Eating out. Great food. Great something to do when there’s nothing to do, but who picks up the tab?
Why is it called a tab? Is it because the waiter puts it on the table? Never mind.
Restaurants should have two menus: green and red. The green menu will be for normal people.
1. Diners who tell the waiter to charge the four people at the table separately, which means four credit cards of all colours will be fished out of from bulging wallets.
2. Diners who split the tab four-ways, which is a problem if they are paying cash. Who pays the tax? Do they split the 8% or 14%? The cash situation can be a nightmare for waiters, while grown-up men and women pass around twenty and ten dollar bills, even silver. ‘Mine is $12.47 because I had the ceasar salad and water,’ says the local Scrooge.
3. People who eat alone and leave obese tips. Some sole diners can be a waiter’s dream because it is less hassle. ‘The usual Mr. Baker?’ Always respect people with their own tables in restaurants.
The red menu does not have prices so invited guests don’t know how much their food costs.
Can I take you out to dinner?
Who is paying?
Me. Of course. What do you take me for?
It is important to clarify things before we leave home, or separate homes. Life it too complicated for embarrassment when the bill comes.
Because the red menu does not have prices, the invited guest can order whatever he or she wants. Peking duck or lobster? No problem at all. Careful though.
It is called the red menu because it is like walking on live coals or climbing Sakurajima, the active volcano in Kyushu, Japan.
The person who is picking up the tab will be silently offended whether you choose the cheapest or most expensive item on the menu.
Solution? Order from the red menu. Only two people will know how much the meal cost: the waiter and the one who picks up the tab.
Better have your own credit card on stand-by, just in case.
Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness the Novel.