Tanya arrived with the tea pitcher and a Styrofoam to go container. “You guys want any dessert?” she asks as she moves to refill our glasses.
Winnie quickly places her hand above her iced tea and says, “None for me, thanks. And I’m awash in tea, sweetie. Would you just bring the bill please?”
“No tea?!” Tanya asks, pulling her head back and opening her eyes wide. “I think this is a first. Oh! You guys have to run, don’t you? Movie to catch?”
Winnie purses her lips, nods and says, “Something like that.”
“Okay. I’ll be right back with the check,” Tanya replies, receding with the tea pitcher.
“We’re going to a movie?” I ask.
“Only if you want to,” Winnie says with a smile. “I said, ‘something like that,’ I didn’t say we were going to a movie,” she added, taking my hand in hers.
“I see,” I answered, raising and lowering my eyebrows three times in rapid succession. “You’re a tricky one, aren’t you?”
“Sometimes,” She answered with a wink.
Tanya expertly slipped the check on the table equidistant from our plates. I reached out to take the bill, but, not realizing that we were competing for the slip, Winnie grabbed it before I could.
I tilted my head and declared, “I’d be happy to pay.”
“I’m sure you would, but I invited you; remember? I got it.”
“Well, can I at least take care of the tip?” I asked.
“If you insist,” she answered, “but you don’t need to.”
“Least I can do. May I see the bill please?”
Winnie handed me the bill. The two teas and two sandwiches totaled twenty-five eighty and tax brought the tab to twenty-seven dollars and thirty-five cents. I doubled the dollar fifty-five tax to come up with a twelve percent tip and then added another dollar to make sure and hit fifteen percent. I took four dollars out of my wallet and dropped the bills on the table.
I stood and asked, “Ready?” Winnie cocked her head to the side and looked at me.
“Four dollars? On a twenty-eight dollar bill?” she asked.
“That’s over fifteen percent.”
“No, it’s not! And besides, twenty is the standard.”
“Whose standard? Certainly, not mine. And the total before tax was twenty-five-eighty. I never tip on tax.”
“Well, I do. And I leave twenty percent.”
“So, I have to do it your way?” I asked, starting to feel more than a bit perturbed.
“No. I can leave another dollar,” she responded, reaching into her voluminous bag.
“Please don’t,” I said louder and more harshly than I’d intended. “My tip is fine.”
“We’re at least a dollar short, Henry,” she hissed back. “Almost two.”
“You want to tip six dollars on a bill that comes to less than twenty-six bucks after the service we received?”
“Service we received?’” she asked. “What are you talking about? Our service was fine. Great, I’d say.”
“‘Great?’ Really? Once you showed up it was fine but I just about had to stand on my head to get anybody to even acknowledge my presence when I first got here. Before then, your little friend Tanya and that pixie cut gal behind the counter all but told me to shove it.”
The look Winnie gave me was as ugly as the gaze a minute earlier had been loving. “Listen, Henry. Nobody asked you to pay the tip. I said I’d get the bill and I’m happy to do it but I’m not leaving here with just four dollars on the table; got it?”
My previous desire to punch someone in the nose had returned but whereas before I’d controlled myself for the sake of civility and to stay out of prison now I put a damper on my ire because Winnie was right.
Not about the tip. Four dollars was plenty. But she had been totally willing to pay for everything and I would have thought nothing about footing the bill plus my completely appropriate tip of four dollars had she not. Cheeks burning in anger I reached into my wallet and pulled out two more bills which I laid on the table. Winnie stood, inhaled, reached for her to go box and headed to the front register. Through a haze of red eyed anger, I followed her to the front of the Nighthawk wishing now more than ever to take a high powered rifle to the diner and the smug faces that stared at me.