Splitting the Check

There is no greater horror (in a life with few horrors) than getting the check after dining or drinking with a large group of people. The worst worst time is when everyone has cash except for you, so they’re like “How about you put it on your card and we’ll give you money?” That innocent sounding “How about…” always ends with you putting $200 on your debit card and them handing you 16 crumpled ones, and you being like, “What the fuck?” and everyone being like “I put in the correct amount PLUS a little extra for tax,” and then turning back to their conversations to leave you to be evicted from your apartment. The best worst time is when some extremely chill person who has never been out to dinner before is like “Just give me your cash and I’ll put it on my card,” and you’re like “Okay,” but are thinking: welcome to hell motherfucker.
On Saturday I somehow got into one of these situations at an outdoor bar in Brooklyn. Before the check came, I had worked out a PLAN with my two friends—a couple who no one knew except me—wherein I would give them $4 for my beer and they would put our THREE beers on their card. (Do I have everyone’s rapt attention?) Everyone else had put in cash, so when the check did come we were the defacto guardians of the check folder. As their card was being charged, we were counting the cash and continually coming up $5 short. This is actually a great position to be in when you’ve already given all of your cash to someone else and therefore can harass other people about their miserliness without worrying for one second that you might have to pony up more money. “Hey you guys,” I said to the group at large. “We’re a little short here.” I said this in the semi-aggrieved but ever so slightly self-satisfied tone of a person who never gets the opportunity to take on the responsible role in group. Everyone was all “I put in the correct amount PLUS a little extra for tax,” but weirdly didn’t turn away and instead kept looking at me expectantly. I had the floor. “Well, I’m not sure what’s going on, but we are a little short.” I felt like the waitress who tells you that that table you want is actually reserved, i.e. sure of my position and trying hard to contain my glee. People looked a little panicked. “I’m not sure what you guys want to do,” I said, distancing myself from this group of ragamuffin scoundrels who went out drinking but couldn’t pay their tab or do math. A tall girl took a $5 out of her wallet and offered it to the gaping maw of the check folder. “Thanks,” I said, smiling conspiratorially like, it’s hard being the only adults on Earth. The problem solved, everyone started heading toward the exit. My couple friends and I trailed a little behind having just signed the check and realized that we had actually gotten four beers.

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