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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wallet Chicken

We're all evolved human beings here right? And the economy is not too strong, so it is understandable that a couple in a relationship would go dutch or trade off on paying for dates.  In my mind, the person who asks the other person out should pay and the askee should offer to pay the tip. If the asker refuses to allow the askee to pay the tip, he/she scores more points. I like to think I'm open minded and evolved in terms of gender roles, but sometimes people, male and female alike can just be plain cheap. Because a blind first date is often fraught with nervousness and both parties trying to make a good impression, people often avoid asking a simple question like, "who's paying for this?" To do so would be poor form and indicate that you have something on your mind other than the wonderfullness that is the person sitting opposite you. If a woman does it, she is considered shallow, if a man does, he's considered cheap. This situation has caused the phenomena known as wallet chicken.

   Say you are going on a dinner date where the man has asked you out. You notice your date becomes quieter and a bit fidgety as the  the meal comes to an end. The waitress brings the bill on a black plastic tray, a leatherette envelope on top of it for the discrete exchange of funds. A sudden tension enters the room. a lone tumbleweed crosses the floor, someone in the corner spits into a brass jar. In the distance, you  hear an ominous whistling and guitar.  Phase one: your eyes narrow suspiciously for a  pre-shootout staring contest. Whoever looks away first has exposed a weakness and must make up for it with flair in phases two and three. In a combination between  the classic western showdown and the game of chicken both parties see how long they can withstand the pressure before pulling out the wallet and resigning to paying.
Often, the asker will pay without a problem. However, I have witnessed some
sneakily brilliant ways to avoid paying the bill from both sexes.
1. The old standby: :Whoops, I forgot my wallet" , not so creative, but in the moocher's hall of fame, a classic nonetheless.
2. Having the boldness to simply never reach for the wallet at all and stare down the other person.If you are opposite a skilled player, this strategy is not suggested.
3.Just before the bill comes, leaving for the bathroom and then peering out from behind a partition while the waitstaff presents the check. This method usually works if you are the one invited, but it can backfire. If you stay in the bathroom too long, your date will think you have either 1) a drug problem or b) some horrible intestinal issue. Neither are terribly attractive.
4. Starting an argument or feigning offense and walking out (if at all possible in righteous indignation or a huff.)
5. (and this is a real gamble) Offer to pay the bill. Often your opponent will raise you one and say, "Oh, no, I've got it," placing a hand on the tray lightly.  You then pull out the big guns, "I insist." Now, if you are with a pro, he/she will say, "ok, thanks," and your move has failed. Because people like to avoid confrontation, the opponent looks like a peacemaker. The dialogue can go back and forth until one party gets heated and insists with a slightly louder voice. True your date will mildly despise you, but you will have won and that's what matters. 

These showdown techniques are best left to the professional moochers and my advice would be to bring your wallet with money in it just in case. Unfortunately, I don't think any restaurants will  allow the whole washing dishes to pay for the bill situation anymore and most bathrooms don't have windows you can climb through.

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