Tuesday, February 10, 2009

put it on my tab

It's Totally Awkward Tuesday, sponsored by Tova! I haven't done one of these on an actual Tuesday yet because usually Hubs is home by now on Mondays distracting me with love and kisses.

(Or asking for dinner.)

The names in this story have been changed to protect the innocent.

(Not really, I just don't like people to know I'm writing about them. Had some backfires with that in the past.)

My awkward story begins on a beautiful fall day in 2005. I was working at my first real design firm in Kansas City, and had only been employed for about two weeks.

One Monday morning I recieved an email from my colleague Jenn. She and the other designers were going to Cheesecake Factory on Wednesday to celebrate Kelly's birthday. (Kelly was another colleague of ours.) I was invited to join them.

Despite my insatiable love for...

a) food
b) cheesecake
c) reasons to leave the office

...I must admit I was a little apprehensive about agreeing to attend this luncheon. Mainly because, I didn't know anything about the girls in my department.

You know how it goes. You start a new job and you're the odd woman out. Everyone else knows about who's having conceiving problems, who's sleeping with the copy repair man, who forgot to turn in their time sheet last month...

As the new gal on the block, all I could contribute was observations on who wore the best shoes each week.

(Oh yes, I take notes.)

I genuinely just felt awkward agreeing to celebrate the birthday of essentially a perfect stranger.

But like I said, I love cheesecake. So I said yes.

Wednesday rolled around and the 7 of us drove to the restaurant. Somehow I managed to get a spot in the middle of the table, with Kelly to my left and Jenn directly across from me.

I was rather intimidated by Jenn because she was the lead designer at our office, and also Kelly's best friend. People listened when she talked, and she was clearly someone you didn't want to piss off.

The meal passed by pleasantly enough, and toward the end, I actually began to feel surprisingly comfortable. I made some jokes, I heard some good stories about who to avoid at the office, and I began to feel like one of the gals.

The waiter came around after we finished our meal and asked how we wanted the ticket. Of course the usual reply of "split it up, please" was requested, and off he went.

I dug out my debit card and when the waiter brought us each our individual check holders, I placed my payment in the plastic slot.

Then something strange happened.

I noticed one of the girls get $4.00 from her purse and hand the money to the girl next to her. That girl then retrieved $4.00 from her wallet and handed the now $8.00 to the girl next to her. This happened all the way around the table, and then came to me.

So there I am, with approximately $20.00 in my hand and I have no clue what it's for.

Everyone at the table looked at me expectantly.

I turned to Kelly for help, but she was staring at the sky, doing everything possible to avoid looking my way.

Then I noticed Jenn violently trying to mouth something to me.

(Let me just say I am horrible at reading lips. Like...awful. Sometimes when Hubs mouths something like, "I love you" I swear he's asking me to take out the garbage.)

I concentrated hard and tried to make out what my colleague was saying, but all I got was "Dear pitting belly back."


Not wanting to seem stupid (too late), I nodded and smiled and said, "Oh! Okay! Here, Kelly!" and gave her the money.


At that point, Jenn was forced to interject. She was polite, but clearly irritated.

"Kim, the six of us are picking up Kelly's tab. She shouldn't have to pay on her birthday. It's $4.00 each."

(Apparently she had been mouthing, "We're splitting Kelly's check". Which made lots more sense.)


Because no one notified me of this blessed birthday ritual, I was of course ill prepared in the cash department. One of the other girls was kind enough to dig out my share and place it in the check holder.

Kelly was silent the entire time.

As we rode home with a giant awkward elephant in the passenger seat, I kicked myself and solemnly vowed to remember to carry at least $20.00 in my purse at all times.

And to take lip reading lessons.


alissa said...

ugh that is so something i wouldve done. large groups+eating at restaurants = weirdness when the check comes. either you split it up and the waiter is pissed or every single person has cards and they mix them up or someone 'forgets' that they should probably add tax and tip onto their total etc etc
and then birthdays...

Moi said...

awww..that sucks! But how were you supposed to know?? I never have cash so that would SOOOO be me.
definitely awkward...

Tova Darling said...

Why the heck wouldn't someone have just TOLD you?? How weird! Were you just supposed to be psychic?

Ryan Ashley Scott@Optimistic Cynicism said...

Women are mean! Why wouldn't they tell you? Who carries cash when there are debit cards? What was wrong with them? How awkward.

Judith said...

How totally rude that they wouldn't even tell the new girl what the heck is going on. I'm with the rest of you--who carries cash anymore? Sheesh....

Judith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Back in the olden days when I was working at Intel and no one had debit cards, I martyred myself to pay the bill when we all went out to lunch. For all the reasons Allisa stated...I figured most of the people didn't have the means to make up the difference if they were left to settle the bills.
Someone would always do the old, I'm not giving $6 when I didn't have a beer and someone else did....or not figure in taxes or tipping. And some that we KNEW just skipped out and didn't pay at all.
But it never felt right to have the waiter do individual bills for 20 people!

If I couldn't afford or wasn't willing to pay the portion that you got stiffed with -- I just didn't go with them that day. It made me too uncomfortable.

The "rules" need to be understood!

AUnt Joy