and pay the whole tab. I do not carry cash so splitting a check four ways with a credit card is a practically impossible. Instead, one person ends up paying the whole thing with a credit card and you hear the ol’ “I owe you one.” Then, that person either dies or leaves the country and you never see them again. Imagine this fast paced montage with me for a second.  I imagine this person walking outside and then taking off sprinting. They hop into a cab. “TAKE ME TO O’HARE!” We see the plane take off and land. We see the person run off the plane and hop into a cab. They get off at the docks and hop on a jet ski. It could go on forever. This reminds me of a time I went out with some friends to a ‘cafe’ in Wrigleyville. Going into any restaurant knowing I’m going to get into it with a waiter if they don’t do separate checks is always like preparing for war. Imagine me standing outside putting chain mail on. Covered head to toe. I’m draping ammunition across my chest. I’m putting Batman forearm guards with the sharp jagged edges on. I’ve got a sword case but no sword in it just for show. Anyway, you get the point. Well, on this day, I met my match. I arrive earlier than everyone else so I informed the waiter there were more people coming. He was stoic. No emotion whatsoever. A statue with it’s mouth open staring blindly into the distance. Looking into his eyes you’d think he was one of those people who’d ‘seen it all.’ He nodded and walked away.

Shortly after, my party arrived. The waiter went around the table taking people’s drink orders. As it came my time to order, I cracked my knuckles and smiled. “Separate checks please.” You could hear a pin drop. In my mind I remember everything in the restaurant stopping. Imagine all the people talking just halting their conversations and all turning around to look at me. It felt like minutes went by as the people gawked at me with that look like ‘can you believe this guy?’ “We don’t do separate checks. You can divy it up at the end” he barked.  Treated me. Got me.  Injured, but determined, I replied, “Some of us here are paying with credit cards. You’ll have to split it up anyway when you ring it up. Can you ju…” “WE DON’T DO IT”, he coldly responded and walked away. No drink order taken. You’ll go thirsty and you’ll like it I thought. This was a show down straight out of The Quick and the Dead. I never got to retort. Drinks were brought by someone else. The food was brought by someone else. “Is everything alright?” was asked by someone else. The single check was brought my someone else. Always different people. Never the same person. Each employee quickly darting away with, “sorry I’m not your waiter.” I never saw him again. I had a response and physicality ready and in the chamber had he come back. While throwing my arms in the air I would have said,  “What if I went over to that table over there and ordered by myself …then brought the food over here?”

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