Is it me? Be honest.
More frequently than I care to admit, when dining out with my wife of thirty-three years, the waiter or waitress, when it’s time to present the bill, asks, “Will this be separate checks? Or, all on one?”
My question is, what vibe am I emitting that causes these servers to decide that there is a distinct possibility that I wish to share the bill with this delightful woman with whom I am dining? There appear to me to be several potential reasons, including:
- They have me pegged as a “cheap bastard”.
- It’s “restaurant policy” to ask this question of everyone.
- My wife appears to be the decision-maker in our little band.
- The server is young and experienced, and doesn’t fully understand the “ways of the world”.
- The server recognizes me as one who has skipped-out on paying the bill in the past (aka “Dine ‘n Dash”).
- The way I am dressed suggests that I am unable to pay the entire bill.
Allow me to speak categorically to these possible explanations for posing this ridiculous question to me.
It’s probably not fair to disavow the “cheap bastard” label, absent independent verification. It’s kinda’ like thumping your chest, and touting what a good guy you are; someone else should be weighing-in as to your “good guy-ness” (are you listening, Trump?). I certainly welcome those who know me personally to offer their support to me on this front. But, examining my body of work as dispassionately as is possible, I don’t believe that I have earned the “cheap bastard” label. Sure, on occasion I might undertip a bit, but generally that’s driven by a math error, rather than some other, more nefarious motive.
Serious restaurateurs these days are acknowledged for performing market research, in order to better position themselves for success, in the extremely-competitive world of dining. The landscape of dining options is endless, and restaurants come and go constantly. Therefore, I find it far-fetched to believe that “restaurant policy” would dictate that servers should ask whether separate checks are desired; I’m certain that market research would reveal that many diners would find this question to be insulting.
As to the question of which of us is best equipped, between my wife and I, to perform the largely-ceremonial duties of paying the dinner check, allow me to say (in case she’s reading this) that I have tremendous respect for her decision-making skills, and she’s also highly-intelligent, and attractive, and kind to small animals. . .blah, blah, blah. Nonetheless, at the risk of seeming to be sexist, I believe that the default ought to be that the gentleman at the table should be served with the bill – the full bill!
I’m willing to concede that many servers these days are indeed young and inexperienced; if they weren’t young and inexperienced, likely they would be toiling in some other, meaningless, although better-compensated job, which wouldn’t require them to serve food to strangers. Allow me to clarify for the record (in case servers are reading this) that waiting tables is an honorable profession, requiring sharp decision-making skills, and a high level of intelligence, and attractiveness, and being kind to small animals. . .blah, blah, blah. Young and inexperienced servers can perhaps be forgiven for not fully understanding the potentially sexist rule I outlined in the previous paragraph, but their chosen profession (at least for the moment) includes understanding and executing that rule effectively. I will allow them to to be young and inexperienced in other ways, but not in this specific task, proper execution of which is a critical success factor in performing their job well.
I won’t dignify the question of my character with respect to past “Dine ‘n Dash” incidents with an answer – they simply never happened! And, I don’t believe most restaurants are sophisticated enough to properly maintain a “Most Wanted” list of prior deadbeats. I do remember an old “Seinfeld” episode, in which a picture of Jerry’s face was pasted on the wall of a retail establishment, after he bounced a check there. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen one of those in real life, however. Although, as I think back, I did once drive away from a gas station without paying. In fairness to me, this was after midnight, on my way home from the hospital, after attending to the birth of my daughter, and I was in a bit of a haze. I think I also drove away from a gas station with the pump hanging out of my gas-tank. Boy, it sure sounds as if I’ve wreaked some real havoc at gas stations (Ryan Lochte is nodding his head along with me on this one).
The final potential issue is with my fashion-sense – specifically, whether or not my attire is appropriate for a dinner-date with my wife. I do try to dress appropriately when going out in public, which is something I can’t say about all my fellow-travelers. In fact, I participated in the firing of an employee, who, after showing up several hours late, was dressed in pajamas, with his stripper-girlfriend in tow. I think we made the right decision in firing that young man. I have felt, at times, improperly dressed, but never to the point of feeling as if the server was eyeing me suspiciously, wondering if I would actually pay the bill.
I have felt unfairly singled-out on the occasions of being asked the “Separate Checks?” question, but I know for a fact that I am not alone. Just this morning, I witnessed a server asking another gentleman that very question. Of course, it was at breakfast-time; perhaps that raises a whole other set of questions.