Paying the Bill

“So is everyone full?” Ida asked, coffee pot in hand.

“Yes, it was excellent,” Jason said. “My compliments to the chef.”

“Oh, don’t you dare. His head’s already big enough.” Ida cackled.

“I’ll take the bill,” Jason told her.

Cass’s parents objected and Ida over rode them. “There’s no bill.”

 

 

In my family who was paying the bill was decided before the invitation to go out was offered. It was never “let’s go to _________” it was “I’m taking you to ____________.” My brother and sister-in-law like to take my mother and I to a place called Margarita’s in Girard once a year for our birthdays. It’s an Italian restaurant and the invitation is always issued as “we are taking you to Margarita’s Saturday about 6? Okay?”

 

So imagine my surprise when I started spending time with my former husband’s family and discovered the tradition of the fight over the check. Picture this. You’re out with your (then) boyfriend’s parents and one set of grandparents. You’ve had a lovely dinner. The check arrives. The table erupts. I mean erupts. Mamaw makes a grab for the check but father-in-law is quicker with the credit card. Papaw shoves the card back across the table and puts down cash (exactly correct change that you never saw him count.) Mother-in-law stands insisting that they will pay the bill, slipping it neatly from under the cash and starting for the hostess desk. Boyfriend gets into the act, following her and pushing money into her hands to “at least let us pay for our share.” Naturally she refuses. Mamaw insists that they will get it next time. Papaw says he’s leaving the tip. He leaves a dollar. (I loved that man, but it never mattered what the bill was, he left a dollar tip.) You wait until the melee has moved toward the desk and fill out the tip with your best guess. In the parking lot, after the goodbyes and promises to do this again have been said, boyfriend asks if you left a decent tip as his grandfather always leaves a dollar.

 

Did this exact scenario happen? Pretty much every time I had a meal out with the in-laws though some details changed. Not to protect the innocent, but because sometimes things just played out differently. Add a few more relatives to the mix and it became a floorshow for the entire restaurant.

 

So when I was writing the above scene, that’s what I was thinking of.

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