You know I’m a Lakers fan. I’m a basketball fan as well. And a basketball player, though not for a number of years.
When you’re partisan and watch a lot of hoops, you identify a number of opposition tendencies – favorite moves, if you will – that really grate on you. Like M.L. Carr waving the towel. Like Danny Ainge crying at the refs, palms up, beckoning, ‘How can you make that call?’ Like Bill Laimbeer meeting a ball-handler coming down the lane with his chest . . . and then flailing his arms like a human dual-switchblade across the offensive player’s face.
These vintage examples are the kinds of things that make you stand before your TV set, palms up, beckoning, ‘How can you lie? You know you did it!’ They make you hack at the air, wishing Bill Laimbeer’s face was under your claws.
The same thing happens as a waiter. Tonight I witnessed one of my opponent’s favorite moves: The Elbow On The Check Presenter.
Only a Camper will do it. (I’ll address Campers in-full another time.) This is the party who will order their cocktails and immediately advise you, ‘We’re not in a hurry. We’re going to enjoy our cocktails and then we’ll look at the menu.’ Since Campers is not the subject here, I won’t detail the rest of the Camper M.O. Be assured that this posture will be maintained at every juncture of the dining experience.
Elbow Man (usually a male, though in rare cases he can be a woman) will (begin to) end the night’s dinner like this: Thanking you for bringing the check. ‘I’ll get that.’ He pulls the check towards him and places his elbow on top of it. He proceeds to continue expounding. No need for me to modify ‘expounding.’ He’s been expounding generally through the whole meal, and he will continue. The elbow, always, pins the check to the table. Five minutes . . . ten . . . twenty . . . The Elbow will be right there. You could throw scalding water on his face, and he’d block it only with his left hand. Right elbow: planted on the check.
Elbow Man is a blowhard showoff. He has money, or just as likely, he has enough credit to front like he has money. He desperately needs the approval that as a man with money he has a lot of wisdom to offer. And he’s not above milking the penultimate moment for more of his own gratification (well, he’s not above anything).
His mate (or mates) is a suck-up, probably because he doesn’t want to pay the bill – or even his part of the bill. And, probably, he shouldn’t have to after the punishment he’s received through this meal. So he will keep nodding, looking deeply into Elbow Man’s eyes, murmuring assent, grinning obsequieously.
Elbow Man has been torturing his mate the whole meal. Nevermind his self-important air-sucking – the fact that he’s invited his mate to this expensive restaurant has created an anxiety about paying the hefty check, from the beginning.
Who would invite me, a man obviously of modest means, to this fine place and expect me to pay for $75 wine (that he ordered) and $45 steaks? He knows I can’t afford that. He must be planning on picking up the check . . . But then . . . what if he doesn’t? I’m screwed! I’d better suck ass here, the whole way. There should be plenty of chances to tell him how wise he is, how elegant his new house is going to be.
No apologies for the digression. From my POV, Elbow Man is just a jackass. I might or might not be trying to get out early. I might or might not be trying to get out, period, after a long night. I might or might not be hoping to turn this table. I might or might not be under pressure from my manager because there are people waiting . . .
I always try to divorce myself from my real-time problems in the restaurant. Though I don’t believe a party ‘owns’ a table for the whole night, I also can’t imagine ever forcing someone to leave (unless otherwise agreed upon – which does happen with savvy manager/hosts). As a diner myself, I can’t accept that.
But I still hate the Elbow Man. Why?
Because he can pay at any time. And he still doesn’t have to leave. He knows this, and he still doesn’t pay. His behavior simply exposes his own venality. He’s not screwing me (though it sometimes seems that way, and it’s sometimes true); he’s screwing his mate. He’s feeding his ego, holding hostage – the ransom being someones time, their soul.
Dude. Just put the card in the presenter. I’ll run the card. You can sign. You can sit there for the rest of the night if you need to. We don’t have a private SWAT team service to root you out. I’ll still fill your coffee. I’ll even open another check if you want to drink more. What’s your problem?
But then, I know what your problem is. Once you pay, your guest (hostage) is free to leave.