Who Says There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?

Who Says There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?

I know it’s too soon to talk about going out to eat but eventually this virus will pass and we will be going out again. When I go out to eat I am usually with my girlfriend. The server will typically ask her, “What would he like to eat?” I’m sure (particularly if you’re a wheelchair user) you’ve found yourself in a similar situation. I have several directions I can take after I’ve been deemed incapable of ordering my own dinner, depending on what kind of a mood I am in. I can start ranting, “I have my human rights like anyone else and I feel you have disrespected me;” I can go the polite route and explain, “I’m quite capable of ordering my own food and I would sincerely appreciate you address me directly;” or I can play around with the server and ask my girlfriend, “Gee, sweetie, what do you think ‘he’ wants to eat?”  Or she can say, “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask him?” And then we can watch the server turn red, squirm, apologize, and eventually ask me directly what I want to order.

After we have finished eating, OUR game begins.  We call it “Bill Bias.” The rule of the game is that whoever gets the check placed closest to them pays the tab.  The server has two options: me, whom they had already decided couldn’t pick my own meal; or they can put it in front of my girlfriend, who is not disabled.  Whom do you think they choose most of the time?  Yes, you’re right—I have had more than my share of free meals on her dime!

My girlfriend quickly picked up her disadvantage in the game, and started playing defense. After a meal out, she starts placing salt and pepper shakers, ketchup bottles, water glasses, plates, and silverware in front of her. She has built a line of defense that should make her invincible to my scam. Obviously the server has a dilemma. Does the server present me with the bill or do they still present the bill to my friend who has built Fort Knox in front of her.

Once this blockade is established, the server usually puts the bill in the neutral zone between us. Then we have to measure the proximity of the food bill to each of us, like two old Italian guys playing bocce. We use hand spans, width of fingers, and sometimes the size of fingernails to figure out who’s paying the tab. We argue for a while, have a few laughs, and split the bill-- but occasionally I still end up with a free lunch or dinner. As does she.

Next time you go out to eat with a friend try the game Bill Bias. Like I said, who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch!

Joseph Tringali

Editor and Informational Advocate

Stavros Center for Independent Living


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