Today I’m grateful for the bill-paying pantomime

Paying the bill with friends is pandemonium.

Usually when a group walks to the counter the one poor soul entrusted with paying is handed an amount of money by her friends that may or may not be in the vicinity of what she’s actually owed. She won’t know until she checks her wallet later on. I’m not here to talk about that — it’s been done to death by others — I’m here to talk about the pantomime that ensues when someone in a group of two tries to pay for both coffees.

When you hear the words “Here, I’ll get this” you can be fairly sure you’re about to witness something pretty painful. Once this phrase is uttered a bogus puppet show ensues where one party swats the other party’s increasingly aggressive handful of money while half-heartedly trying to pay the cashier. A loop of “Don’t be ri — DIC — ulous!” and “But I invited you here! and “You got the last one!” and “Oh that’s not fairrrrrrr” echoes around the cash register for what must be 1000 years. To anyone nearby it becomes abundantly clear there’s nothing more ridiculous in the world than this particular person covering this other person’s portion of the bill.

Another side of the same coin is when someone employs the Big Dog Cool Legend tactic of paying for their partner by handing all the money directly to the cashier without consulting with them first. You know this tactic has been used by the Luke Perry-esque look the payer flashes when walking back from the register like he’s King of the Game of Thrones.

He’ll have to deal with his partner’s half-hearted plea of:

“Nooo! Aw that’s evil LOL! I’ll get the next one *fake grumpy face*

but this only serves to heighten his smugness.

When this scenario arises cafe owners should train their staff to aggressively snatch at the first hand that comes at them, take the money and make no apologies about it. And if both customers happen to put their money in your face take them both and split it yourself. This may seem a bit heavy-handed but it’s better than having to deal with 2 phoney minutes of phonies.

This pantomime reminds me of the concept of ‘kayfabe’ and its importance in certain aspects of society. Explained better by Nick Rogers:

Although the etymology of the word is a matter of debate, for at least 50 years ‘kayfabe’ has referred to the unspoken contract between wrestlers and spectators: We’ll present you something clearly fake under the insistence that it’s real, and you will experience genuine emotion. Neither party acknowledges the bargain, or else the magic is ruined.

I’m grateful because it shows that while we may think we’re homo economicus, or completely rational beings, the reality is there’s too many moving parts in this cosmic ballet we call society to actually operate like this. It’s like early self-driving cars: sure they offer you incredible benefits as a passenger, but things really start to fire on all cylinders (hehe) when all the cars on the road are self-driving too. If everyone was rational we wouldn’t have to endure this bill-paying kayfabe, but then again life might be pretty boring. The important thing is we at least make an effort to be part of society, and let the AIs be the rational ones.

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