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It was my first Paris layover and since I don’t speak a lick of French I decided to stick with my crew. Usually I like to venture out on my own in a new city, but I knew dinner was going to be a massive problem if left to my own devises.
In addition to being a vegetarian, I’m by far the pickiest eater I know and I could see myself accidentally ordering all kinds of horrible things without outside guidance. Even the most popular items on the menu could be something disgusting and I wouldn’t even realize it.
For some reason I’m incredibly shy about trying to order food in strange countries. I’ve heard horror stories about Parisians giving major attitude and scorn to Americans who don’t at least try to speak the language. I’d love to try but I just can’t. I really don’t know the language whatsoever. That bluff would be a miserable fail.
The pilots and five of the other flight attendants (including our French speaker from the flight) agree to meet under the Eiffel Tower at 8pm. I spend most of the day running around with my camera, trying to capture as much as of the city as I could on film in the hours given. I made sure I was at the Eiffel Tower at 8pm though. In fact, I was there at 7:00, just in time to get yelled at in French for stepping on some grass where apparently there’s a “Keep Off Grass” sign.
We find an Italian place in a not-so-touristy area just across the Seine. If I’d been smart enough to think of Italian food I wouldn’t need to be with the crew, I can read the names of Italian dishes no problem. Oh well, I’m here now so let’s roll with it.
I’m a pretty light eater and I like to save money when I go out. I think it’s ridiculous to spend 12 Euro on a single glass of wine, especially if you’re just going to have the one glass and not catch a buzz. What’s the point? I don’t do appetizers or salad unless that’s going to be my entire meal. I never take dessert or an after-dinner drink. All of that is just a waste of money for me. I can have some drinks at a bar before dinner for much cheaper. I can eat an ice cream from a street vendor after we leave the restaurant at a fraction of the cost.
So the crew orders and I watch it happen. A couple of people want this appetizer and a couple more want this other one. It’s decided that the table will order three apps and everyone will just share them. I don’t object. I let it happen.
I’m drinking soda but everyone else gets wine with sparkling water on the side. Again, it’s decided that three bottles of each is good for everyone to share. I think that’s a smart decision on their part and fail to recognize how and why I’m being a complete idiot.
I have one basic pasta dish while everyone else gets some soup, salad, antipasti, and second course. I marvel at the appetites these people have, even the skinny girls and waif thin gay boys I’m flying with. The wine runs dry and the flight attendants order more. I wonder if I’m getting paid the same amount as they are, the tab is really adding up in a hurry!
If I knew the pilots were going to be paying for the meal I might partake in some of the extras but I know that’s not going to happen. There are two gay boys with us and the pilots very rarely treat guys to dinner, especially the gay ones. I’m not willing to bank on that possibility that my dinner will be free. I order sensibly and thriftily.
Everyone finishes and they ask us if we want desserts, cordials, or coffee. All three are ordered. I think about it but look at the prices and decide against it. I can get a latte for a third that price at the coffee shop just around the corner from the hotel. Again, I think I’m being so responsible and smart. I’m about to see the error of my ways.
That moment arrives soon enough when the bill comes. It never occurred to me that paying for what you ordered wouldn’t be an option. My crew, now wasted on wine and Sambuca, insist that if we just divide by eight then we’ll be set. Everyone is okay with that. It’s at that point that I realize why the flight attendants were ordering more than the pilots.
They knew this was going to happen. If the pilots are going to order all these extras and then make the crew split the bill, the only way to come out ahead is to top them and order more yourself. Well played flight attendants, well played.
There’s nothing I could do but pull out sixty Euros and think about the fifteen Euros worth of Coke and penne alla arrabiata I had. I grab the last bottle of wine still standing and empty it into my pristine, virginal glass. If I’m paying for this I may as well get as much out of it as I can. I grab a fork and shovel the rest of the Tiramisu into my mouth. Lesson learned, but at a price.
Now I avoid eating with the crews as much as I can, at least in that large of a group. Smaller groups will let you get away with paying for what you order but never a group of eight. Never after that much alcohol. The only way to “win” is to order the appetizer, and the soup, and the salad, and the wine, and the third bottle, and the fifth bottle, and the dessert with Cognac, and anything else you could possible want. Hell, get a souvenir shirt and hat thrown on the tab too while you’re at it! As long as you’re eating and drinking more than everyone else, you come out ahead since the bill is getting split evenly. If you don’t play the game like that, it’s going to be a dinner from hell.