DEAR MISS MANNERS: My friends and I, all professionals, have been meeting periodically for lunch for over 20 years. From the beginning, we split the bill four ways.
Perhaps the assumption was that it would all even out over time, but it has not. There are clear subsidizers and subsidizees. (Yes, I am a subsidizer.) Occasionally, a subsidizee will contribute a few extra dollars. Otherwise, we continue to split the bill evenly. No one complains and no one is trying to take advantage. We all enjoy each other’s company very much.
Unexpectedly, at the end of a recent lunch, our waitress cheerfully asked if we would like separate checks. I responded, “Yes, please.” My friend, who styles himself as The Nicest Guy You Know, chastised me, saying that separate checks would place an extra burden on the waitress.
I replied that she would not have offered if that were so. (The restaurant was not particularly busy.) The waitress left and returned shortly with four checks.
I must ask that Miss Manners assume that my friend’s motivation was solely concern for the waitress. Was he nevertheless being overprotective, or was I inconsiderate, as he claims?
GENTLE READER: If the waitress is offering to perform a service -- one that is much needed -- why would you not graciously take her up on it?
It is probably not convenient for her to write down numerous food substitutions either, but she does it. Or the restaurant will take a stand against it and clearly state so.
Miss Manners suggests that you assume the same for this situation. Unless there is a policy against it, it is probably far less annoying to give you separate checks --computers are so handy for things like this -- than it is for her to sit and wait while everyone squabbles over who had the main course chopped salad and who only had it as a side.