Alexis ordered for both of us: big platters with names I had never heard before. I loved the Pad Thai, and surprised myself by how much I loved the red curry chicken. Alexis ordered a Singha beer for me and a glass of white wine for herself. Again, I tried to calculate whether I could cover this.
I made a big show of taking the bill. “I asked you out on a date,” I insisted. “I’ll pay.”
I felt so stupid. I had enough cash for the tab, but not a tip. I would have to convince the waitress to let me put some on debit and pay the rest in cash.
I was rehearsing my explanation in my head when Alexis put her purse on the table. “Don’t worry, sweetie. I can cover it.”
“No, no, I asked you out! I’ll pay the dinner bill.”
Alexis leaned closer. “You know, if you don’t tip at least 25 percent here, you’ll never get a reservation again.”
“What! That’s ridiculous! Their prices are high enough that a standard tip is already generous! I mean, thirty bucks for a plate of noodles —”
“Not so loud!” Alexis hissed. “Don’t embarrass me!”
I shut up, feeling my cheeks burn in a combination of outrage and shame. I mean, really, they expected a twenty-five percent tip?
Life in the big city, said my brain.
I calculated some more. “Alexis, I can cover this, but I won’t be able to come back here.” Fuck ’em, I thought. No way am I going to give in to their elitist social blackmail. I put cash down on the little plastic tray with the bill and stood up, holding out a hand. “Let’s get out of here before the waiters see how I stiffed ’em on the tip.”
Alexis smiled her wicked smile. She jumped up, grabbed her purse and stood close by me. I kissed her quickly. “Ready to run?” I said in my best James Bond voice.
“Ready,” she answered, and I thought I detected a slight British twinge.
The waiter came closer, looking concerned. I looked at the door, then at the cash on the table: barely enough to cover the food. No tip.
Hand in hand, we ran for the door. Like a true gentleman, I held it open for Alexis and she skipped through like a schoolgirl. My mouth went dry.
“Hey!” the waiter called from beside our table.
I tried my best to sound like James Bond again “Sorry to eat, not tip and run,” I said as I stepped out the door. “But that’s how the pad thai crumbles.”
Okay, that was bad.
Hand in hand again, Alexis and I ran down the steps and around the corner. I hit the remote’s unlock button as soon as I could see the car, and still trying to act like a gentleman, opened the passenger door for Alexis. I looked up the street, but there was no sign of the waiter coming after us.
I slammed the door shut and revved the engine. The car jolted as I shifted into first and cranked the wheel hard to the left to pull out of the parking spot.
“Careful!” Alexis squealed at the same pitch as the tires. “You don’t want to attract the police’s attention.” Her hand was on my thigh already. She rubbed me as I ran a yellow at Wellesley.
Once I shifted into fourth, I put my hand on Alexis’ leg. I moved higher.