My skills are world-renknowned.
They whisper my name in hushed tones, quietly wondering if I am the man they think I am, sitting there across from them at the dinner table. They watch, with bated breath, wondering if when the end of dinner arrives — if I will flex my muscles and make an offer that, in the end, I will most definitely refuse. In Spain they call me Volvereturno! which is a simple yet clever combination of the Spanish verb that means “to return” and the obvious American word “return” — which just communicates how doubly-dangerous I can be.
That is, dangerous…when the dinner check arrives.
Next to waiting for that first date to honk their horn, that heart attack to arrive, or your final breaths to be breathed when you’re doing that breathing-thing in your last few minutes of life — people seem to wait for the dinner check more than any other thing throughout their lives. There is a passion and nervousness and anticipation that comes with the last ten minutes of every expensive meal. There is a desire and a repulsion for the spongy, little black folder. There is an overwhelming uncertainty that accompanies the monolithic check folder as it stands alone, in the middle of the table, waiting for someone to claim it as their own.
But that’s where me, and my check reaching skills come into play.
I have trained long and hard in the arts of simulated check reaching, working with some of the best check-reachers in the continential United States. I once sat across from my mentor, Dr. Gregory Poussat, and watched in awe as he convinced a table of thirty (a birthday dinner at an expensive restaurant that only the birthday girl had chosen) that he was going to pay for the meal — then sat back stunned as everyone else offered to pay instead.
I have been put through months of training in a dark, simulated four-star restaurant in an underground training facility where I had to crawl out of a pile of a thousand dinner checks, without rope or a helping hand. Where my reflexes and recoiling skills were put to the test. Where being able to fake-cry is one of the last, and most complicated skills to master.
But the pay-off, from all that training, left me the King of the you-know-what.
I am skilled in the art of the credit-card reveal (then hide), the left-handed arm extension (then retraction), the fist-clenching cash presentation (then pocket stuffing), the bladder motion-hold (then disappearance to the bathroom as the check arrives) and many many more skills that convince the others at the table that I am really thinking about covering the bill thus subconsciously urging them to pick it up themselves, instead.
Not to toot my own horn, but I have finished a meal with three other people that totalled $458.29 (without tax), reached for the check while telling my sad story about being investigated by the I.R.S. and having to declare bankruptcy and then watched as people literally climbed over each other to be known as the check-picker upper. I have feigned the stomach flu and disappeared into the lavatory (which in reality, was the bar) and returned to find mints, a dinner check stub, and people using toothpicks. I have taken out my calculator to determine how to split the bill thirty-five ways, then split that in half since there are just couples at the table — only to urge someone to just put the whole thing on their corporate card instead.
Where there is simplicity, I create complications. Where there is clear-headed thinking, I create confusion. Where there is the potential to get someone else to pay for the check and make it look like I was going to do it in the first place anyway — there is me.
Because I am the royalty of the non-royalty payers. The one reaching for nothing, really, at all. I am the King of reaching for the check, but never ever getting it in my hot little hands.
And that, my friends, is just how I roll.
In other news, don’t forget to check back in tomorrow for the surprise of all surprises. Well, okay, maybe it’s just half of a surprise of all surprises, but it’s at least a partial surprise where all surprises are concerned.