Well, that’s garbage

Splitting bills, splitting hairs

Illustration by Justin Ladia

Ever notice that in the movies, whenever characters are at restaurants, the cheque comes, the character barely looks at the amount, slaps down a pile of bills, and, in mid-conversation, just leaves? 

Sadly, I can tell you with authority that this NEVER happens in real life. 

As a part time soldier in the restaurant industry army, I’ve been subject to an exhausting movement in modern-day payment: Hyper Bill-Splitting. 

Scenario: A group of friends are at a restaurant. The server brings the bill, and suddenly it’s a table full of ancient Biblical tax collectors, hashing out grievances and settling accounts, while clicking beads on their mental abacuses. 

“I’ll cover my food, but, she’ll get my coffee (You still owe me for the movie last week).” 

“Put one of her gin and tonics on my bill. It’s your birthday, bitch.” (Direct quote) 

“I’ll take his beer – I missed your birthday last month.” 

“Could you split the charcuterie board into three? And I’ll take two of the thirds.” 

“Oh but Greg and I ate some! Split it into five and we’ll take three-fifths.” 

I wish I were exaggerating. I once split a $4 bowl of popcorn nine ways. I was surprised they didn’t physically count the kernels. 

I’ve even had people exchange drinks with each other that were the exact same price. 

If you’re thinking “So what? Isn’t that the server’s job?” That’s the problem right there. Sure, a server puts bills together and accepts payments. But the type of business you are thinking of is called a bank, a place that keeps and distributes your money. 

First off, Hyper Bill-Splitter, just so you know, your server HATES you. They are cursing your table number, scowling, trying to Tetris your hideous Franken-bill together. With a dozen other tables to take care of, they don’t have time for your barter and trade system. 

Secondly, you don’t have the right to make their job harder. Would you go to the Bay and buy a pair of shoes using four separate debit transactions? No. That’s needless. 

The root of of this problem is the demise of cash. No one carries physical bills to plop down haphazardly anymore. 

But in my view, that disappearance of cash has fostered a disappearance of a certain type of generosity, of the “I got this,” “close enough,” and “that oughta cover it,” varieties. 

I’m not suggesting everyone become a high roller. But maybe it would be nice and just easier if (in rotation) you bought the $4 popcorn… once in awhile. 

Why spoil a nice evening with math? 

So! My hassle-free bill settling suggestions: 

  • Split it absolutely evenly (the whole bill or shared item). 
  • One person pays for the shared item. 
  • If you’d like to make someone’s item your treat, tell your server upon ordering. 
  • If you owe Matt $5, GIVE HIM FIVE ACTUAL DOLLARS. 

Think of that movie detective plopping down a 20. 

Wouldn’t you rather be that than the old lady with the change purse holding up the line at the supermarket? 

Jane is a writer and performer with the Winnipeg sketch comedy troupe, Hot Thespian Action, an improviser with local improv troupe, Outside Joke, and the host of the CBC Comedy Factory Podcast.

Published in Volume 70, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 14, 2016)

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