So, I have people in my life who, given half a chance, would pay for everything, always. They whip out their wallet the second that bill arrives, and being allowed to contribute to my portion or – god forbid – getting the whole meal becomes one of those ridiculous snatching/wrestling games where the waiter stands by patiently as we both insist it’s our turn and that the other one definitely paid last time.
Then, there are the others – the ones my friend Neill calls the ‘next timers’ – those who seem to have eyes in the back of their heads which register the exact moment the waiter starts moving towards your table with his saucer, slip and mints, and that is the time they’ll get up, all casual-like, and mosey on to the loo, leaving you with your little silver card and nothing to do but pay for dinner. Again. Even though you paid last time and the time before and the time before that, too.
It’s messed up, this situation. When they come back and act surprised that it’s all a done deal, they’ll always – to make themselves feel better, I guess – tell you they’ll get the bill ‘next time’, but this next time story never happens. Somehow they’ll find a way to weasel themselves out of that one, too – they don’t have cash and don’t want to use their cards; they ‘forgot’ their wallets at home or they’re really short this month. Except then you’ll see on Facebook that they took themselves off to Thailand – obviously with the money they’ve saved from all the meals their friends have sponsored.
People who do this to other people are a special brand of tacky. I get poor; I’ve been shit poor in my life. Yet it’s never the ones who are struggling who’ll pull these tactics on you. We’ve had well off friends stay with us for two weeks and contribute a single bottle of wine, and struggling friends who showed up with Moet et Chandon, shopped for groceries daily and tried to pay for every meal out. We have people who come for a braai armed with Woollies ribs (and we all know what those cost), garlic bread and cous cous salad, and others who show up with an open bottle of Porcupine Ridge which they quickly put in the fridge and drink all the nice Paul Cluver.
I can’t decide if the ‘next-timers’ are aware of their tightness and don’t care as long as they’re saving a buck, or if they are genuinely oblivious to how onbeskof they’re being. There is something so lovely and gracious about taking turns to pay for one another instead of enduring the embarrassment of sitting there trying to work out how to split R291 plus tip. But I’ve learnt that, with some people, you just have to go 50-50 otherwise they’ll take you for a merry old ride. And, when you’re having to watch your back like that, are these so-called friend even worth having? Lately I’m not so sure.