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The Cheese Toast

August 11, 2015

ADS is my oldest friend, and when the two of us were younger, we would speak almost entirely in Bloom County quotes. All it would take was the well timed delivery of a quotation from the fourth panel, and we would be in hysterics.

But there were other inside jokes too. And every now and again, I find one of these on the tip of my tongue. Yesterday, one of them made it onto the blog for the very first time, and I feel compelled to explain. Mostly because the subject of the joke is a fairly common phenomenon, and I’ve long found this made up expression to be a charming way to describe a potentially uncomfortable scenario.

The line from yesterday, about the Tour de Italian Deli went:

If you are coming on your own, please make sure to bring plenty of small bills, so nobody gets stuck holding the cheese toast.

I’ll explain what this means. But first, just remember, we do stupid things when we’re young.

You’ll have to ask ADS about this, but for some reason when we were in high school, he loved going out to Sizzler with our group of friends. I think it had something to do with the incredible value of the salad bar. I can’t remember. But we hung out at a lot of crappy places. Denny’s was quite popular among our group of friends too, mostly because it was always open, and we sit there for hours nursing sodas and nibbling on french fries.

As kids, nobody had much money. Wages were meager. Raf was working at Dunkin’ Donuts. I was bussing tables. So naturally we would split the bill wherever we went. And it usually worked out just fine.

Except at Sizzler.

It never worked out at Sizzler. We were always short, and someone had to make up the shortfall. The working theory was that the culprit was the cheese toast. If my memory serves, and this was a long time ago, the most delicious thing at Sizzler was the side order of cheese toast. And generally, someone would ask if we were getting it, somehow it was ordered, everyone had some, but nobody wanted to pay for it.

Perhaps that’s an oversimplification. Most likely people kicked in a little bit extra for the percentage of the cheese toast they thought they ate. Regardless, the money collected still rarely covered the amount owed.

Whoever ended up paying the shortfall in the bill was the person who got stuck with “the cheese toast.”

The nice part is that this just became an accepted part of life. Sometimes you got stuck with the cheese toast. Sometimes it was someone else. The overall feeling is that it somehow all came out in the wash. And of course this scenario would occasionally raise its head outside the walls of Sizzler. However, even when there was no cheese toast to blame, whoever coughed up the extra few bucks to settle up the bill was the one who was stuck with the cheese toast.

This bill splitting phenomenon isn’t just relegated to the past, or to my tight circle of old friends. Sometimes it appears out of nowhere even now that we’re all adults and generally have jobs that pay above minimum wage. Occasionally people will throw in money for a tab, and the cash falls short. On these increasingly rare occasions, I realize that I got stuck with the cheese toast, and simply accept that it’s just my turn to take one for the team.

I do have to say that I much prefer splitting the bill with friends than throwing in three (or more) separate credit cards to cover a check. But that’s another story.

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