Have you ever done a ‘dine and dash’? You know, leave without paying? I did once and it tore me up inside. Here is another college story, this time involving alcohol and Denny’s. The Denny’s by my school was a popular place on late Saturdays after parties ended. You would frequently find 3 or 4 tables of people you were just drinking with ordering a Grand Slam breakfast or a greasy cheeseburger before retiring for the night. One night I was there with about 7 or 8 other friends, each of us filing up on empty calories trying to soak up the beer before we left. One guy ordered nothing but 2 blueberry muffins, which for some reason we all found odd, hence he was called ‘Muffin’ for the rest of the year.
But back to the original point of the story. We always got separate checks because there was always one who ordered 10 things and tried to get away with splitting the bill, and one who ‘forgot’ their wallet. So eat at your own peril. We finish eating and we all go up to the register to pay. We get in line and a harried manager comes over to ring us up. He grabs the bill from the first guy and rings him up for his $10 or so. Then he walks away, leaving the rest of us just standing there. We all look at each other and just stand there waiting. He can’t think that all 7 of us only ordered $10 of stuff. About 2 minutes later he didn’t come back, so we ask one of the waitresses coming by if she could ring us up. She says that she can’t as she had just started and doesn’t have a key for the register, but she’ll get the manager. So we wait. We can see the guy walking around the back and on the other side of the place, but he isn’t coming over. We see the waitress go up to him and talk and still he isn’t coming over. It’s now been about 5 or 6 minutes (felt like an eternity!) and he still isn’t there. The guy who paid is complaining that he has to go to the bathroom and can’t use a public place so we need to go now! We all kind of look at each other and then just all turn and leave. If he doesn’t want our money we’ll just keep it. More beer tomorrow!
So we drive back to the dorms and disperse to our rooms. I’m already feeling guilty about leaving without paying. That’s theft. I spend the 5 minutes driving home trying to justify it in my mind. “Oh, they are a big company, they can afford it!” “That’s what they get for not taking our money!” and so on. Didn’t work, still felt like crap. That night I had managed a spot on the street where I could see my car from my room. So I get to my room and as I am looking out the window a black car that looks like the local cop cars pulls up right behind my car and just sits there with its headlights on. OMG! Did the cops follow me? OK, now I am pacing my room. If a cop comes up I’m in trouble. Leaving without paying, obviously alcohol on my breath and in my system, hell I had rum bottles sitting on my desk! So I start hiding things, stuffing my face with potato chips and whatever else I can find to try and cover my breath. I keep looking out the window and the car is still there, running with headlights still on, nobody getting out. Shit, the car is registered to my parents! Maybe they are calling them now. I can just hear my dad being awaken by the popo for his son leaving a Denny’s without paying. I can never go home now!
Then I notice the headlights go off on the car. For some reason I crouched down in the window. I don’t know why but I did. I watched forever but I didn’t see anybody get out. I am now shaking a bit. I am just staring at that car, wishing it would go away. I was staring so intently that I didn’t even notice my roommate come in. He turns on the light and says ‘What’s up?”. Holy SHIT did that scare me. The half empty bag of chips I had in my hand went ALL over the room, as well as the Mountain Dew I was drinking. I fell backwards and knocked over the hamster cage, setting Binker (the hamster’s name) free for a few moments. It was pandemonium. I start cleaning my mess while roomie chases Binker when there is a knock on the door. I freeze. Rooming looks at me and says ‘expecting anyone’? I just whisper ‘I’m not here…’ and duck to the floor, trying to squeeze under the bed. He answers the door and it is just our neighbor who heard the commotion and was checking to see if we are OK. I come out from under the bed and say yeah, tell them both what happened and they laugh at me. Roomie catches Binker just as he tries to escape thru the open door and I am just finishing sweeping up the potato chips when standing in our doorway is an adult I have never seen before. I swear I almost crapped my pants. All three of us just stop and look at the guy. Finally he holds up a picture and asks if we have seen his daughter. It was a pic of a 16 or 17 year old girl who got in a fight with her parents and ran away, saying she as going to the college to find a guy and piss her dad off. Dad looked very sad. Unfortunately all three of us had been off campus most of the night, so we couldn’t help him. Man, I am not sure if my heart can take much more of this. All over a $8 breakfast.
I finally get things cleaned up, Binker back in the cage and get to sleep. Not very well, but I do sleep. The next day I still feel like crap. That isn’t me. So that next day I go back to Denny’s and order lunch. I eat it fast and pay my bill. After the manager leaves the register I slip an envelope with $20 in it and a note saying sorry about not paying my bill last night. For all I know the manager could have pocketed it having already written off the meals. I don’t care. It made me feel better. We still got to call the one guy Muffin for the rest of the year, but I avoided the Denny’s trips for the remainder of that year. Just felt too weird.